see list of schools below

The history of the schools of Dorchester has special interest owing to the fact that the town claims precedence in the establishment of the first free public school, supported by the public treasury of the town. The Dorchester Town Records state definitely that on May 20 (Old Style), 1639, it was ordered that:

“There shalbe a rent of 20 ls yeerely foreur imposed vpon Tomsons Iland to bee payd p euy p’son that hath p’prtie in the said Iland according to the p’portion that any such p’son shall fro tyme to time inioy and psesse there, and this towards the mayntenance of a schoole in Dorchestr …” [1]

The town voted to lay a tax on the proprietors (Clapp)–the money went into the public treasury and was used for the school. This is the first instance known of public tax being used for schools in North America.

Boston Latin claims to be the oldest school, but it was not supported by public money until a later date. Roxbury Latin has claimed to be the oldest continuously running school (Boston Latin has been said to have closed during the Revolution), but Roxbury was not supported by public money in the 1630s. Others may claim a first as well, but Dorchester was the first to use public money for the support of its school.

Although early schools were called “free” or “public”, but in common parlance in the seventeenth century, those words meant free to anyone who paid their tuition (Littlefield).

“Dorchester Home to the Country’s First Public School”

To download  pdf version of this article by Anthony Sammarco, published in the Dorchester Community News, August 25, 1995, click on this link

The first schoolhouse in Dorchester was situated on what has been known as “Settlers’ Street,” near the corner of the present Pleasant and Cottage Streets and consisted of a single room. It served until 1694 when a contract was made with John Trescot to build a house twenty feet long and nineteen feet wide, with a ground floor and a chamber above, a flight of stairs, and a chimney. The contract required the building to be boarded and clapboarded; to be filled up between the studs; to be fully covered with boards and shingles. The site of this building is supposed to be the hill near the meeting-house, on what is now known as Winter Street.

The successor of this first school is the Mather School atop Meeting House Hill, the second building of that name. The old Mather School was located on the same site where the fire station is now located. The old Mather School was renamed the Southworth School for the time it remained after the new Mather School was built.

The first high school, organized in December, 1852, was built near the corner of Dorchester Avenue and Centre Street.

High Schools  

Bailey Street Schools

Benedict Fenwick School

Benjamin Cushing School

Butler School

Charles H. Taylor School

Comte de Rochambeau School

Daly Industrial School

Dorchester Academy

Edward Everett School

Elbridge Smith School

Ellen H. Richards School

Ellison-Parks Early Education School

Emily A. Fifield School

Florence Nightingale School

Frank V. Thompson School

Gibson School

Gilbert Stuart School

Grover S. Cleveland School

Harris School

Henry L. Pierce School

Home School for Young Ladies

Industrial School for Girls

James J. Chittick School

Jeremiah E. Burke School

John Greenleaf Whittier School

John L. Motley School

John Marshall School

John P. Holland School

John W. McCormack School

John Winthrop School

Joseph Lee School

Latin School

Lilla G. Frederick Pilot Middle School

Lucy Stone School

Martin Luther King Jr. School

Mary Hemenway School

Mattahunt Elementary School

Mildred Avenue Middle School

Minot School

Oliver Wendell Holmes School

Patrick O’Hearn School

Paul A. Dever School

Pauline Agassiz Shaw School

Phillips Brooks School

Quincy Dickerman School

Rafael Hernandez School

Richard J. Murphy School

Richard Mather School

Robert Treat Paine School

Robinson School, Benjamin J. Cushing School

Roger Clap School

Roger Wolcott School

Samuel de Champlain School

Sarah Greenwood School

Saunders and Beach Academy

School Books

School Closures 2009

Schools in 1850

Solomon Lewenberg School

South Boston Harbor Charter School – Boston Collegiate Charter School

Stoughton School

T. Woodrow Wilson School

Thomas F. Leen School

Thomas J. Kenney School

Tileston School

William Bradford School

William E. Russell School

William Endicott School

William Monroe Trotter School


Clapp, Ebenezer. History of the Town of Dorchester, Massachusetts. By a Committee of the Dorchester Antiquarian and Historical Society. Boston, 1859, p. 419-421.

Dorchester Town Records. Fourth Report of the Record Commissioners of the City of Boston. Second edition. Boston, 1883.

Littlefield, George Emery. Early Schools and School-Books of New England. New York: Russell & Russell, 1965, p. 70.

Orcutt, William Dana. Good Old Dorchester. A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893. Cambridge, 1893, p. 290-302.

What’s In a Name? Names of Boston’s Schools: Their Origin. (Boston: School Volunteers for Boston and the Boston Public Schools,1980)

[1] William Dana Orcutt.  Good Old Dorchester. A Narrative History of the Town, 1630-1893. Cambridge, 1893, p. 289-302.