Peace and Diversity Academy
UPDATE AUGUST 2016: After years of poor performance and low enrollment, Peace and Diversity High School was merged with the other high school in the buiilding, Metropolitan High School. Madhu Narayanan, the principal of Metropolitan, remains principal of the newly consolidated school.
2012 REVIEW: Located on the first and second floors of the Reverend James A. Polite Educational Complex, Peace and Diversity Academy has a passionate staff and a partnership with the Anti-Defamation League, which provides peer leadership training. There is a general feeling of acceptance throughout the school, with anti-bullying and anti-bias quotes hanging on walls and sensitive teachers gently helping students, many of them low-performing.
But, the school faces enormous hurdles. Due to lack of funds, there is no parent coordinator, no librarian, no Advanced Placement classes and few extracurricular activities. Last year, founding principal Andrew Turay used his own money to purchase fans for the un-air-conditioned school.
The student body is composed of a large number of English language learners and special education, emotionally disturbed and low-performing students, as well as students who are in foster care or who are homeless. As such, attendance is low and the fact that the school has moved three times since it opened and is located in a high-crime area is not helping, Turay said. The school's graduation rate is below average. Most graduates go to City University of New York (CUNY) or State University of New York (SUNY) schools. A few have gone to Middlebury College, Syracuse University and Trinity College.
In 2009, the school moved to a brand new building that it shares with Metropolitan High School.
Peace and Diversity has been listed as a school in need of improvement by the Department of Education. To boost performance, the principal has launched the Men's Initiative. The program provides extra support to black and Latino boys. They have meetings to discuss their social and emotional issues, read together, visit other schools and have met with an author to learn more about what they are reading.
The school performed well on the DOE's 2011 Learning Environment Survey. Almost all of the students who took the survey said they felt safe and that their teachers inspired them to learn, although less than half of teachers said order and discipline are maintained.
In the classes we observed, teachers had to spend a lot of time dealing with logistics – where students could plug in their laptops, who was sitting where and whether students even had anything to write with. Still, the teachers were trying hard to help individual students as best they could and classrooms were well-decorated and inviting.
Some of the honors students we spoke to said they weren't being challenged enough, although the school offers some advanced math classes. Students said they liked the small size of the school and had high praise for their teachers.
Admissions: Peace and Diversity is unscreened and preference is given to Bronx students.
Special education: The school has a partnership with District 75, which allows it to accommodate more severely disabled students. There are paraprofessionals to provide additional, smaller classes and one-on-one help for those who need it. There are integrated classes in every grade except 12th. (Nikki Dowling, May 2012; updated August 2016)