Long Island City High School
QUEENS NY 11106 Map
Long Island City High School
Long Island City High School has a popular culinary arts program, an imaginative program in English as a Second Language (ESL), and pockets of excellent teaching. The school seems to be on the rise with a new, experienced principal and a stronger focus on safety and academics after years of poor attendance and low academic performance.
The well-kept building has an Olympic-sized pool, two gyms, a weight room and a dance studio. A newly resurfaced football field was funded by the New York Jets’ Heads Up! program. The school’s numerous sports teams include bowling, fencing, golf, tennis and champion boys’ gymnastics. A LYFE Center offers child care for the children of students, and partnerships with Gear Up and Global Kids assist with college preparation and tutoring.
In 2012, a seasoned educator, Vivian Selenikas was appointed principal. A doctoral candidate at New York University in bilingual education, Selenikas previously served as assistant principal of foreign language and ESL for eight years at LIC and was principal for four years at the High School for Arts and Business in Corona, NY. She is also a former network leader for the Department of Education.
“Vivian has done a great job,” says health teacher and United Federation of Teachers Chapter Head Ken Achiron, who has been with the school since 1978. “There is more support for our deans and more support for our safety agents. She has motivated teachers who were not motivated before. Now everyone has higher expectations.”
An integral part of Selenikas’ restructuring plan involved expanding the school’s Small Learning Communities (SLCs). “We wanted to give the students a more personal experience tied to a theme,” says Selenikas. Currently, the school is separated into five SLCs, each with two “strands” and fewer than 350 students: The Academy of Humanities and Urban Culture focuses on theater and music; the Academy of Wellness and Education offers courses in sports medicine and education; the Culinary Arts Academy trains future chefs; the Global Languages Academy focuses on language, media, technology, and hospitality and tourism; and the New Explorers Academy investigates identity.
All entering 9th-graders are placed in either New Explorers or Global Languages (for English Language Learners). On our visit in 2011, we saw some interesting projects in ESL classes, including essays by students about the challenges they faced learning English and published interviews with teachers. At a spring fair at the end of the year, students select and apply for their SLC for 10th grade and beyond. Despite the restructuring, students still come to school in three shifts, beginning at 7:40 am, to alleviate overcrowding.
The Culinary Institute is the school’s proudest achievement, drawing 2,000 applicants for 100 spots. The institute runs like a professional kitchen, preparing students for careers in the industry (and earning them a Career and Technical Education certification). Students in upper grades prepare meals for special occasions and our visit featured delicious breakfast and lunch spreads of homemade croissants, muffins, sandwiches and brownies. “We go bell to bell,” says culinary teacher Aristotle Matsis, “just like dinner in a restaurant.”
Safety has also been one of Selenikas' top priorities. Because each SLC comprises an enclosed physical portion of the building with its own counselors and administrators, there is less unsupervised student traffic in the hallways. "We've put more adults in the students' physical space," she says. Teachers are enthusiastic about the principal and say the school is more orderly, according to the 2012-13 Learning Environment Survey. However, some students responding to the survey still don't feel safe in the hallways and bathrooms.
“I am a person who believes in consequences and prevention,” says Selenikas, citing a new program that blends online and classroom learning to target the school’s “most troubled students” and get them up to grade level. The school now emphasizes a list of core values, offers online Jupiter grades so parents can keep track of student progress, and runs regular student orientations about appropriate behavior. A special attendance committee meets weekly to discuss incentive programs such as movie tickets for students with good attendance records.
A few graduates have been admitted to top colleges such as Georgetown and Cornell. The Culinary Institute sends a few of its graduates to the Culinary Institute of America and the French Culinary Institute each year. "We want students to push for their reach colleges," says Selenikas. "We're not just settling for any college."
Special Education: The school offers a variety of programs including Integrated Co-Teaching, SETSS, self-contained classes (and an alternative assessment program), and adaptive physical education. LIC offers Spanish bilingual classes, a Bengali native language arts class and self-contained, mixed-grade ESL classes. ESL students put out a literary magazine annually.
Admissions: Zoned neighborhood school. Long Island City also has selective admission for the Culinary Institute, which belongs the Culinary Arts SLC. The Academy of Humanities and Urban Culture SLC houses the Opera Institute and the Orchestra Academy selective programs. The Academy of Wellness and Education houses the selective Western Queens Center for the Humanities and the Sciences. (Aryn Bloodworth, 2011, Aimee Sabo, phone interviews and online reports, 2013)