The High School for Language and Diplomacy

Phone: (212) 253-2480
Website: Click here
Admissions: Citywide
Principal: Amber Najmi Shadid
Neighborhood: Gramercy Park
District: 2
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: DIANE SCHINDLER

What's special:

International trips; extensive language instruction.

The downside:

Too soon to say whether school will succeed.

The InsideStats


Our review

The High School of Language and Diplomacy is designed to offer students four years of Chinese, French or Arabic; to give them a chance to travel abroad; and to introduce them to activities such as Model United Nations. In its first year, several dozen students traveled to Istanbul for a 10-day trip. The school is planning student exchanges with sister schools in India and China.

The High School for Language and Diplomacy is a partnership between the city Department of Education and the Asia Society, which has sponsored a network of high schools to foster international relations. The school opened with a ninth grade class in 2009 on the sixth floor of Washington Irving High School, a cavernous building that also houses Gramercy Arts. As the small school grows, it plans to move to a more permanent location on another floor. At the time of our visit, the halls were bare, apparently because teachers didn’t want to decorate temporary quarters. The school felt new, and it is too soon to say whether it will succeed. Still, classes were filled with engaged and interested students. In both French and Chinese classes, students were speaking the language—not working on worksheets or chatting in English. Principal Santiago Mayol seemed passionate and enthusiastic as he walked into classes, sitting next to students to help them individually.

The first period, “Embassy Program,” includes advisory, Model UN preparations, cultural diplomacy and college prep. Students have the same Embassy Program teacher for four years. Wednesdays are elective days and students take only elective classes, including human geography, psychology, photography and academic help, if needed, then finish the day at 1:05. “The philosophy is not, ‘Let’s get you to pass the test,’ but let’s prepare you for life,” Mayol said. “Students stay afterschool and they come early. It sets the tone that this is [their] space.”

The new school had a rocky first year. The founding principal, responsible for designing the school, left in August 2009, just before the school opened. Staff complained that Mayol, who replaced him, did not make his expectations clear and that order and discipline were uneven, according to DOE surveys. There was a significant amount of teacher turnover the first year, but Mayol was confident the school was on the upswing.

Special education: The school offers integrated Collaborative Team Teaching classes and additional studio classes for English and math, designed to target specific skills. Classes are scheduled in free periods before or after the normal school day and are required for some students but open to all who are interested.

Admissions: Priority to those who attend a school fair. Prospective students are encouraged to visit and sit in on a class. (Aryn Bloodworth, October 2010)

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