Sunset Park High School
BROOKLYN NY 11232 Map
Sunset Park High School
The fruit of 38 years of work by community members determined to get a high school for their neighborhood, Sunset Park High School offers some engaging classes, passionate teachers and a close partnership with a community organization that offers an afterschool program and help with college admissions.
Opened in 2009, the new building has a 550-seat auditorium; gymnasium; dance, music and art studios; and a health center with a full-time nurse practitioner (a doctor makes occasional visits). The school is divided into three "learning communities" health and human services, business and entrepreneurship, and performing and visual arts. The learning communities offer the same academic classes, but assign projects related to their themes."All classes are mixed ability,"said Principal Corrine Vinal. "We are very purposeful about that."
Students often work in small groups on in-class projects, and desks are arranged in clusters rather than in rows. On our visit, students participated actively in class discussions. Twice a week, students meet with an advisor to talk about college, communication skills, and careers. These sessions are designed by teachers and counselors from the Center for Family Life, the community organization that also runs the afterschool program.
Teachers told us they get a lot of support from their colleagues and from Vinal, who was formerly principal of Manhattan Center for Science and Math.
The students have physical education three times a week, and take either art or music each semester. The school does not have its own outdoor space; club sports teams use parks around the neighborhood. Spanish is the only language offered.
The after-school program offers 44 clubs and activities from tutoring to photography, track, soccer and dance. A free dinner is offered at 3:30 p.m.
A few parents have complained about fights. During our visit, students told us there had been a few fights in or right outside the school. Nevertheless, they said they generally felt safe at school. Security cameras keep watch in the halls, as do security guards. The principal says fighting is not a significant problem, although she acknowledges that there were 58 suspensions in 2009-10, 30 percent of which were for fighting. She said she is lobbying the Department of Education to get cameras for the stairwells.
The school shares the building with the Brooklyn Prospect Charter School and a District 75 school for students with special needs, some of whom take classes at Sunset Park High School.
Special education: About 20 percent of students qualify for special education. Most are taught in the regular classrooms with two teachers. A small number have separate English and math instruction. Close to 15 percent of students are English language learners (primarily Spanish), and they are integrated in the regular classrooms.
Admission: There are no admissions requirements. Preference is given to children in districts 15 and 20 and to those who attend an open house. (Jill Grossman, October 2010)