High School for Violin and Dance
BRONX NY 10456 Map
High School for Violin and Dance
The senior orchestra at the High School for Violin and Dance played a piece by composer George Friderich Handel. "I'm proud," said Catherine Plichta, an energetic teacher who has expanded the school's string program to include basses, cellos and violas. She and her students should be proud: unlike most high schools with string programs, these students don't take private lessons and they had never played a string instrument before 9th grade.
The other special feature of this school is dance, which, like music, has two teachers and meets four days a week. Teens learn modern, jazz, tap, ballet and choreography. They dance in the Puerto Rican Day Parade and showcase their work at two big concerts a year. Everyone is required to take dance and learn an instrument the first year and then they may switch to visual arts or fitness – but most stay with dance and strings.
Franklin Sim became principal in March 2011 after serving as assistant principal for many years. Before that, he taught math at Chelsea Vocational High School. He said research shows music and movement are good for the brain. "A large part of our budget is for instrumental repairs and concerts, because we believe in the arts," he said.
As for academics, there are attempts to provide extra challenges as well as help for those who need it most. Adult volunteers work with the lowest-scoring third. Some 9th graders are mixed in with 10th graders in math classes and in 11th grade U.S. History, students are grouped according to ability at tables. "Study jams," PM school and Saturday school are other times kids may seek help.
A guidance counselor coordinates college visits and applications and some students take college classes. On Wednesdays, the faculty all wear college t-shirts. ("We're big on school spirit," Sim said, mentioning a pancake breakfast, a burrito meal and pajama day.). About one-third of the students who graduate enroll in two- or four-year colleges upon leaving the school.
Four small schools share the Morris Educational Campus, and students pass through metal detectors. Violin and Dance shares one of the two gyms with the School for Excellence. The other two schools are Bronx International and Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies.
In recent years attendance has risen above 80%, which is not great, but is as high as any of the schools in the building have achieved. However, at the time of our visit it was 79 percent, below average, despite incentives, phone calls and home visits. On the bright side, the school steadily gets "A" ratings on report cards from the city.
The majority of the students are girls. A boys' program meets once a week and every month the boys go bowling, see a Broadway show or visit a martial arts studio, among other trips.
Half the teachers reported that order and discipline could be better on the Learning Environment Survey, but most students said they felt safe in the hallways and bathrooms. In addition to weekly advisory groups, there are assistant principals and three deans to help out at this small school.
Special education: Special needs students work in general education classes with two teachers, one of whom in trained in special education.
Admissions: Priority to Bronx students or residents who attend an information session. (April 2012, Lydie Raschka)