Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies

BRONX NY 10456 Map
Phone: (718) 542-3700
Website: Click here
Principal: Matthew Mazzaroppi
Neighborhood: South Bronx
District: 9
Grade range: 09 thru 12
Parent coordinator: ZULEIKA CARRION

What's special:

A mentoring program; caring staff; Arts Connection.

The downside:

Low attendance, some safety issues outside the building.

The InsideStats


Our review

Teachers at the Morris Academy for Collaborative Studies encourage teens to explore their interests in class and take them on trips to expand their horizons. It's like "a family" said Kristina Kelly, a global history teacher. "Every kid has more than one adult who is intensely invested in them." Still, the staff struggles to convince kids to come to class. The school is located in an area deemed unsafe by some teachers, but the atmosphere inside the building is calm and caring.

Founding Principal Charles Osewalt sits at a table in the middle of the school's wide hallway where he meets with staff and watches the comings and goings of students. He constantly engages students with a kind of fond badgering – asking one boy why he is late and taking another to task for bullying. One teacher said Osewalt calls up to 50 students in the morning to help them get to school on time but questioned whether this served kids well in the long run. Fortunately, he has three assistant principals who help and the chain of command is "well-organized," according to a long-time teacher.

Like Osewalt, staff members go out of their way to meet the needs of students. One teacher runs a Japanese club during lunchtime, where kids watch Anime movies. Another oversees a "Study Café" with hot chocolate on the menu. Some teachers are young and greet kids with high-fives, but the teaching in the few academic classes we saw was not particularly creative, mostly lecture-style from the front of the room.

Class size looked small during our visit, partly due to many absences. On the Learning Environment Survey, a majority of students said adults in the building knew them by name, but only half said Morris offered classes and activities that kept them interested in school.

Some students said they would like more arts and more choices for academic classes. They do get some variety when teaching artists come in from Arts Connection to add music, visual art or dance lessons to English and history classes.

Morris Academy shares an impressive, Hogwarts-style building with Bronx International, High School for Violin and Dance, and School for Excellence. Each school uses the cafeteria at a different time so students may eat as early as 10 am or as late as 2 pm, but it rotates every year. The school is located in a historic area that is also one of the poorest districts in the United States. Several adults said they do not feel safe in the neighborhood after dark and that kids have been mugged at nearby delis. We did see security officers outside after school and the schools have hired additional people to parole the neighborhood at key times. Children must pass through a metal detector in the morning.

About 30 kids attend a popular program every other Saturday arranged by Hope for New York, in which they are paired with mentors from a variety of professions. Sports and ROTC are campus-wide. A campus-wide, award-winning Robotics team suggests that students in all four schools might be better served if leaders combined resources to offer kids more clubs and academic help.

Special education: The special education teacher is stretched because she has to monitor 40 kids who have individual educational plans in addition to teaching a small group of special needs kids. The school is planning to offer extra reading help three days a week, using the Wilson Reading System, a highly structured, remedial program where students are taught in smalll groups. "We have 40% English Language Learners and kids with special needs," Osewalt said. "We try to serve them all."

College: More than half of students who enroll in college go to two-year CUNY schools. The Robin Hood Foundation helps prepare 12th graders for entrance exams to CUNY and the school organizes college tours.

Admissions: Priority to Bronx residents or students who attending an information session. (Lydie Raschka, March 2012)

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