Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School
Manhattan NY 10019
Supportive environment where students learn career skills such as masonry, carpentry and building preservation
Shared building has metal detectors
Stephen T. Mather Building Arts & Craftsmanship High School (Mather) is a great fit for students who like hands-on learning and want to keep college options open. A CTE (career and technical educational) school, Mather opened in 2013 with the goal of preparing students for careers in fields like historic preservation, landscape management, archaeology, masonry and carpentry. The school was named after Stephen Tyng Mather, the first director of the NPS (National Parks Service) which partners with Mather.
Mather has a welcoming and orderly environment where teachers and students work closely together. Students told us that they liked the close-knit environment and felt very supported by staff. "We have the best teachers in this school," one student said.
Principal Larry Gabbard was an English teacher and assistant principal at the Eagle Academy for Young Men in the Bronx and an assistant principal at Pace High School in downtown Manhattan before he founded Mather. Gabbard has a background in business which influences his approach to leadership and teambuilding. He wants all staff to work together, solve problems for themselves and wear many different hats, he said.
Students take classes in historic preservation, landscape management, interior design and architectural drawing. NPS has a full-time staff member in the school who assists teachers in developing curriculum. Other NPS employees also work in the school, for example, teaching a six-week unit in professional decorative plastering. Gabbard says the trades are a great way to learn transferable skills such as perseverance and problem solving. "We are not a vocational school," said Gabbard, "we just elevate career readiness." Not all students at the school aspire to work in the trades, some said they wanted to be architects, zoologists or run their own business.
The academic curriculum is developed by teachers at the school and incorporates content relevant to the trades. In math, students start by taking algebra and geometry. Those who are college-bound may continue with algebra 2 and pre-calculus, while those on a career path may take math for the trades and do internships. Similarly in science, students take living environment and earth science and then may choose to take chemistry for the trades where they learn about things like mixing mortar and paint color.
Mather uses the formulaic Hochman method to teach students how to write. On our visit, a 10th-grade ELA (English language arts) class was reading an article from The Atlantic about rap lyrics and a facebook post being used as legal evidence for gang association. A freshman class drew parallels between Romeo and Juliet and teenagers today.
Mather is strict on attendance and lateness. Students who miss school attend compulsory classes on Saturdays. There is a school-wide points system for tracking attendance and good behavior. Students can use their points for rewards such as pizza nights or a trip to Six Flags. These points also count for 30 percent of grades. Students we spoke to said the system was motivating; it "allows you to fix your mistakes and be responsible," one said.
Mather offers plenty of opportunities for students to get academic or social and emotional support. There is peer tutoring, after-school tutoring and twice a week students have an "ER" (enrichment and reading) period where they receive homework help and read independently. Students attend "Packvisory" four days a week for 40 minutes. "Packs" are groups of 10 students from the same grade, who stay together for all four years. The school has two social workers and a guidance counselor. Restorative justice is used to manage discipline issues, and a core group of students are trained as peer mediators.
After its first year, Mather moved from the basement of the Murry Bergtraum High School for Business Careers to the Graphic Communication Arts building in Midtown. The school has a computer lab and two large CTE labs, one for carpentry and the other for masonry. There are shared science labs, a new library, weight room, refurbished gym and a large cafeteria. Students can play in the schoolyard during lunchtime. Clubs include art, virtual building, music, performing arts and anime. Students can join campus sports teams.
SPECIAL EDUCATION: About one-third of students at the school have IEPs (individualized education programs). More than half of Mather classes are team-taught.
ADMISSIONS: Limited unscreened. There is priority for Manhattan residents but students come from all five boroughs. There are more boys than girls, but the school hopes this will change once different parts of the CTE curriculum are introduced. (Ella Colley, May 2015)
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Programs and Admissions
Boys PSAL teams
Baseball, Basketball, Bowling, Cross Country, Handball, Outdoor Track, Soccer, Volleyball
Girls PSAL teams
Basketball, Flag Football, Soccer, Softball, Volleyball