Theater Arts Production Company School (TaPCO)
Bronx NY 10457
Creative arts focus, caring staff and comfortable environment
While some academic classes are engaging, others are uninspiring
Theatre Arts Production Company (TAPCo), a combined middle and high school, offers a supportive, family-like environment for aspiring artists, musicians, singers, dancers and actors. Ron Link, named principal in 2012, has quickly gained the trust of both staff and students by listening to everyones concerns, improving discipline and developing a plan to strengthen academics.
My favorite things about this school are the arts and the principal. He is mad cool, a 7th grader remarked on the day of our visit. Link, former assistant principal the Academy for Scholarship and Entrepreneurship, sang and played saxophone in a band that warmed up for RunDMC, the Dazz Band and the Jets. These skills allow him to bring the academic and artistic discipline that TAPCo needs.
The school is housed in the same building as MS 391. Stage sets from past productions add color and visual interest throughout the school. There is a homey feel as students transition from class to class to Bob Marleys, Dont Worry About a Thing. The school has a lounge area, a theater, black box, green room, choir room, a dance studio, and many art studios. Bud Thorpe, an actor who previously worked under famed playwright and director Samuel Beckett, heads a full production shop where students work on set design, set construction, light design, and costume design.
Staff members make time for students after school and even lead weekend clubs. Assistant Principal Monika Fisher has been long known as the surrogate mom to all TAPCo students. On any given day you can find her counseling students in distress and providing the guidance they need to make it through the day and year successfully. The school has a longstanding tradition of acceptance and respect for individual expression. Whether kids have a trendy urban appearance or a gothic look, they are all treated equally.
Links predecessor, founding principal Lynn Passarella, was removed in March, 2012, after a DOE report found that the staff had falsified student transcripts and given credit for courses not taken. "To her credit, [under her leadership] there was real art integration in all classes which was true to the school's mission statement," Link said.
Links first step was to listen to the school community, and as a result the school now has appropriate supervision with deans in hallways, defined staff roles, a student discipline handbook and a new thriving PTA just to name a few changes. While TAPCo is not a violent or dangerous school, the freedom previously afforded to its students created an atmosphere of disruptive behavior. A PTA parent explained, Sometimes the kids limit the teachers due to discipline issues. They [the teachers] could do some much more with them. Initially Links changes led to a rise in suspensions, but as students began to understand that there were consequences to poor behavior, the number of suspensions declined.
TAPCos next challenge is to bring its arts program to a higher level with a stronger focus on technique. Students are eager to throw themselves into performance but still need to master the self-discipline and fundamental skills of their chosen craft before they can compete on a citywide level.
To better focus on academics, Link scheduled all arts classes for the last period of the day for the 2012-13 school year. There are Advanced Placement, Regents prep and College Now courses. Students may choose among many electives, such as acting, visual arts, video, dance, glee, playwriting and GenX, which teaches everything from body awareness to financial literacy.
In middle school, academic classes incorporate many small group projects and hands on activities. In high school, the classes tend to be more traditional with desks in rows and larger class sizes. We saw some excellent teaching and engaged students who were on task. We also saw a class in which most students didnt even bother to take their books and looked truly uninspired. Link, completely aware of the challenge, has identified the strong teachers as a core group to train and mentor the others.
There are 19 after-school clubs in academics, the arts and sports, all led by teachers.Sports are available through connection with PSAL & Childrens Aid Society.
Special education: The school offers collaborative-team-teaching classes (CTT) and busing for special education students.
College: TAPCo has an affiliation with Lehman College where some students take college courses. Most students go on to CUNY or SUNY schools.
Admissions: Prospective 6th graders should contact the school or their guidance counselor for an application. Students must attend a tour, schedule an interview, and bring a letter of recommendation. Students applying for the 9th grade have fewer seats available since many current students choose to stay. Acting students should prepare a monologue but are given a "cold read" and are placed in a mock-acting class. Dancers and vocalists are to bring their own music. Visual art students must bring a portfolio and will be asked to draw their hand and another image. (Jacquie Wayans, October 2012)
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Programs and Admissions
Small group instruction in traditional Band Instruments. Jazz Band, Latin Band, Music Theory, Music History, Improvisation, Sight Singing, and Piano. On or offsite private lessons by audition.
General Choir, Show Choir, Jazz Choir, and Womens Choir. Music Theory, Music History, Improvisation, Sight Singing and Piano. On or offsite private lessons by audition.
Students learn Modern Dance, Ballet, Composition Technology, and Principles of Dance. Pedagogy is blended to help students develop their own unique voice and gain competitive skills needed to succeed after high school.
Students learn acting technique, scene study, voice and diction, movement, singing, theatre history, audition preparation, digital resume building, script analysis, directing, lighting design, and stagecraft. Students perform in full stage and small studio classical, modern, and musical theater productions.
Non Moving Image: Students develop their artistic skills as they progress through classroom assignments using a variety of drawing, painting, and digital design media. Students have the opportunity to apply to the Fred Dolan Art Academy, a Saturday professional artist-led program that helps students develop their portfolios and secure scholarships for college. Moving Image: Students learn valuable artistic, literacy, and technical skills in photography and video production as well as team-building.
Advanced Placement (AP) courses