Math, Engineering, and Science Academy (MESA) Charter High School
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Project-based math and science classes
On the first day of class at Math, Engineering and Science Academy (MESA), new students may find a “body” (a person playing dead) face down on the floor, sparking an investigation into forensic analysis of DNA from hair and blood samples. MESA offers project-based courses to bring math and science to life. This still-young school has a strong record preparing students for college.
The school is safe and orderly with steady leadership. It boasts excellent attendance; students are responsible for calling their own parents if they are even one minute late, according to the student handbook. Staff serve as mentors for small groups of students and try to “catch” them following rules and doing good work, rather than focusing on mistakes. Most teens say there is little bullying in school.
Like many charters, MESA has a principal who oversees instruction and an executive director who oversees operations. Arthur Samuels, a Harvard Law School and Columbia Teachers College alumnus, designed the program at his previous post at East Harlem’s Renaissance Charter High School for Innovation. Principal Pagee Cheung is also a graduate of Teachers College.
Samuels says he is proud of MESA’s positive school culture. “It’s not a punitive culture: no demerits, no uniform, but we do have a dress code. Teens have some freedom to express their personalities. Rigor is not sacrificed for warmth. We don’t have silent passing in the halls, but it’s not chaotic.”
MESA is a rare “stand alone" charter high school—unconnected to a middle or elementary school and not supported by a network of many schools under one umbrella. The school day starts later than usual, at 9 am, to mirror the start of a professional workday, the website says, and ends at 4:16 pm (Wednesday is a shorter day). During school breaks in February and April, MESA offers enrichment and remediation classes, which are not optional for students struggling academically.
Clubs meet about once or twice a week for an hour with topics such as ukulele, Spanish cinema, dance team, debate, art, math team and robotics. The gym, library, dance room, auditorium and cafeteria are shared with JHS 291 and Bushwick Community High School. Entrance times are staggered. The building has a metal detector.
Admissions: By lottery with preference to students in District 32. Eighty percent of the students come from the district. (Lydie Raschka, web reports, January 2019)