A Brief History of Bronx Science
The concept of a specialized science high school began as an idea in the mind of Dr. Morris Meister, the founding principal of The Bronx High School of Science. His background as a teacher and supervisor of science made him realize that intellectually gifted youngsters tended to be neglected by public education. He further believed that gifted students who shared common interests in science and mathematics would achieve excellence thereby justifying a school which grouped such students together. Dr. Meister had the vision to realize that gifted young people interacting in an intellectually challenging educational environment would be highly successful. He also felt that such youngsters would go on to be leaders in our society.
Seventy-one years later it is clear that Dr. Meister's dreams were well founded. The Bronx High School of Science has lived up to the original concept. Its many graduates have achieved at superb levels; many have become leaders in science, engineering, education, government, law and the arts.
Since its founding in 1938, the school has reflected societal changes. In the early 40's the peaceful growth of the school was interrupted by our country's entry into World War II, and the school reorganized its program to provide maximum support to the war effort. War-related electives such as auto mechanics, map making, and aerodynamics were established. In 1946, although the women's liberation movement was not yet with us, Dr. Meister was, again, ahead of his time. In September of that year, he opened the school to girls. The 130 young women admitted became the first females to gain admission to a specialized high school in New York City preceding its rival schools Stuyvesant (1969) by 23 years, and Brooklyn Tech (1972) by 26 years. In the 50's, the school's program had developed to such a point that its original facilities could no longer handle what had to be accomplished. A drive was begun which culminated in a new building completed in March 1959.
Dr. Meister left Bronx Science in January 1958 to become the first president of Bronx Community College. He was succeeded by Dr. Alexander Taffel who also came from a background in science teaching and supervision. His first responsibility was to organize the move to the new building, the final step of which was to move all the books in the school library. Each student took five books home on Friday afternoon and brought them to the new building on Monday morning. The new building opened a new era for Bronx Science. It provided a more spacious environment as well as new and unusual facilities. These included a mathematics laboratory housing a sophisticated IBM computer, a planetarium, a radio station, two greenhouses, an animal room, a nutrition laboratory, six advanced science laboratories for group work, and three laboratories for individual student research. During the early 60's, the curriculum was expanded and enriched to make full use of the new facilities. A number of sophisticated science and math electives were offered. However, the basic requirements for graduation remained the same throughout these many years.
During the middle 60's things at Science proceeded in a calm, scholarly fashion. However, as the period of social unrest and disturbance began to accelerate in the late 60's, it became necessary for Bronx Science to divert much of its energy towards protecting its integrity and insuring its survival. The disenchantment with the Vietnam War was reflected in student crusades. Science was not spared. During this period, the school was frequently disrupted by student protests and demonstrations. The longest teachers' strike in the history of the city occurred during this period, lasting more than seven weeks. The school was closed by Dr. Taffel and a program of free voluntary interim schools was established at churches and temples. Most of the striking supervisors and teachers took part in educating the thousands of students who attended these interim schools.
Dr. Taffel then organized an advisory board consisting of parents, teachers, and students to defuse a dangerous situation resulting from the many demands made by a few hundred disruptive students. This board became the model for those required in all high schools in the city.
In the late 60's, there was an attack made against specialized schools that selected their students through an examination process. To counter this threat, the four specialized high schools, Science, Stuyvesant, Brooklyn Tech, and Music and Art formed a Council, which is still in existence. This group consisting of faculty, parents, alumni, and friends, saved the specialized schools. It helped effect the Hecht-Calandra Law, mandating the Board of Education to maintain specialized high schools and describing the admissions procedures. There were other attacks against the school in the 70's. All were successfully beaten back.
During the 70's and 80's, enrichment of the curriculum continued. The reputation of the school had now reached the far corners of the globe. Visitors from all over the world came to Bronx Science. As a result, several schools modeled after Bronx Science were established in the Soviet Union, the Philippines and Turkey. More recently, similar schools based on our model have been established in six states throughout the nation and are being planned in Korea, Japan, and the People's Republic of China.
In 1977, Dr. Taffel retired and Mr. Milton Kopelman became the school's third principal. He too, came from a background of science teaching and supervising. He had been Chairman of the Biology department at Bronx Science since 1961 and began his career at the school in 1949 as a substitute biology teacher.
During the late 70's and 80's, special programs were established. Focus was placed upon independent research, communication, ethical decision making, and active student involvement in the learning process through an approach called Inquiry.
In 1990 Mr. Kopelman retired and biology chairman Mr. Vincent Galasso became the fourth principal of Bronx Science. The school’s budget reached its nadir during his tenure and it became abundantly clear that the very programs and features that made Bronx Science unique would no longer be funded by government sources. He and former principal Milton Kopelman were instrumental in establishing an Endowment Fund to help provide the resources necessary to maintain and preserve the Bronx Science legacy. Under Mr. Galasso’s guidance, the school began to earn a reputation as a leader in computer technology and communications.
In 1994, an alumnus from the Class of 1963 and assistant principal of the Physical Sciences Department, Mr. Stanley Blumenstein, became the school’s fifth principal. In order to meet the new challenges of the millennium, a Library Research Center was established and modern computer labs were constructed throughout the building. A new Distance Learning Lab was constructed with full video conferencing capabilities and a partnership with Cablevision improved and upgraded the school wide technology network allowing for the use of cable for Internet connection. A $2.3 million renovation of the science laboratories provided every student with a computer and probes at his or her station to collect and analyze data.
In June of 2000, Mr. Blumenstein left Bronx Science and a search for a new principal began. Mr. William Stark, assistant principal of Global Studies was selected as interim acting principal for the fall semester and former principal Vincent Galasso returned to take over the helm for the remainder of the school year. In September 2001, Ms. Valerie Reidy, a Bronx Science veteran teacher and assistant principal of Biology became the school’s first female principal. Under her leadership the school saw many improvements to its almost 50-year old infrastructure. With the support of alumni and city funding, labs were modernized and renovated, the auditorium was relit and refurbished, and the majority of classrooms were air-conditioned. In the spring of 2009, the Department of Education began construction on a new state-of-the-art library designed to provide easy access to electronic and print information – a modern facility conductive to teaching and learning, a place to explore the sciences, humanities, literature and the arts.
In 2004 the appearance of what the administration fondly called “SuperDesks” brought new technology to the classroom. Designed, prototyped and tested by Science staff members, these desks included: a networked computer, computer/video projector, a “Flex Cam" (document and demonstration camera), a CD/DVD/VCR, and presentation quality speakers. The desks gave teachers the ability to use “clips” from the Montage video on demand server, to use computer presentations in lessons and to have students present their work using PowerPoint or other electronic presentation media. They also became a part of the campus wide video network used to facilitate communication throughout the building.
Bronx Science is a reflection of societal change. Although the school has lost a share of its middle-class students, its new population, which represents a broader diversity of young people, has proven fully capable of continuing and advancing the school's high academic standards. The original dream of Dr. Morris Meister has borne fruit during the 71 years that the school has been in existence. It continues to develop science talent and graduate young people who go on to leadership roles in many fields of endeavor throughout the world.
--Excerpts from a history written by former principal Milton Kopelman
REMEMBERING THE PAST…
Creston Avenue - The Bronx High School of Science was founded in 1938 by resolution of the Department of Education of the City of New York. The school was housed in a Gothic building located at Creston Avenue and 184th Street. The building, built in 1918 for Evander Childs High School, was previously occupied by Walton High School (1930) and by an annex of DeWitt Clinton High School (1935). Bronx Science started with 150 ninth grade students and 250 tenth grade students (all male) and shared the facilities with DeWitt Clinton. As the Bronx Science population grew, Clinton students were gradually returned to its main building. During their joint occupation, which lasted for 2 years, the two schools had separate teaching staff and classes, but the same supervision and administration.
School Colors - Green and gold were chosen by Dr. Meister as the school colors, green to represent chlorophyll and gold the sun, both of which are essential to the chain of life.
205th Street Location - On March 3 1959, a new Bronx Science was opened. The old building on Creston Avenue and 184th Street was abandoned for a new, state-of-the-art building on 205th Street (between Goulden & Paul Avenues). The Creston Avenue building is still in existence and now houses a Middle School.
Library Books - The problem of moving the library books from the old building to the new was solved in typical Bronx Science manner. On Friday afternoon each student took home five library books from the old library and on Monday returned them to the new library.
The Mural - The 63-foot Venetian glass mosaic mural of great scientists that dominates the main lobby of the 205th Street facility was an original work of art by Frank J. Reilly whose design reflected the school's mission: to excel not only in the sciences and mathematics for which it was founded, but also in the humanities. The inscription below the mural reads “Every great advance in science has issued from a new audacity of imagination." For over 50 years it has been rumored that the administration chose to fund the mural rather than a swimming pool in the new building. It’s simply not true.
Dress Code - The school's dress code has evolved over the years. When the school was first established boys were required to wear ties and shirts with collars. They were not allowed to wear “pegged” pants or jeans and hats were strictly forbidden. Girls were required to wear skirts or dresses, no matter what the weather. On frigid days, girls wore slacks under their skirts but were directed to remove the slacks when they arrived on campus. Students were sent home if they were not dressed according to the rules. In 1968 the students successfully demanded that the dress code be relaxed; girls were allowed to wear slacks and boys could wear t-shirts. Today the dress code is even more lenient. Although hats are still forbidden, students may dress as they please. However, their clothing can not distract or offend others. Underwear must not be visible, and tops and bottoms of outer garments must meet or overlap.
ENRICHING THE PRESENT…
Entrance Exam - Each year, more than 25,000 eighth graders in New York City take the Specialized High School Admissions Test (containing both math and verbal questions) to gain entrance to one of the city’s Specialized High Schools. The cut-off score required for admission to each of the eight specialized testing high schools varies from year to year depending upon seat availability. Less than 4% of the applicant pool is accepted to Bronx Science. The result is a student community characterized by cultural, ethnic, and economic diversity bound together by intellectual curiosity and talent.
The Student Body - Approximately 2,800 students are enrolled in grades nine through twelve. Engagement in learning is everywhere. Science students are independent learners and self-starters, many of whom travel 1.5 hours each way to get to school. Virtually all Bronx Science graduates matriculate at four-year colleges and universities.
The vast majority of current students reside in Queens, NY. Approximately 55% of the student population comes from families where a language other than English is spoken at home.
Clubs & Student Publications - There are over 60 clubs representing almost every idea and interest imaginable. There are also numerous publications including the award winning yearbook Observatory, Bronx Science's entirely student-run newspaper Science Survey, Math Bulletin, Dynamo (literary magazine), and the Biology Journal.
The Bronx Science Speech & Debate Team - History was made in 2009 when the Bronx High School of Science Speech and Debate Team, one of the most historically prominent and successful forensics programs in the country made history by becoming the first program ever to win both Lincoln-Douglas debate and policy debate at the Harvard National Invitational.
The Bronx Science Robotics Team - The Sciborgs are a group of Bronx Science students who are dedicated to finding ways of applying technology for practical uses. Students collaborate together in a multitude of ways to both learn and teach robotic technology to each other and to the community at large. Students design, fund, and construct a winning robot and complete annually in regional and national competitions.
Athletic Teams - Science is proud to have such a wide variety of athletic teams and to be able to say that in addition to the standard baseball, basketball and soccer teams, it also is home to successful Bowling, Fencing, Handball, Gymnastics Teams and many others.
Required Courses, Honors Classes, Advanced Placement Courses, and Elective Courses - Bronx Science offers a well rounded foundation in English, Biology, Physical Science, Math, Social Studies, Foreign Language, The Arts, Technology, Health and Physical Education as well as Advanced Placement, College Level, Honor Courses and an extensive selection of Electives in English, Social Studies, Mathematics, Biology, Physical Science, Foreign Language, Technology, Fine Arts and Music.
The Holocaust Museum & Studies Center - Founded by Dr. Stuart S. Elenko in 1978 this internationally acclaimed center houses a rare collection of original Holocaust documents, diaries, photos, letters, posters, books, uniforms and autographs. One of the very first Holocaust Museum/Libraries to open in the United States.
Languages - Currently Bronx Science is offering courses in 9 foreign languages: Chinese, French, Modern Greek, Japanese, Korean, Latin, Russian, Spanish and Italian.
Shows & Concerts - The Music Department offers students the opportunity to perform in front of large groups several times each year. In both the fall and spring, holiday evening concerts are performed for the public. The performing musical groups at Science are Stage Band, Concert Band, Orchestra, Chorus and Small Ensemble. There are usually two plays each year, one of which is a full-scale musical.
Faculty - Experienced, Creative & Dedicated
In classrooms every day providing the most challenging education to our students is a dedicated faculty that is well-trained, creative and nurturing. Because the faculty has voted to exercise its School Based Option of interviewing and hiring its own colleagues, new colleagues come from a rich variety of backgrounds. Many are graduates of the finest colleges and graduate schools in the nation, including Harvard, Yale, The University of Chicago and CUNY, just to name a few.
Others have made teaching a second career, bringing with them expertise in the fields of law, finance, publishing, scientific research, engineering and technology. The richness of their educational, career and life experience enables them to provide additional mentoring to our students.
Many of our teachers and technical staff, approximately 15 to 20 percent in recent years, have also been alumni. Not only do they keep giving to Bronx Science with this meaningful career choice, but they provide students with special insight into the meaning of the Bronx Science legacy. They uphold a special banner of academic excellence that they have brought forward from their own student years that students admire and try to emulate.