When Schools Chancellor Joel Klein announced a proposal for a new school to be named after Frank McCourt at a 2009 memorial service for the Pulitzer Prize-winning author and beloved teacher, it sparked a lot of interest in the new school.
Frank McCourt High School of Writing, Journalism and Literature opened this past fall with 100 9th-grade students and eight teachers in the Brandeis High School building on West 84th Street. As one of four smaller schools within the Brandeis building, Frank McCourt is able to offer the benefits of a small school combined with the opportunities available to a larger school.
"We are really lucky to be at Brandeis. There are four other schools and we all work well together," said Principal Danielle Salzberg. "We are a small school but we have the sports and clubs available to a bigger school through being at Brandeis."
The school's namesake, who hosted several of the early Blackboard Award ceremonies, was a legendary writing teacher at Stuyvesant High School long before becoming a best-selling author.
Frank McCourt High School emphasizes humanities—literature, history and writing—and offers classes across disciplines.
"Different and complementary subjects taught together," said Salzberg.
Math and science are co-taught by a teacher in each field. Ninth graders learning earth science solve problems by using statistics if they are studying algebra, and spatial reasoning skills if they are studying geometry. Literature and history classes are also taught together.
"The focus is on working with kids on problem solving," said Salzberg.
The school, which admits students based on test scores, middle-school transcripts and interviews, has interviewed over 100 8th-grade students for next year and is currently midway through the admissions process.
"We have students from all five boroughs with different middle-school experiences," said Salzberg.
Before starting at Frank McCourt, Salzberg, 38, was an assistant principal at Millennium High School in Lower Manhattan and taught at Baruch High School.
"It is very exciting to start a new school," said Salzberg. "There is a great energy. We have 100 families who all wanted to take a chance on a new school."
— By Kara Bloomgarden-Smoke