New York

The Summer Arts Institute at Stuyvesant High School

Second in a series on free summer opportunities for New York City students. Read the first post about the Manhattan School of Music Summer Music Camp.

Vocal music students practicing at SAI.
Vocal music students practicing at SAI.

On a recent July morning, in a classroom at Stuyvesant High School in Manhattan, master vocal music teacher Jayne Skoog asked her students to pause. “Put your hand here for a minute,” she instructed them, placing her hand on her ribcage. “Put your hand right here.” The students placed their hands over their own chests, studying how air should move in and out of their lungs as they sing.

Down the hall, Joe Bartolozzi was teaching an advanced music theory class, animatedly illustrating a point about tension and release with a joke about a pianist playing “Amazing Grace” and stopping just before the final, resolving chord. Bartolozzi let his students feel that tension as he finished the story – then played the chord, allowing everyone in the room to experience the release firsthand.

Meanwhile, upstairs, students were scattered around teacher Jan Juracek’s photography lab. Two worked together at a computer, using Photoshop to merge a student’s self-portrait with a photograph of the New York City skyline. Juracek sat nearby, helping another student edit a digital photo. A small group sat sprawled at student desks, flipping through photography books and their own portfolios. On the floor, students assembled what appeared to be a poster-sized contact sheet: they explained that it’s a collaborative piece they are creating, bringing together each student’s self-portrait on the theme “THE ARTS: A Lens to the City.”

This theme is shared by the seven studios of the Summer Arts Institute, a free, four-week intensive arts program for New York City public school students entering grades 8-12. In addition to vocal music and photography, the studio programs include instrumental music, dance, drama, visual art, and film.

The approximately 260 students at the Institute study their chosen art form for five hours a day, with an hour-long break at lunchtime. A typical day includes visits from professional artists, trips to local cultural institutions – one highlight this year was a whole-institute trip to see the American Ballet Theatre’s performance of Giselle – studio work, and peer critiques.

Special events include a weekly “SAI Cafe” where students can perform or display works-in-progress, as well as workshops for parents and students on next steps in their education or career. Middle school workshops focus on the process of applying to arts high schools, while high school workshops include panelists from colleges, universities, and conservatory programs.

The Summer Arts Institute was started in 2002, Joan Finkelstein, the DOE’s Director of Dance Programs said. “It was a response to 9/11 and the strong reactions of lower Manhattan students, to give them an intensive arts experience, the opportunity to fully express themselves,” she said.

Juracek, who has been teaching photography at SAI since 2002, said she enjoys teaching at the Institute because of the highly motivated students. In addition, she said, teachers don’t have to worry about having enough supplies or trying to fit art classes into a prescribed lesson format, frustrations they may face during the regular school year. “You have the freedom of really teaching art like you should teach it,” she said.

The students are chosen through an application process that begins in January. Applications include a teacher recommendation and a short essay; auditions are held in April. Finkelstein said that each studio weights the various aspects of the application differently, some emphasizing skill level while others look for students most passionate or interested in the medium.

Visual arts student at SAI.
Visual arts student at SAI.

“These students are really professional,” said Christine Mendoza, a teaching artist from the Tribeca Film Institute who works with the students in the film studio. “They look not only to teachers but to each other for feedback.”

Other teachers agreed, pointing to the Institute’s intensive focus on technical skills in addition to creative expression. Middle school visual arts students were learning a trace-and-transfer drawing technique while also learning about perspective; film students rotate through the different roles on a film crew; dancers create original choreography and study classical ballet technique.

“What they are doing is making points of theory concrete for the kids,” Finkelstein said.

Students agreed the program is quite rigorous. John Walsh, who will start his freshman year at LaGuardia High School of Music & Arts and Performing Arts this fall, believes that he will have an advantage thanks to his vocal music program at the Institute. “I’ll have more knowledge of theory of music than most of the kids coming in.”

“I’m going to be more into photography than I was because now I know what I’m doing,” said Michelle Gavora, a rising 12th grader at Francis Lewis High School. “It’s an awesome program.”

What's Your Education Story?

As the 2018 school year begins, join us for storytelling from Indianapolis educators

PHOTO: Dylan Peers McCoy/Chalkbeat
Sarah TeKolste, right, and Lori Jenkins at a Teacher Story Slam, in April.

In partnership with Teachers Lounge Indy, Chalkbeat is hosting another teacher story slam this fall featuring educators from across the city.

Over the past couple of years, Chalkbeat has brought readers personal stories from teachers and students through the events. Some of our favorites touched on how a teacher won the trust of her most skeptical student, why another teacher decided to come out to his students, and one educator’s call to ramp up the number of students pursuing a college education.

The event, 5:30 p.m. Thursday, Sept. 13, is free and open to the public — please RSVP here.

Event details:

5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m.
Thursday, Sept. 13, 2018
Tube Factory artspace
1125 Cruft St., Indianapolis, IN 46203
Get tickets here and find more on Facebook

School safety

Hiring more security officers in Memphis after school shootings could have unintended consequences

PHOTO: Jahi Chikwendiu/The Washington Post/Getty Images

Tennessee’s largest district, Shelby County Schools, is slated to add more school resource officers under the proposed budget for next school year.

Superintendent Dorsey Hopson earmarked $2 million to hire 30 school resource officers in addition to the 98 already in some of its 150-plus schools. The school board is scheduled to vote on the budget Tuesday.

But an increase in law enforcement officers could have unintended consequences.

A new state law that bans local governments from refusing to cooperate with federal immigration officials could put school resource officers in an awkward position.

Tennessee Education Commissioner Candice McQueen recently reminded school personnel they are not obligated to release student information regarding immigration status. School resource officers employed by police or sheriff’s departments, however, do not answer to school districts. Shelby County Schools is still reviewing the law, but school board members have previously gone on the record emphasizing their commitment to protecting undocumented students.

“Right now we are just trying to get a better understanding of the law and the impact that it may have,” said Natalia Powers, a district spokeswoman.

Also, incidents of excessive force and racial bias toward black students have cropped up in recent years. Two white Memphis officers were fired in 2013 after hitting a black student and wrestling her to the ground because she was “yelling and cussing” on school grounds. And mothers of four elementary school students recently filed a lawsuit against a Murfreesboro officer who arrested them at school in 2016 for failing to break up a fight that occurred off-campus.

Just how common those incidents are in Memphis is unclear. In response to Chalkbeat’s query for the number and type of complaints in the last two school years, Shelby County Schools said it “does not have any documents responsive to this request.”

Currently, 38 school resource officers are sheriff’s deputies, and the rest are security officers hired by Shelby County Schools. The officers respond and work to prevent criminal activity in all high schools and middle schools, Hopson said. The 30 additional officers would augment staffing at some schools and for the first time, branch out to some elementary schools. Hopson said those decisions will be based on crime rates in surrounding neighborhoods and school incidents.

Hopson’s initial recommendation for more school resource officers was in response to the school shooting in Parkland, Florida, that killed 17 people and sparked a wave of student activism on school safety, including in Memphis.

Gov. Bill Haslam’s recent $30 million budget boost would allow school districts across Tennessee to hire more law enforcement officers or improve building security. Measures to arm some teachers with guns or outlaw certain types of guns have fallen flat.


For more on the role and history of school resource officers in Tennessee, read our five things to know.


Sheriff’s deputies and district security officers meet weekly, said Capt. Dallas Lavergne of the Shelby County Sheriff’s Office. When the Memphis Police Department pulled their officers out of school buildings following the merger of city and county school systems, the county Sheriff’s Office replaced them with deputies.

All deputy recruits go through school resource officer training, and those who are assigned to schools get additional annual training. In a 2013 review of police academies across the nation, Tennessee was cited as the only state that had specific training for officers deployed to schools.