Hazy Future for Tech Classes
January 16th, 2003
Against a background buzz of grinding machines, senior Olga Mikhlina meticulously sands the wooden base of her clock frame while hunched over a vise. At the table to the right, seniors Hong Li and Samba Silla chat while Li begins to glue onto her clock an elegantly curved and polished headpiece.
These three seniors were selected for what could be the last Advanced Woodworking class to be offered at Stuy. As a part of Principal Stanley Teitel’s unconfirmed plans to change technology graduation requirements, many of the 10 period tech selectives that have long been offered are facing elimination. Assistant Principal of Technology James Lonardo said Teitel approached him in September and expressed his intention of lowering the tech requirement from 5 terms to 4 terms to make room for computer programming classes.
“Who could have imagined this 25 years ago?” said Teitel pointing to the sleek IMac on his desk.
“As we move into the 21st century, we have to rethink what we’ve been doing.”
Members of the Technology Department have already expressed disapproval of Teitel’s plan, but still believe that it will be carried out. “The consensus [among tech teachers] is that the way things are currently being run is fine,” said Lonardo.
Earlier this year, Teitel gave sophomores the option of taking Introductory Computer Science in lieu of the Computer Aided Design class, which is usually the spring term of the drafting curriculum. However, according to Lonardo, Teitel made this decision without consulting the Technology Department. Because of this action and the principal’s unofficial intentions, tech teachers are convinced that compelling changes are still to come.
Tech teacher Alan Becker has taught Advanced Woodworking and Ceramics at Stuy for 34 years. Upon his retirement, according to Lonardo, both of his classes will “definitely” cease to exist. Also in jeopardy are the Principles of Engineering class taught by Richard Realmuto and the photography classes taught by Fred Gordon. However, Lonardo said that the fate of photography is most uncertain simply due to its “sheer popularity.”
“The administration thinks many [10 period tech classes] are not valid,” said architecture and drafting teacher Alphonse Scotti. “They consider them classes with no use.”
Teitel, however, denies those comments. “People are very nervous when something changes even if it’s the most innocuous thing,” he said. “Many of the tech teachers have been here for more than 25 years and are very comfortable with that they’re doing. I’m just asking them to stand back for a moment and to think for the future.”
Since computer science is a technological field applicable to many disciplines, Teitel said he hopes that computer classes will receive greater emphasis in the future. Computer Science Coordinator Mike Zamansky said he has been campaigning the past three years for an independent computer science requirement at Stuy, though not in place of anything else. Although Zamansky hasn’t been consulted about the future of the Tech Department, he points out that a large number of students who are exposed to computer science at Stuy go onto pursue a career in that field.
“I have nothing against woodshop,” said Zamansky. “Whether a 10 [period] tech is valuable depends on what class would be in place of it, and computer science is universally valuable.”
Teitel refuses to disclose the specifics of his tech reconstruction plans until he and the Tech Department have finished talks and the plans have been finalized. He said, “I’m not ready to go public with my plans, and I don’t want this to be a public debate.”
However, Teitel did attribute part of the problem to the difficulty in hiring new tech teachers with such specific areas of expertise. He said, “I think I would have a very difficult time replacing Mr. Becker.”
Becker disagrees. “The administration claims that there’s no one to take my place, but that’s just an excuse to eliminate the class,” he said.
Becker said that last year, during spring programming, there was enough interest to open three double-period Advanced Wood classes. Yet, only one class was run this fall.
Most of the seniors now taking Advanced Wood feel that the class has been a positive experience. Senior Luke Gawronski, who had been waiting since freshman year to take woodworking, said that the class fulfilled his expectations. “This class is great if you plan to be a homeowner,” said Gawronski. “I prefer to make my own furniture and wouldn’t have nearly enough tools at home to learn and do what I could here.”
Mikhlina agrees. “How else are you going to learn this stuff? Plus, I’d rather work with my hands than stare at a computer screen,” she said.
Yet, junior Brad Stronger argues that not only are computer science classes useful, but that they are also more popular amongst students than 10 period tech classes. “You can see the students’ reaction—an overwhelming number of sophomores opted to take computer science instead of CAD. More students take the computer science classes just as an elective than would a 10 tech if the requirement were removed.”
Senior Richard Yang, another student in Advanced Woodworking, disagrees with the idea of tech class eliminations. “It’s important for there to be a balance. If people want to pursue computer technology that’s fine, but kids should have this choice.”