Stuy Open House Gives an Early Welcome to Eighth Graders
October 28th, 2004
On the night of September 28, despite heavy rain from Hurricane Jeanne, hundreds of eighth graders and their parents crowded into the empty halls of Stuyvesant High School to participate in a pre-Specialized High School Admissions Test (SHSAT) open house.
According to Principal Stanley Teitel, Stuyvesant was ordered by former Chancellor Harold Levy to have an informal open house before the exam. This situation is different than the one of two years ago, when the Stuy open houses only occurred after the results of the SHSAT were received by students. Essentially, only those students who were accepted to Stuyvesant were allowed to tour the building.
Some current Stuyvesant students got a chance to take part in this new kind of open house through programs such as Big Sibs. The current juniors and seniors had not been able to visit Stuy before they were accepted, so this year’s situation was new for many of them. The open house began at 5:00 P.M., and featured tours of the school by the 50 Big Sibs who participated. In addition, a video about Stuyvesant was played every 30 minutes in the Murry Kahn Theater. It gave a brief introduction to Stuyvesant and some commentary from Teitel and teachers.
“[This year's event] wasn't that much different than my open house. It does encourage more people to come [to Stuy], and now they'll know what to expect,” said senior and Big Sib Simon Lee.
“Students should have the opportunity to see the school. People should be applying here because of the school's essence, not its reputation,” said junior and Big Sib Josh Siegel.
Though some liked the idea of having a pre-SHSAT open house, others still would prefer the original process of two years ago.
“I find [the earlier open house] pointless...The seats at Stuy are going to fill up anyway,” said Teitel.
"I think an open house after the test is better because now that you know that you can go, you can appreciate seeing the school more,” said freshman Joanna Szczepkowska.
“I prefer an open house after [the test], of course,” said freshman Alice Pong, “because if I like the school and then I fail the exam, I’d cry and be really sad.”
Though there is some opposition to the earlier open houses, the event is a required one, due to a policy instituted by the Department of Education one year ago.
"It is now necessary to provide an open house previous to the test,” said junior and Big Sib Katie Johnston-Davis. "The reason for this is the importance now on the order you put the schools down."
“However,” she said, “though it was not previously necessary, it still would have been nice to see the school previous to taking the test.”
This year’s open house left many students and their parents impressed with Stuyvesant.
“I really like it,” said Charlie Goldstein of Wagner Junior High School.
“It’s new and has a big pool and gymnasium,” added his twin brother Amos Goldstein, who also attends Wagner.
Jacob Berman of the New York City Lab Middle School agreed. “[Stuyvesant] looks ots of fun,” he said. “There were more options than I originally thought.” This is a good thing for Jacob, who is interested in video production, something he said Lab doesn’t offer.
This year's open house left an overwhelming number of parents pleased with what they saw. Parent Michael Lam noted the “clean environment” at Stuyvesant.
Parent Janet Watanabe was also was impressed with the physical structure of the building. “The school is really large,” she said. “The facility is really beautiful, and it seems the students are really excited about going here.”
Current students may be excited about attending Stuy, but the open house left many prospective students feeling excited as well. Isma Nahid, a student at Hudding Junior High School said that after touring the building, she wanted to “go to Stuy more.”
“When you see it for real,” she said, “you want to come.” Param Maragatham of MS 54 said Stuy’s “academic success” has made her excited about this school as well.
The open house, while exciting for many eighth graders, was a good source of information for parents as well. A representative from the Parent's Association said, “Our middle school sent a lot of students to this school. We had information. But, I’m sure for parents here, that is not the case, so this [open house] would help them.”
Steve Goldstein, parent of the Goldstein twins, said he got “lots of help” and that the Big Sibs did a good job in answering his questions.
Mohammed Alam, another parent looking into Stuyvesant, called the open house “informative.” He appreciated the information given to him about math and science at the school.
The evening also served to answer some questions and better explain some preconceived ideas about Stuy. Building Coordinator Renee Levine said, “[the event] helps dispel the misconception that Stuy is so extraordinarily competitive.”
When asked about the issue of competition at Stuy, Lisa Sharpe, a student at Mohawk Junior High School, said, “It’s the same they said about junior high school. It doesn’t bother me.”
When asked whether the open house was held at a convenient time, the overwhelming answer was yes. Brittany Sharpe, parent of Lisa Sharpe said, “I want my weekends to me.”
Sophomore Lauren Coleman Lochner agreed. “Hours were such that it was doable,” she said.
Though there was an overall positive response to the open house, some of those involved believed improvements could have been made to this year’s open house.
“The idea was too chaotic,” said Levine. “However, [all that were involved and I] have to let it flow because we don’t know how many people are coming.”
“I’m impressed with the school and students as always,” said parent Jeff Klein, “but I wanted to show my daughter the classrooms, but they were all closed. So, basically we got tours of the corridors.”
“Some parents want to talk directly to the teachers,” said parent Michael Lam. “[I wanted] representatives from each subject to get a feel for that subject.”
“I could get lost here. It’s hard getting used to, coming from a small school,” said Sharpe.
Senior Dave Mekaetansky, who was also giving tours during the open house, said, "I think the prospective students are way too worried. I think [the event] is slightly pointless because they just come [to the open house] worried about if they can come [to the school].”
“[Applying to Stuy] is an already tension-filled process,” said Coleman-Lochner. “[The open house] would have heightened it for us.”
Senior Victor Danau, another tour guide for the evening, thought that some parents didn’t seem concerned about Stuyvesant during the open house, as much as they seemed preoccupied with thoughts of college.
“[At the open house,] parents were really pushy about college. Stuy is four years of your life, not four years before college,” he said.
To help alleviate worry, many Stuy students involved, like senior and Big Sib Chair Maddie Ehrlich, tried hard to discredit the qualms that are generally linked with the school.
“I give them facts, but I just show them that Stuy is a great school for what it is,” Ehrlich said. “I don’t want them to come to Stuy if they’re not going to be happy here. However, I tried to dispel the stigmas that associate with Stuyvesant.”
Patricia Peguero, who attends St. Leo School in Queens, said, “I thought it was going to be hard to adjust, from what I heard, that’s not true.”
With room for improvement, the 2004 Stuyvesant open house provided many prospective students and their parents with positive impressions about Stuyvesant High School. Lam expressed his appreciation for the night. “I didn’t even think I would have the opportunity to explore this school,” he said. The second open house will take place on Monday, October 18, from 4:30 PM to 6:00 PM.