|Between classes, students wander
a leafy campus overlooking the water. There are no bells, no squawking announcements
from the public-address system. It may sound like a suburban California
school, but it's the Leon Goldstein High School for the Sciences, located
in the far reaches of Brooklyn on the campus of Kingsborough Community College.
Leon Goldstein bills itself as a "science school," where students take
four years of math and four years of science. But, says PTA co-chair Donna
Lechillgrien, "I think its strength is in the humanities, believe it or
not." The school puts on two plays a year and is one of the last schools
in the city to continue the tradition of the December "Sing" music-and-dance
performance, in which virtually every student in the school participates.
Seniors are paired with freshmen, sophomores with juniors.
AP courses are offered in both AB and BC calculus, biology, chemistry,
physics, Western civilization, U.S. history, English literature, and,
on occasion, Spanish. The typical class size is 34, but in many classes,
especially AP courses, there are as few as 14 students. Students are dismissed
from regular classes at 1 p.m. on Wednesdays for an hour of club meetings,
including dance, drama, and science. Team sports include soccer, basketball,
swimming, golf, bowling, and tennis.
Leon Goldstein has an association with Lincoln Center and boasts an
accomplished jazz band with a teacher who's a musician and composer. The
school also collaborates with Brooklyn Botanic Garden; students worked
with urban planners to design outdoor space behind the building. A science
class tested soil and suggested plants that would grow well. An art class
drew up landscaping plans.
The arts are integrated into English, social-studies, and language classes.
For example, kids in an English class reading Lord of the Flies worked
with visiting artists to build small canoes out of balsa wood and chicken
wire to be floated in Sheepshead Bay. (Happily, that was all they re-created
from the book's plot.)
How hard is it to get in? Perhaps because of its remote location,
Leon Goldstein remains a well-kept secret. But the school is open to all
New York City residents. Students are chosen by a formula designed to
ensure a mix of high and low achievers. Most students come from nearby
Brooklyn and Queens neighborhoods, including the Rockaways.
Downsides: Leon Goldstein students actually did less well on
the math and science Regents than on the writing, English, and social-studies
tests. Also, reaching Manhattan Beach by public transportation is difficult.
Some Queens students hire a private bus.