Science, technology school to open at Nassau BOCES

Tom Rogers, superintendent of Nassau BOCES, speaks with Tom Rogers, superintendent of Nassau BOCES, speaks with Leena Doshi and Anish Berry, co-founders of Au Foundation, outside the Long Island High School for the Arts. (Jan. 13, 2013) Photo Credit: Newsday / Audrey C. Tiernan

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Long Island's first regional high school of science and technology will open this fall with the help of more than $1 million from a private foundation, school organizers are to announce Monday.

The specialized public school will be run by Nassau BOCES and named the Doshi STEM Program in honor of the benefactors. STEM is an acronym for science, technology, engineering and math.

"Long Island's future is very much going to be in science and technology," said Thomas Rogers, superintendent of Nassau County's Board of Cooperative Educational Services. "This is a marriage of the region's incredible science assets and its education system."

The school is to open with 50 ninth-graders from across Long Island, then expand to 200 students in grades 9-12 over the next four years. Ultimately, sponsors expect the school to provide research opportunities unavailable in many local high schools.

Organizers have not decided whether to set specific grade-point averages or test scores for applicants.

The school will be in Syosset, in a wing of an existing BOCES center for performing arts. First-year staff will consist of a coordinator and two teachers to provide Regents courses in math and science. More teachers are to be added in subsequent years, along with courses in engineering and college-level math and science.

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Today's announcement caps four months of negotiation between Nassau BOCES and the AU Foundation, a local charity established by entrepreneurs Leena and Nitin Doshi of Hicksville, who run a chain of radiology centers. In 1999, the foundation began funding after-school enrichment programs in Flushing, Queens, and organizers subsequently decided to expand into Nassau.

They originally planned to open a full-day STEM charter school on the campus of SUNY College at Old Westbury, starting with 125 ninth-graders in the fall and growing to 450 high schoolers by its fifth year. That initiative ran into opposition from local school districts, which contended that a charter school would drain tuition money from their budgets.

The foundation then agreed to support the BOCES school instead. Henry Grishman, the Jericho schools chief and former president of the New York State Council of School Superintendents, helped arrange the new plan.

Anish Berry, co-founder of the AU Foundation, called the BOCES venture a rare public-private partnership and voiced hope that other private donors would join. Berry added that his foundation's financial commitment exceeds $1 million.

"This is actually a historic moment in Nassau County's public education," Berry said.

In 1994, then-Gov. Mario Cuomo, father of the current governor, proposed a regional high school of technology that would have been located in Hauppauge. The concept was to operate a selective school resembling Bronx High School of Science and other similar public prep schools in New York City. But local school officials squelched that idea.

The STEM school is designed to avoid regional turf fights of that sort.STEM-school students, like many others in BOCES programs, will attend half-day sessions at the Syosset site. The rest of their time will be spent in their home schools.

BOCES officials say five districts including Hicksville, Uniondale and Westbury, already have expressed interest in sending students to the STEM school in the fall. More districts are expected to join, officials said, because the regional center offers an affordable alternative for districts that lack money for intensive technology training of their own.

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Tuition is to run $7,400 per student annually, compared with $12,500 charged for many BOCES programs. Foundation subsidies will make up the difference, and state-aid reimbursement will further lower local costs. Participating districts will pay the tuition.

"I think it's fabulous, an excellent solution for helping us bring together a more balanced opportunity for students," said Maureen Bright, the Hicksville schools chief, who expects to send at least five students to the STEM school in the fall.

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