‘Silicon Alley High’ to start up at Washington Irving

[media-credit name="Photo by Tequila Minsky " align="alignleft" width="600"][/media-credit]
Second from left, Seung Yu, the Academy for Software Engineering’s principal, along with, from left, Scott Schwaiteberg, an AFSE co-founder and advisory board member; Yvonne Williams, a program analyst at AFSE; and N.Y.U. computer science professor Evan Korth, a co-founder of AFSE and chairperson of its advisory board.

BY LINCOLN ANDERSON  |  Mayor Mike Bloomberg and Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Tuesday announced that a new incubator school for tomorrow’s tech engineers will be opening in the Washington Irving High School building.

The Academy for Software Engineering’s first freshman class will start this fall with 108 students. There were 800 applications for the slots. All have been filled. The school will add a grade each year until it reaches 450 students.

The new grades-9-to-12 academy, the mayor said, “will train students not just in the language of computers but also in the language of innovation, will help prepare our students to succeed in the new global economy.”

AFSE, as it’s known short, will be led by Principal Seung Yu.

“I hope the students develop skills that lead to jobs in the computer industry and also the life skills to be productive members of society,” Yu said.

Fred Wilson, head of Union Square Ventures, personally attended every one of the open houses for students interested in applying. A co-founder of the academy, he’s on its advisory board and will be involved in fundraising for it.

“There has never been a more exciting time in New York City tech,” Wilson said. “This is a great thing for our city’s future, and I thank the mayor and his team for their unwavering support.”

Robert Steel, the city’s deputy mayor for economic development, said, “We appreciate the leadership and contributions of Fred Wilson and other members of the tech community that will both ensure the school has the resources to succeed as well as ensure that students will be connected with career and internship opportunities.”

Seth Pinsky, president of the city’s Economic Development Corporation, said, “As with the Cornell-Technion campus and expansions at other New York universities already underway, this new secondary school will help establish the city as a global hub of technology and innovation for future generations.”

In December, the mayor announced a partnership with Cornell University and Technion-Israel Institute of Technology to build a 2-million-square-foot applied science and engineering campus on Roosevelt Island.

Jennifer Falk, executive director of the Union Square Partnership business improvement district, said the new academy will help solidify the area’s position as epicenter of the city’s tech boom.

“An ever-increasing number of tech companies and venture capital firms are calling Union Square home, and the addition of a new tech-oriented high school further reinforces Union Square’s position at the center of New York City’s Digital District,” Falk said.

While the tech academy was the press event’s highlight, also announced was the opening of 53 other small new schools around the city next year. That will bring the number of new schools opened under the Bloomberg administration to 589. The administration says data prove new schools “markedly improve graduation rates.”

“As we’ve seen over the past decade, new schools have changed thousands of lives in New York City for the better, helping more students graduate and prepare for college and careers,” Chancellor Walcott said. “Every child and every neighborhood deserves a great school.”

Meanwhile, Washington Irving High School will phase out by 2015. Some of it reportedly will be replaced by a vocational school. Washington Irving in recent years was broken into smaller schools.

“The Union Square Partnership has long had a productive relationship with Washington Irving,” Falk said. While the school used to have security issues, Falk said, “Many of those issues changed over the years and many of them have been rectified. The move to small schools has helped.”

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