Bergen County Academies
|Bergen County Technical School
Bergen County Academies
Dr. John Grieco Campus
|200 Hackensack Avenue
Hackensack, NJ 07601
|Type||Public magnet high school|
|School district||Bergen County Technical Schools|
|Vice principal||Raymond Bath|
|Faculty||97.7 (on FTE basis)|
|Grades||9 - 12|
|Enrollment||1,071 (as of 2011-12)|
|Student to teacher ratio||10.96:1|
|Athletics conference||Big North Conference|
The Bergen County Academies (BCA) is a public magnet high school located in Hackensack, New Jersey that serves students from Bergen County, New Jersey, United States. As a public school, students from across the county are eligible to attend with no out-of-pocket cost, with costs covered by the student's home district. The school is divided into seven specialized college-preparatory programs, each called an "academy," thus giving rise to the school's name.
U.S. News & World Report continued to recognize BCA as one of the best high schools in the United States in 2013. According to 2011 Newsweek statistics, Bergen County Academies students registered an average SAT score of 2100, the second highest of any U.S. high school; overall, Newsweek ranked BCA 23rd nationally and second in New Jersey; while in 2014, The Daily Beast ranked the school 15th in the nation among participating public high schools and the highest among schools in New Jersey. Bloomberg Businessweek has cited Bergen County Academies as New Jersey's best high school.
As of the 2011-12 school year, the school had an enrollment of 1,071 students and 97.7 classroom teachers (on an FTE basis), for a student–teacher ratio of 10.96:1. There were 20 students (1.9% of enrollment) eligible for free lunch and 12 (1.1% of students) eligible for reduced-cost lunch.
- 1 Campus and facilities
- 2 Program
- 3 History
- 4 Admissions
- 5 Academies
- 6 Academics
- 7 Scheduling
- 8 The arts
- 9 Notable extracurricular activities
- 10 Awards, recognition and rankings
- 11 Notable alumni
- 12 References
- 13 External links
Campus and facilities
The Bergen County Academies is located on the John Grieco Campus of the Bergen County Technical Schools District in Hackensack. The school occupies a sprawling main building which runs along Hackensack Avenue as well as a nearby Environmental Science Center (ESC) building. A 1,200-seat auditorium adjoins the main building.
The school's baseball field, football field, track, and parking for students and visitors are located behind the academic buildings.
The school's strengths are evident in its academics, extracurricular activities, and notable faculty, many of whom hold doctorates in their respective fields. The school also offers individual research opportunities which allow students to compete in science fairs on local to international levels. Seniors participate in Senior Experience, a cooperative education or internship program through which seniors work and learn for the full business day each Wednesday instead of reporting to school. The school is involved in the Advanced Placement (AP) and International Baccalaureate (IB) Diploma programs. Bergen County Academies was certified to offer the International Baccalaureate (IB) diploma in January 2004. The school is one of only 16 schools in New Jersey to offer the IB program.
The school is divided into seven college-preparatory academic programs. An eighth program, called the Global Leadership Exchange (GLE), existed for the graduating classes of 2008 and 2009 but was discontinued.
The school day is from 8:00 AM to 4:10 PM, accommodating a traditional high school education and higher education in specific fields. Students are permitted to enter the building as early as 7:20. (On half days, the school day runs from 8:00 AM to 12:30 PM. The school opens two hours late on a scheduled delayed opening day.)
While the academies are treated as a single school within the district and the state, students apply to colleges and academic programs under their respective academy, rather than BCA as a whole. Bergen County Academies itself has no CEEB code.
Homerooms are referred to as "IGS" (Information Gathering Sessions). All seniors participate in the Senior Experience internship, and classes are scheduled using flexible modular scheduling.
Among students, there is an elected government, or council. There are two branches to the student government: Student Council and Class Council. Each graduating class elects its own Class Council with required council experience to perform functions limited in scope to a single class. The Superintendent's Congress consists of representatives from every academy recommended by teachers.
The school is considered the brainchild of John Grieco and began as a single academy, "The Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology" (AAST), which shared the current campus with the Bergen County Technical High School. AAST students were first inducted in 1992 for the graduating class of 1996.
In 1997, additional academies opened on the campus: the Academy for Business and Computer Technology (ABCT), the Academy for Engineering Design Technology (AEDT), and the Academy for Medical Science Technology (AMST). The following year, three career institutes, renamed a year later to become academies: the Academy for Culinary Arts (ACA), the Academy for Power and Transportation (APT), and the Academy for Visual Arts and Graphic Communications (AVAGC). Soon, the seven programs were geared less towards career prep and more towards college prep, adopting a liberal arts curriculum with an extra focus on their respective fields.
In 2002, APT was replaced, ABCT was split and renamed the Academy for Business and Finance (ABF) and the Academy for Technology and Computer Science (ATCS), ACA added hotel administration to its coursework and became the Academy for Culinary Arts and Hotel Administration (ACAHA), and AVAGC expanded its scope to include performing arts and became the Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA).
The school itself also changed its name numerous times, from "Bergen County Regional Academies" to "Bergen Academies", to "Bergen County Academy" and to the present "Bergen County Academies".
In 2001, a major dispute initiated by the Bergen County School Administrators' Association focused on what Paramus Superintendent Janice Dime called "elitism." Several of these districts threatened to withdraw funding from the program. The Bergen County Technical Schools agreed to increase the transparency of the admissions process and enter into talks with a number of sending districts. For the 2006 - 2007 school year, districts paid annual tuition of $6,600 for each student.
Though it is a public school, the admission process is selective. The number of successful candidates for admission is widely thought to hover around 15% of those that apply. A math and English test, as well as an interview by a panel of teachers, is required for admission.
Tuition is free for residents of Bergen County and is paid for by the student's home school district, the State of New Jersey, and a number of public and private grants. Payments from sending districts are mandated by both state and county legislation affecting vocational and technical districts such as BCTS.
BCA serves all 70 municipalities of Bergen County. In recent years, classes of 250 - 270 have been accepted from an applicant pool of 1,100 - 1,500, with the class of 2015 accepting 255 students out of an applicant pool of 1,500. Limits are held on the number of students that can be accepted from each district, with the limit being based on the size of the high school.
The academies are listed here in order of identification numbers. The first two academies (AAST and AEDT) share parallel schedules and science courses, often merging in core classes. The last three (ATCS, ACAHA, and AVPA) have science courses spread through four years, often sharing courses and classes. The academies are generally referred to by their acronyms, and more commonly by single-word nicknames.
- Academy for the Advancement of Science and Technology (AAST, Nickname - Science)
AAST was founded on a charter school framework in 1992 with the mission of preparing students for careers in math and science by promoting a problem-solving, project-based, technical learning environment. AAST has departed from this model and has become a more standard magnet school. The roots of the program can be seen in its unique science curriculum, which emphasizes and integrates chemistry, biology, and physics, and its hallmark Wednesday lab rotation for the first two years. This academy celebrated ten years of excellence in 2006-07. Much of the AAST model, including the 6-mod project period on Wednesday, has been adopted by the other academies.
- Academy for Engineering and Design Technology (AEDT, Nickname - Engineering)
This academy's core curriculum is similar to that of AAST. The two programs share the same core courses, but AEDT directs students away from some of AAST's focus on biology in order to provide room for courses in electronics and design increasingly in upper grades. However, a neuroscience course called Physiological Control Systems is required for all junior AEDT students. The program encourages students to take part in several competitions such as "BattleBots IQ". Students in AEDT take the required science courses with AAST, as well as its own engineering courses, like civil engineering and Digital Electronics. The only courses that are mandatory for AAST and not AEDT are biology electives.
- Academy for Business and Finance (ABF or ABFIB, Nickname - Business)
Originally called the Academy for Business and Computer Technology (ABCT), the academy participates in the IB Diploma Program beginning in 11th grade. ABF is the only academy required to participate in the IB program, but students in other academies are welcome to enroll in IB courses, but cannot enroll in the Diploma Program. Students in the Business Academy take additional courses in economics, management, business law, Management Information Systems, business ethics, and the challenging IB curriculum.
- Academy for Medical Science Technology (AMST, Nickname - Med[ical])
Students in this academy have more required biology courses, which include Medical Science Seminar, Biotechnology, Zoology, Cell Physiology, Bioethics, plus two additional electives. Neuroscience is an optional senior year elective for AMST students only.
- Academy for Culinary Arts and Hotel Administration (ACAHA, Nickname - Culinary)
Founded in 1997 and originally called the Academy for Culinary Arts (ACA), the program represented a culinary vocational program that was reworked to give students a more academic focus. Originally grouped with APT and AVAGC (see abbreviations stated previously) as "career" academies, they were set apart from the college prep programs of AAST, ABCT, AEDT and AMST. After being reorganized into academic, college-prep academies, the name changed to the present name in 2002 to reflect the change in emphasis and curriculum. Head instructor Mary Beth Brace has been recognized as Advisor of the Year for SkillsUSA and has received attention for devotion as a baking and culinary arts instructor. Chef John Branda, who worked in the food service industry for 30 years, was the saucier at the Waldorf-Astoria Hotel, and co-owned an upscale Fair Lawn, New Jersey restaurant.
- Academy for Technology and Computer Science (ATCS, Nickname - Telecom)
Called the "Academy for Telecommunications and Computer Science" until 2012, this academy has a primary focus in the world of computers and the Internet along with different types of engineering. Its students are well-prepared for careers as computer programmers, software engineers, electrical engineers, mechanical engineers, networking technicians, and other computer and engineering-related professions. The updated coursework focuses on current technologies such as mobile application development in current languages, as well as study material from engineering and digital electronics related studies. Previous material used in the field of Telecommunications was from Cisco Systems and Oracle Corporation, but this is beginning to be removed from the curriculum. The "nickname" is still generally "Telecom" but is beginning to change into "Tech".
- Academy for Visual and Performing Arts (AVPA, Nickname - Visual, Theater, Music)
This academy is unique for being subdivided into three divisions: Visual Arts, which focuses on combining skill and passion into one cohesive movement, Music Concentration, where there are mandatory keyboarding and digital music classes, as welll as any focused instrument a student may have, and Theatre Concentration, which stages all plays at the school and has resources similar to and sometimes better than Broadway plays. Depending on their focus, students in AVPA take classes in drawing, painting, printing, acting, and stagecraft, and music or music theory.
- Global Leadership Exchange (GLE)
Started in 2004 to support the class of 2008, GLE was the newest program at the academies; its focus is the field of biotechnology and global leadership. It was initially designed to give its students the state high school requirements in two years, with International Baccalaureate courses being later added to the program. Much of its focus and its goals are now being integrated into the Academy for Medical Science Technology. The GLE program existed only for the classes of 2008 and 2009.
There are 18 academic departments of BCA: Biology, Business, Chemistry, Culinary Arts, Engineering, English, Health/PE, History, Journalism, Mathematics, Music, Physics, Studio Arts and Graphic Communications, Technology, Theater Arts, Senior Experience, Visual Arts, and World Languages. Besides specific classes and requirements, all academies require four years English, mathematics, physical education; three years social studies, science, and world language; two years technology and art/music. All students take three years of projects and clubs, with clubs placed at the last three mods on Wednesday. More than 100 electives of diverse fields are offered and most are available to all students. (see the Scheduling section.) In addition, 40 hours of community service is required for graduation.
Students in ABF who participate in the IB program have two years of Integrated Math and two years of IB Math. Other students generally follow the in-house mathematics curriculum with an advanced nature, which begins with algebra and continues to linear algebra, multivariable calculus, and beyond. It begins with a pre-calculus sequence. This prepares the student for Statistics or AP Statistics, or a more common calculus sequence.
Students place into a course in the pre-calculus sequence and continue up, taking one course in each group. The full sequence requires six years; fewer than ten students from each graduating class reach Topics in Advanced Mathematics, which is not unexpected given the advanced nature of the course. The BCA course catalog states:
This is our most advanced course. Designed for the exceptionally well-prepared student, this course covers material that is two years beyond the curriculum of BC Calculus. As such, the material varies from year to year, currently covering a sweeping introduction to three cornerstones of Mathematics, namely, Linear Algebra, Abstract Algebra and Real Analysis. Vector spaces, linear operators, groups, fields and rings, and the topological underpinnings of Calculus are covered. Emphasis is placed on rigor and proof.
Students currently observe a form of flexible modular scheduling.
Prior to the 2007-2008 academic year, the full school day lasted from 8:00 am to 4:10 pm and began with a 10 min IGS followed by 24 modules (commonly referred to as "mods") that lasted 17 min each; there were 3 min after each mod. (Each 3-module class was 60 min.)
A revised schedule was implemented in the 2007-8 school year. Each module was now only 15 min, IGS was now 4 min, and the number of mods raised to 27. The Principal's Advisory Team strongly supported this schedule, giving students more time for electives and interaction. Classes still typically last three mods, or 51 minutes. Each 3-module class is 54 min.
Classes meet variably every day. Every week, a class may meet 4 h per week for AP programs or high-level classes to 2 h per week for electives. On Wednesday, students attend projects for 6 modules; students with labs meet for 4 modules for laboratory work, relevant to their chemistry, physics, or biology courses, in rotation. Wednesday labs and projects last 4-6 modules respectively. Extracurricular activities occur after the school day. Some clubs may meet before the school day as well. AAST and AEDT have often shared their core courses, and the other academies shared their core courses.
There are upper and lower limits to a student's free modules (with no class). Students report to their elected clubs during the last three modules on Wednesdays.
Students of all academies participate in various studio and performing arts courses. The Bergen County Academies Concert and Chamber Choirs have won excellent ratings and awards at local and national competitions under Dr. Patrick D. Finley. The Academies offer college-level courses in music theory, including AP Music Theory and Advanced Problems in Music Theory. The instrumental performance program offers other features, including an opportunity for students to play with the North Jersey Philharmonic and the Guitar and Mandolin Society, the latter of which was founded by the Academies' instrumental music director Michael Lemma.
The school features two studio art labs. The artwork produced has won awards in local, statewide, and national competitions. The second studio is a visual arts lab equipped with compositing and printing equipment to train students in graphic communication and print media.
The theatre arts department puts on plays and musicals each year in an auditorium seating 1200, sometimes rented to outside professional groups. The school has a restaurant-grade kitchen for teaching culinary arts, featuring the Academy Grill, which serves meals prepared by the school's culinary arts students. The Bergen Academies Video Lab broadcasts inside the school, featuring workstations, professional cameras, and a bluescreen.
Notable extracurricular activities
AAST Math Team
With over 150 students from grades 12 and below in participation, AAST Math Team is the largest extracurricular team at the Academies. The late Joseph Holbrook, chair of the math department, was the team's coach from its founding until his January 2010 death. In line with the school's original philosophy, Holbrook created a model for mathematics education that was directed at solving non-standard problems, without concerning traditional time restraints and curricula. The coaches run problem-solving sessions on Saturdays and Sundays, which function as practice sessions for team members. Students are encouraged to come to practices and participate with the team in high school math competitions.
The AAST Math Team participates in competitions such as the AMCs, AIME, USAMO, Mandelbrot, Harvard–MIT Mathematics Tournament, and ARML. The team often ranks within the top ten in competitions it enters, competing against top magnet schools and state and regional teams. The team has been nationally ranked in the top three in each of the past five years of the Mandelbrot Competition.
In 2008, the team first place in Division B at the Princeton University Mathematics Competition, an annual competition attended routinely by the team. The school routinely has 10+ students rank qualifying for the USAMO (United States of America Mathematics Olympiad), with a student winning the competition in 2012. The school captured first place at the 2009 ARML Local competition, another routine annual competition.
Although the AAST Math Team is open to all academies, it is still known as "AAST" for historical and logistical reasons.
The Bergen County Academies has an extremely successful debate team. The school competes in both the Varsity and Junior Varsity levels and typically earns most of the awards at each tournament. The Academies' policy debate program finished first in Bergen County in 2005-2006, beating Tenafly High School and the Dwight-Englewood School. The Varsity Debate program at the Academies consistently ranks in the top 3 of the Bergen County Debate League (BCDL) annually.
Recently, the Academies' have begun to increase focus on its Mock Trial team. The team is currently undefeated in the 2011-2012 season and runs frequent practices to prepare for each trial.
Bergen County Academies has a successful Model United Nations team as well. The Academies have a Model UN program consisting of their own Model UN conference, called AMUN and the Academies Model United Nations Team, which has won Best Delegation at Yale, Princeton, GWU, and MIT/BU, and garnered numerous individual delegate awards.
Bergen County Academies also has an accomplished Junior State of America (JSA) chapter. It won Chapter of the Year for the Mid-Atlantic State in the 2011-2012 school year. It meets as a Wednesday club and also attends and hosts JSA conventions. As of the end of the 2013-14 school year, BCA JSA was the largest Wednesday club at the school.
The Academies shares its sports program with the Bergen County Technical High School. The boys' teams, called the Bergen Tech Knights, and the girls' teams, the Bergen Tech Lady Knights, compete in the Big North Conference with the exception of football, following a reorganization of sports leagues in Northern New Jersey by the New Jersey State Interscholastic Athletic Association. In the 2009-10 school year, the school competed in the North Jersey Tri-County Conference, which was established on an interim basis to facilitate the realignment. Before the realignment, Bergen Tech had been placed in the Northern New Jersey Interscholastic League (NNJIL) at the start of the Fall 2006 athletic season. With 1,605 students in grades 10-12, the school was classified by the NJSIAA for the 2014-15 school year as North I, Group IV for most athletic competition purposes, which included schools with an enrollment of 1,108 to 2,479 students in that grade range.
Numerous sports are offered for boys and girls, including basketball, bowling, golf, lacrosse, soccer, track, tennis, and volleyball. For boys, offerings also include football and wrestling. as of the 2008-09 school year, wrestling was discontinued. For girls the program softball. During the 2007-08 school year, a varsity fencing team was initiated by parents along with the Athletic Department. As of 2009, BCA has a Varsity and Junior Varsity Fencing team.
In 2006, the football team reached the playoffs, falling to Randolph High School 29-0 in football. The boys soccer team advanced to the 2006 state tournament, winning in the first round before losing to Memorial High School in the semifinal game.
In 2014, the baseball team made it to the North 1 Group IV State tournament as the last seed. They would become the first team in program history to pass the first round of the state tournament with a 3-2 victory over first-seeded Wayne Valley. The team had also reached the finals of the NJTAC state tournament. However, they would lose to Passaic Tech.
The Academies' BattleBots IQ team, known as the Titanium Knights, won the 2006 national heavyweight championship in the high school division with the robot E2V2, and won two other awards for another 120 lb robot, Knightrous. In previous years, the team has won second, third, and fourth place titles in BBIQ, and affiliated student teams have won numerous awards in Northeast Robotics Club events.
The Bergen County Academies is also home to a large Amnesty International student group that leads schoolwide activities and events, and attends local, regional, and national conferences on human rights.
Besides FreshAngles, there are two other student-run publications present at the Academies: The Academy Chronicle and The Academy Advocate, which focus on in-school news and activities, also discussing international and domestic affairs, social issues and business news.
Based on its stem cell research laboratories and advised by directors Donna Leonardi and Dr. Robert Pergolizzi, the Bioscience Research Program enables students to work as scientists, constructing projects to submit to journals. First opened in May 2008, the Nanotechnology Lab offers two scanning electron microscopes to experienced faculty, and sometimes to students, as well as those researching the physical sciences. There is also math research and humanities research opportunities available to students skilled in those respective subjects.
The Academies' Quizbowl team qualified to compete in a national championship in 2007. It won the fall 2006 New Jersey State Championship in the Knowledge Master Open, placing eighth in the nation, and also won the spring 2007 New Jersey Championship in the KMO, earning second place internationally in the overall rankings. It won the National Academic Quiz Tournaments New Jersey State Championship at Rutgers in 2007.
Awards, recognition and rankings
For the 2006-07 school year, the Bergen County Academies was recognized with the Blue Ribbon Award from the United States Department of Education, the highest honor that an American school can achieve.
The school was ranked 21st in the nation and second in New Jersey on the list of "America's Best High Schools 2012" prepared by The Daily Beast / Newsweek, with rankings based 25% each on graduation rate, matriculation rate for college and number of Advanced Placement / International Baccalaureate courses taken per student, with 10% based on average scores on the SAT / ACT, 10% on AP/IB scores and an additional 5% based on the number of AP/IB courses available to students.
On January 2009, Bergen County Academies was recognized as the number 1 top high school in the state of New Jersey for overall academics. The study was conducted by Bloomberg BusinessWeek. The Academies were featured on the first page of the article, focusing on the school's Stem Cell Lab.
In 2007, Bergen County Academies was recognized as one of six national Intel Schools of Distinction for excellence as one of the nation's top schools for mathematics. The program recognizes one school for math and one for science in each of three school ranges (elementary, middle and high school).
Bergen County Academies was recognized by Newsweek magazine in its May 28, 2007 and May 17, 2008 issues covering America's Best High Schools, as one of its Public Elites, a group of consistent high performers excluded from its rankings because of the number of students with SAT (or ACT) scores well above the national average. The school was also recognized as a "Public Elite", one of 22 such schools recognized nationwide in Newsweek magazine's listing of "America's Best High Schools" in the May 8, 2006 issue. Newsweek described the school as "Seven subschools specializing in everything from finance to visual arts".
In 2005-06, BCA averaged a 2015 combined SAT score, second-highest statewide.
Schooldigger.com ranked the school as one of 16 schools tied for first out of 381 public high schools statewide in its 2011 rankings (an increase of 10 positions from the 2010 rank) which were based on the combined percentage of students classified as proficient or above proficient on the language arts literacy (100.0%) and mathematics (100.0%) components of the High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA).
- George Hotz (class of 2007), famous for computer and device hacking, subject of a feature article in The New Yorker.
- Kaavya Viswanathan (class of 2004), author of the controversial 2006 novel entitled How Opal Mehta Got Kissed, Got Wild, and Got a Life, since withdrawn due to accusations of plagiarism.
- Charles Gleason (class of 2013), one of four members on the 2013 United States Biology Olympiad Team, proceeded to win first place in the 2013 International Biology Olympiad in Bern, Switzerland.
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- 2006 Results for BattleBots IQ
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- "Once-touted novel has uncertain future", Arizona Republic, April 28, 2006, accessed April 23, 2007. "Weems, who taught literature to Viswanathan when she was a junior at Bergen County Academies in New Jersey, remembered her as a gifted student and as the winner of a number of writing contests."
- Bergen County Academies website
- Bergen County Academies PPO website
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- BCA math competitions