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Principal Leads Brooklyn School Into Year With New Name and Digital Focus

By Nikhita Venugopal | September 11, 2016 10:26am
 Dawn Meconi, the principal of Digital Arts & Cinema Technology High School at 284 Baltic St.
Dawn Meconi, the principal of Digital Arts & Cinema Technology High School at 284 Baltic St.
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DNAinfo/Nikhita Venugopal

BOERUM HILL — More than 20 years after the Brooklyn School for Global Studies was founded, Principal Dawn Meconi is leading it into the year with a new name and focus that she says better reflects the school's true mission.

Global Studies was officially renamed Digital Arts & Cinema Technology High School this past summer.

"It was almost like discovering who we had been all along,” said Meconi, who has been working at the school for six years and became principal in 2013. 

As part of the rebranding, ninth graders entering the school will commit to one of two tracks for the next four years: cinema production or digital arts, which includes computer science, coding and design.

While the school previously went from sixth grade through 12th grade, the middle school classes are gradually being eliminated and, by the 2017-2018 school year, it will only serve as a high school.  

Before Meconi's arrival at Global Studies, it was low performing and had been deemed a "transformation" school, which meant it received federal funding for support. Three years ago, it was taken off that list thanks to improvements in test scores and graduation rates, she said. 

The school is also partnering with organizations such as BRIC and Brooklyn Arts Council for programs and assistance from teaching artists.

Digital Art & Cinema Technology shares a building at 284 Baltic St. with the School for International Studies, Success Academy Cobble Hill and P.S. 368.

Meconi sat down with DNAinfo New York last month to discuss the school's new focus, its future plans and its shift away from the "Global Studies" name. This interview has been edited and condensed for clarity.

► What factors drove the change in name and focus for the school?

As of July 1, we’re officially Digital Arts & Cinema Technology High School. It actually came rather naturally because we’ve always had a very strong arts program. We’ve always run electives in film, both during the day as well as after school.

The school was founded over 20 years ago. We would go to school fairs and people would say, "Well why are you called 'Global Studies'?" We came up with a very good answer: We do prepare our students to be global citizens and compete in the global marketplace. But what did that mean? So we looked at ourselves and what looked at what we did well. Naturally we had an inclination towards our arts program.

► How did you decide on a digital arts and cinema focus?

We were always running the cinema production class so kids were always making films. And in terms of digital arts, our art teacher was doing stop-motion animation already, students were doing digital portraits. And then the big city initiative was to bring computer science into all our schools.

It made sense because we’re in a digital technology age. I feel like that’s the current and the future. 

► You mentioned that the school will be partnering with BRIC and Brooklyn Arts Council this year. Could you describe those partnerships?

The partnerships are going to work twofold. There will be a teaching artist from each organization coming in to support either the digital arts class or the cinema production class. Both institutions will give us access to their studio space so kids can go outside the [school] building as well as offer after-school programs.

We’re also going to partner with both organizations so our parents can be involved in workshops surrounding the arts. 

► Do you plan to change the admission process to reflect your arts focus?

I think that’s the next step. At this point we are a Screened School. [Applicants are ranked based on attendance, state test scores and course grades. Attending the school's open houses also increases a student's chances.] 

So we’re retaining our screen. But since this is our first official year and we anticipate getting a lot more applicants, we will eventually revisit our screening process to include new criteria.

► What other changes do you plan to implement at the school?

We’re talking about modifying the schedule of our classes to have a longer day. Instead of a traditional eight-period day, we would have a nine-period day in order to incorporate everything, including advanced placement courses and more time in the arts.

And ultimately, we also want to incorporate more internships in their senior year.