AITE Students and Staff Return to School in $42 Million State-of-the-Art Facility

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Community cuts ribbon on school’s seventh anniversary.

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At 5:15 a.m., what are most high school age students doing? They’re probably rolling over for another hour or two of sleep. If they are students at the Academy of Information Technology & Engineering (http://www.aitestamford.org) in Stamford, Connecticut, however, they are getting ready to catch the bus for school. Those of us with teenagers are wondering what could cause this phenomenon.

The Academy of Information Technology & Engineering (AITE), in Stamford, CT, the district’s inter-district, college-preparatory, magnet high school, is a nothing like the traditional high-schools most of us attended. Located in a new, futuristic looking building, engaged in educational reform initiatives, and integrating technology, internships, and service learning, the school is a model of what a high school must be for the 21st century. Entering its eighth year of existence, the school’s students are the recipients of an educational environment that expects all of them to be college and career ready upon graduation.

The grand opening of the building includes a ribbon cutting ceremony for AITE on Sept. 4, 2007. The school was previously co-located with a middle school awaiting the completion of its new home. Although housed in temporary quarters to many years, AITE was able to attract a substantial number of students from the community and near-by districts. The dynamic curriculum, experienced and highly qualified faculty, extensive array of technology, and the small school setting have been the difference.

Several years ago, with the dot.com boom still ragging, the original concept of the school was to develop a pipe-line of capable high schools graduates interested in pursuing careers in technology with an eye of working in Stamford. At that time, the creation of the Academy of Information Technology (original name) was considered a novelty, for a number of reasons. For one, Connecticut educators and business spearheaded a plan through the educational bureaucracy to create a magnet high school focused on technology. Secondly, the idea of a school specializing in developing a potential community workforce was very unique.

The Academy was featured in The New York Times, Sept. 2000, as an impressive accomplishment for the state and education. The dream became a reality in about a year -- anyone involved in education knows that’s a miracle. Once more, the Academy was launched for $1 million. Students who may not have been overachievers in the social sciences, excelled in AIT. For instance, some of the students secured jobs at IT managers at corporations such financial firm UBS Warburg in Stamford.

Given its track record and a number of success stories, the state invested $45 million in a 120,000-square foot building, located on the Rippowam Campus in Stamford. The facility consists of 40 class rooms – 25 more rooms than in the former building -- a gymnasium, dance studio, exercise room, library and 350-seat cafeteria. In addition, many of the same people that pushed for the first Academy remain part of the team, including Dr. Christine Casey, former assistant superintendent of Stamford Schools.

When the dot.com bubble burst, the administration and faculty of the school, under the leadership of Paul L. Gross, the principal, redesigned the focus and curriculum of AITE. With the onset of globalization, increased foreign economic and educational competition, and the evolving world situation, AITE moved to provide its students with a world class education, dedicated to the promotion of studies in science, technology, engineering, and mathematics (STEM). This goal is extended through the requirement that AITE students master four-year sequences in English Language Arts, mathematics, social studies, science, and, a world language. AITE offers French, Spanish, Latin, Mandarin Chinese, Russian, and, Arabic.

As for electives, there’s an information technology curriculum that consists of over 30 classes including architectural design, CAD technology, civil engineering, robotics, principles of engineering and digital electronics. Students can take advanced placement courses and college-credit courses provided by University of Connecticut, Norwalk Community College and the University of New Haven. The school also boasts an extensive virtual high school (VHS) program.

Entry is based on the lottery system, said Dr. Casey. Students from within Stamford and neighboring communities, with varying educational backgrounds and skills are encouraged to apply, she said. Students selected agree to the higher standards and expectations and commit to the rigorous curriculum goals.

Dr. Casey said AITE is the first of its kind in the state and probably the nation. Across the country, it is one of a small group of high schools that are trying to develop math, science and technology talent. In 2006, a high school in Philadelphia, with the help of Microsoft, helped build a high-tech school to serve low-income families. The latest technologies are incorporated through out the curriculum. In 2000, San Diego created a charter school to incorporate technology into all aspects of its curriculum. It also offers specialized programs in computer programming and related fields.

AITE has enjoyed a growing waiting list each year as applicants exceed available seats. AITE, which will take 525 students from Stamford, Darien, Greenwich, New Canaan, Norwalk and Ridgefield, to begin this school year, is considered a 21st century school. While focus is on academics and college preparation, the school is a boot camp for students who want to get an education in networking, computer science, graphic arts, engineering, to name a few.

The futuristic design of the building is the vision of Fuller & D’Angelo, Architects, located in Elmsford, NY. The Fusco Construction Company supervised the building of the school.

With the cooperation of faculty, the Stamford BOE and central administration, a business community advisory board, and numerous friends, Mr. Gross’s goal of empowering students to shape the future is a reality.

AITE is accepting applicants for the 2008 – 2009 school year. Open houses are scheduled for December 1, January 10 and January 12. Applications will be available on line starting October 1, 2007. More information regarding AITE can be found at http://www.aitestamford.org.

Press Contacts:
Paul Gross, AITE Principal, (203) 977-4336
Sarah Arnold, AITE Public Affairs Officer, (203) 977-4095

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Paul Gross
AITE
203-977-4336
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Sarah Arnold
AITE
203-977-4095
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