It’s not all academic
New high school institute also stresses creativity, innovation
by By Joseph Passantino
Reporter staff writer
Feb 26, 2014 | 2972 views | 0 0 comments | 85 85 recommendations | email to a friend | print
ROBOTIC RESOURCEFULNESS – Reed Walden, 17, captain of the academy extracurricular team, shows off the club’s robot at the reception for new Academy for Fine Arts and Academics students.
ROBOTIC RESOURCEFULNESS – Reed Walden, 17, captain of the academy extracurricular team, shows off the club’s robot at the reception for new Academy for Fine Arts and Academics students.
The new Academy for Fine Arts and Academics at Bayonne High School welcomed newly accepted students into the program, while also celebrating its recent success, at a special reception on Feb. 20 at The Chandelier Restaurant.

Current enrollees representing a variety of programs and activities within the academy were in attendance. Many of them, along with faculty members, circulated among the incoming class members to meet and answer questions. All newly accepted 8th grade students and parents were invited.

“They enjoyed performances by current academy students, had a meet and greet with students, teachers, and future classmates, and gained more insight into the academy’s programs,” said Laura Craig, program coordinator.

The academy, only a year old, has created a lot of excitement at the high school, according to teachers and students, said Dennis C. Degnan, Ed.D., administrator of curriculum. A smaller program existed prior to the academy’s debut.

“This is the first full year of the academy,” Degnan said. “There’s a brand new wing, and we are accepting [students] for the program’s second year.”

The program has four tracks: Arts, Humanities, Scholars and STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Mathematics), allowing students with diverse interests to attend. In addition to excellence in education and creativity in artistic expression, innovation to prepare for the future is also a main focus, according to Craig.

The newest track is creating a buzz at the school.

“We are particularly excited about the launch of the new STEM component for the academy next year,” Craig said.

The school has upgraded facilities greatly to accommodate the STEM track, adding physics, chemistry, and engineering laboratories, as well as a broadcasting center, according to Patricia McGeehan, superintendent of schools.

The Arts track encompasses music, dance, and theater; Humanities: research, language, and communications; and Scholars: English, history, math, and science.

For Rebecca Pavelko, 16, the arts track, and specifically the dance program, was just the ticket.

“I like it a lot. I like that we have the new academy,” she said.

Experiencing some butterflies upon entering the musical dance program, Rebecca was quickly reassured.

“My teachers made me love it, and I really want to do it in the future,” she said.

Enriched by program

Stephen Hladik, 16, studying acting, writing, and dance, also sang the praises of the program to attendees.

“I was sold once I heard there was going to be an arts academy,” he said. “I still would have attended Bayonne High School, but my experience wouldn’t have been the same.”

“The arts academy has enriched my high school career to its fullest, and I think it’s the same for everyone involved,” Stephen said. “I’ll feel more prepared going to college.”

An edge for college

Engineering teacher and robotics coach Marie Aloia said she can’t stress enough how her students benefit in their quests for higher education.

“Students who participate in this are way more likely to get into a good engineering school,” she said.

Two former BHS students are now working at Google, Aloia said.

Crossover learning

Donna Zervoulis, who teaches 9th grade English, creative writing, and poetry for the program,

said that one of the best aspects of the academy is the crossover opportunities.

“We have a brand new classroom equipped with a brand new smart board, and we teach in the same room,” she said. “We have the ability to teach world history and world literature simultaneously, so we’re both enriching each other’s curriculum at the same time.”

For more information on the academy, go to or follow it @bhsafa2 on Twitter.

Joseph Passantino may be reached at

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