by Eric Berkman


Jun 15, 20022 mins
IT Leadership

In the fall of 2000, George Westinghouse High School in Brooklyn, N.Y., a drug-and-violence-ridden urban school, reinvented itself as “IT High” (see “A School Grows in Brooklyn,” at Now, more than a year later, CIO can happily report that this transformation has saved a school and helped prepare the next generation of IT leaders.

Under the guidance of Principal Jean-Claude Brizard?and with corporate support from the Securities Industry Automation Corp.?Westinghouse is finishing its second year of preparing economically underprivileged students for college study and careers in IT. The results are already showing. Since the program’s inception, there have been double-digit improvements in English, math and history test scores. Suspensions have dropped 300 percent from three years ago. The new emphasis on IT is clearly helping students, although it’s too early to judge the school’s success as an IT training ground. The first class to go through the whole three-year program, which culminates in A+, MCSE, CIW, AutoCADD or Cisco certification as well as a high school diploma, won’t graduate until 2003.

Brizard reports that last year’s seniors are doing well. “It’s amazing,” he says. “About 80 percent of the students have gone on to college. And we’ve seen happier students…who really have a purpose and understand what they wish to accomplish.” Graduates have secured IT positions with organizations such as AOL Time Warner, the New York City transit system and the New York City Board of Education.

The program has generated significant buzz in the education world. School boards from Buffalo and Baltimore have visited, looking to Westinghouse as a model for IT high schools in their own city. The Information Technology Association of America invited Brizard to give a presentation at its conference in Virginia, and a number of private corporations and financial institutions have expressed interest in providing internships for Westinghouse students. Still, Brizard is most proud of the impact the school’s transformation has had on the students. “They now feel in control of their future and destiny,” he says.