Poly Prep Country Day School was founded 162 years ago in 1854 in Downtown Brooklyn as "The Polytechnic Institute." It was one of the first private boys' schools in the city of Brooklyn. The initial aim of the school was to offer an academic program similar to that of boarding schools of the time while striving to maintain a strong community feel amongst students and faculty alike.
After 45 years, the future of the Collegiate and Polytechnic Institute was re-evaluated in 1889 when the preparatory school and the collegiate division were finally separated. In 1891, the construction of a new building next door to the school's original building provided a home for the college which became known as the Polytechnic Institute of Brooklyn. Both divisions still exist, although the collegiate division, after many changes of name, was eventually acquired by New York University (NYU) in 2008 and, as of 2014, is now known as NYU Tandon School of Engineering.
After its initial separation from the collegiate division, the Polytechnic Preparatory Institute remained an all-boys collegiate preparatory program at 99 Livingston Street and, by the mid-1890s, had already become one of the largest prep schools in the country with over 600 students.
Poly Prep moved to its Dyker Heights campus on July 1, 1916 when a twenty-five acre parcel of land, formerly part of the Dyker Heights Golf Course, was offered to trustees. Classes began during the fall of 1917 in the new campus amidst continued construction and renovations that helped shape much of the school’s current appearance.
During the tenure of Headmaster William M. Williams, the school began the transition to co-education in 1977 when it first admitted girls, graduating its first coed class in 1979.
Poly Prep’s most recent and dramatic expansion occurred in 1995, with its acquisition of the historic Hulbert Mansion from the Brooklyn Ethical Culture Society, a site formerly rented by the now defunct Woodward Park School. The new property was converted into Poly’s Lower School, offering classes for students from nursery through 4th grade.
In the 2006-2007 school year, a modern expansion was added onto the Park Slope building. As part of its "Blue and Gray Goes Green!" initiative, Poly chose to reduce the new Lower School's ecological "footprint." Poly's renovated Lower School became the first LEED-certified school building in New York City and the first such primary school building in New York State.
In April 2009, Poly Prep's Lower School also won the prestigious Lucy B. Moses Award from the New York Landmarks Conservancy as an outstanding example of historic preservation and renovation.
The school was the subject of a federal lawsuit filed in the Eastern District Court in Brooklyn in 2009 centering on the sexual assault of students by Philip Foglietta, the head football coach from 1966 to 1991. The suit settled for an undisclosed amount in December 2012. A 2004 state suit against the school had been dismissed due to the statute of limitations, but U.S. District Court Judge Frederic Block subsequently ruled that portions of the suit could proceed in federal court because administrators may have lied about when they learned of the abuse. Plaintiffs' attorney Kevin Mulhearn cited the Racketeer Influenced and Corrupt Organizations Act in alleging that past and current administrators engaged in a coverup of the abuse. The school acknowledged in 2002 that it had received "credible allegations that such abuse occurred at Poly Prep." Poly chairman Scott Smith's younger brother Philip never went to college and slid into multiple addictions. According to the lawsuit, he was sexually assaulted hundreds of times. Published reports have compared the abuse and alleged coverup to a similar scandal at Pennsylvania State University. In March 2012 the international law firm Pillsbury Winthrop Shaw Pittman joined the plaintiffs on a pro bono basis. On September 19, 2012, new allegations connecting Foglietta and Jerry Sandusky surfaced. On December 27, 2012, Poly Prep and the plaintiffs announced a settlement of the lawsuit. On February 21, 2014 the school issued what the Wall Street Journal called "a sweeping apology" for the abuse and the school's failure over the decades to respond appropriately when victims revealed their abuse.
Poly Prep consists of three divisions, beginning with the Lower School located at 50 Prospect Park West in Brooklyn. Poly's Lower School education commences with the Nursery School program, which consists of early childhood learning up until the Pre-Kindergarten level, and continues on through grade 4. The Middle School Program begins at grade 5 at which point Poly students enroll at Poly Prep's Middle and Upper School campus located at 9216 Seventh Avenue in Brooklyn where they continue their education through 8th grade and then into high school.
The Upper, Middle and Lower Schools are run by their own division heads; Larry Donovan, Head of the Lower School, Lori-Anne Brogdon, Head of the Middle School and Bud Cox, Head of the Upper School. Poly's Headmaster, David Harman, oversees the entire school.
Poly Prep is known for its demanding academic requirements and offerings. In its Upper School, Poly currently offers a variety of advanced placement courses. Poly's Upper and Middle Schools offer four world languages/classics (including French, Spanish, Mandarin and Latin and Italian). Spanish is now offered in Poly's Lower School.
Students in the Upper School are expected to complete the following mandatory requirements in the listed concentrations in order to graduate in their senior year:
5 academic courses each semester (Students are required to enroll in a minimum of five academic courses every term, both fall and spring, from Form III through to graduation.) 21 academic credits (Full-year courses earn 1 credit; semester-long courses earn .5 credit.) 4 years of English 4 years of Physical Education 3 years of History 3 years of World Languages or Classics with Level III completion 3 years of Mathematics 3 years of Science 4 semesters of Arts 3 year Health Sequence with required courses in Grades 9 & 10 1 semester of Speech or Debate 1 semester of Digital Life Skills (Computer Science) Senior Plan
Beginning in 11th grade, students are provided with the opportunity to begin shaping their course load around a variety of electives in areas such as forensic science, electromagnetism, short story writing, American politics, American law, psychology, and statistics among others.
Opportunities for advanced learning abound, as well. Poly Prep maintains a rigorous Advanced Placement (AP) program in each department, offers a multi-year science research course, and also offers independent study (dependent upon faculty expertise and student interest) in subjects as diverse as advanced calculus, Arabic, and the classic French short story (in French).
Finally, in their senior year, Poly Prep students must complete a project known as a senior plan. The projects are viewed as senior theses in which students are paired with faculty advisors to choose subject matters of interest under a given a topic headline. The projects are then researched and presented as 20 minute lectures and 20 minutes of questions and answers to a panel of faculty judges. Only upon completion of a student’s senior plan may a student be eligible to graduate.
Poly Prep offers an extensive visual arts and performing arts program. Poly Prep's arts curriculum starts at a young age in the Lower school in which students are taught by their classroom teachers about dance, drama, music and theater production. The Lower School also offers students specialist teachers in music, dance, and the visual arts.
In Poly Prep's Middle School, during Grades 5 and 6, all students participate in sections of dance, drama, music, and visual arts classes through an arts core rotation. In Grades 7 and 8, students may elect their own arts cores, however they are required to take one semester of visual arts (ceramics, art studio), performing arts (drama, dance), and musical arts (general music, chorus, band).
In the Upper School, students have arts cores as electives for two years. After school, students may choose to become involved with theater productions — both onstage and behind the scenes — to join one of several singing groups, or to be part of the band or smaller instrumental ensembles. In the Upper School, The Performing Arts Department mounts one major play (fall) and musical (spring) every year, along with an accompanying freshman/sophomore play (fall) and smaller senior-directed performances (spring).
Poly Prep is a highly selective school and bases its admissions decision upon an applicant’s previous grades, student interviews, teacher recommendations and results on the ISEE test.
In the Lower School, Nursery and Pre-K are typically the big entry years. In Poly Prep's Middle School, 5th and 6th grade are the two largest enrollment years. In the Upper School, the 9th grade is the major entry point. After 9th grade, a much smaller number of students may be admitted each year based upon applicant qualifications and available space.
The school song is "Far down on the heights called Dyker", written by Cornelius A. Boocock. This song is sung at the beginning of each academic year as a part of Poly Prep's rich tradition.
Poly Prep is part of the Ivy Preparatory School League, a division of the greater New York State Association of Independent Schools (NYSAIS), which comprises all the private schools in New York State. There are a number of award winning programs, most notably football, basketball, and baseball programs. Hockey was introduced in 2010.
Extracurricular activities comprise a key component of the Poly Prep education. Clubs, caucuses, and organizations provide students with an opportunity to work in a group dynamic, produce publications, participate in activism and develop interests in a wide range of topics.
In the 99 years since the opening of the Dyker Heights campus in 1917, Poly has had five headmasters, Joseph Dana Allen (1917-1949), J. Folwell Scull (1949-1970), William M. Williams (1970-2000), David Harman (2000–2016) and Audrius Barzdukas (2016-present).Louis Aronne—Obesity medicine specialist at Weill Cornell Medicine
Robert Briskman—Co-founder, SIRIUS Satellite Radio
Bruce Cutler—Criminal Defense Attorney
Ken Dashow—Radio Personality
Calvert DeForest—Actor, Comedian best known for work on the David Letterman Show as Larry "Bud" Melman
Kenneth Duberstein -- White House Chief of Staff to President Ronald Reagan; Political Consultant
Brian Flores - Assistant coach, the NFL's New England Patriots
Dan Fogler—Actor. Tony Award for 25th Annual Putnam County Spelling Bee.
Joel Gertner—Professional wrestling personality
Jahkeen Gilmore— Former NFL wide receiver for the Carolina Panthers
Briton Hadden—co-founder, Time magazine
P. J. Hill, Jr.— Former NFL running back
Leah Horowitz-Broadway & Film Actress
R. M. Koster novelist
Rich Kotite—Former NFL Player and Coach
Arthur Levitt—Chairman, United States Securities and Exchange Commission, 1993-2001; Chairman, American Stock Exchange, 1978-1989
Howard Levy—Musician and Grammy Award Winner (with Bela Fleck and The Flecktones)
Seth Low—Mayor of Brooklyn, NY and New York City; President of Columbia University
Charles E. Marsters -- Lacrosse player
Joakim Noah—basketball player, NBA New York Knicks
Eric Olsen—Professional football player, NFL New Orleans Saints
Richard Perry—Record Producer
Stewart Rahr—Founder, Owner of Kinray, the largest privately held pharmaceutical distributor in the world
Alfred P. Sloan -- General Motors Corporation President, 1923-1937; CEO, 1923-1946; Chairman, 1937-1956
Bob Telson—Composer (The Gospel at Colonus)
Henry van Dyke—Author, educator, and clergyman
Angela Yee—Radio host on Sirius XM's Shade 45.