In 2006, the idea was planted among Department of Education leaders that New York City needed to develop a high-tech school that could provide a model for 21st century schooling. Several visions of this model were developed and the search for a school leader began. In January 2008, two women, Alisa Berger and Dr. Mary Moss, were selected as a co-leadership team to start the school, scheduled to open in September 2008. While the Department of Education's vision included technology, specifically video-conferencing and distance learning, the charge to the new leaders was to develop a model that would rethink the high school experience for the 21st century.
Based on their previous work, the co-leaders developed an instructional vision rooted in their experiences about what worked and what was possible given the constraints of the system. While the leaders had the opportunity and support of the system to dream, they wanted to be sure that the model was sustainable and scalable. A "one-off" of any school model was possible with systemic support and dynamic leadership; the leaders wanted this school to be a model of what was possible and to become a tool for broader change and lasting reform. Named for its goals of innovation, influence, inspiration, and individualization, the NYC iSchool was born.
After months of planning the instructional program and working with the Department of Education's technology and facilities divisions to set up the infrastructure, the iSchool opened in September 2008 with 100 students.