Sunday, June 14, 2020

Week of June 15th

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 41
June 15th,  2020


Happy Birthday!!!
Ms. Rebecca C (15JUN20) and Mr. Alan (15JUN20)

Principal's Message

Thank you to everyone who volunteered to come and box up the graduation boxes.  Also special thanks go out to Doris - who grabbed some boxes to deliver and to Nancy, Kelly & Courtney who dropped off boxes for shipment.  I loaded up the rest of the boxes (85+) into a tiny Honda Fit, and made the rounds in Brooklyn to deliver them to our Class of 2020.  

Four days of driving was a lot (and I have one more day to go), but it gave me the opportunity to visit the kids & families at home and to check in on how they have been doing during all of this upheaval and uncertainty.  For the most part, everyone was safe & healthy (thank goodness!).  Many moms shared their stir-crazy feelings of being at home with teenagers all day (I completely get that one).  All of our students shared how much they missed school, their friends, and also their teachers.   

When we went into remote learning, the Class of 2020 lost so many memories - final senior trips, the senior BBQ, prom, and an in-person graduation.  We needed to do something, no matter how small, to make sure that we celebrated them - even if from a distance.  The first small step I took was to create a customized grad package for them.  

Before Remote Learning our senior advisors worked to create memories for our girls.  Natalie worked to customize and order the 8th grade sweatshirts, caps & gowns, plan a trip to Skyzone, and finalize the 8th grade yearbook.  Similarly, Danielle worked to customize and order t-shirts and sweatshirts, coordinate the Kumbel theater grad venue, research and find prom venue, finalized the yearbooks, order caps and gowns, decorations for each student so they could decorate their homes and backgrounds in prep for the virtual ceremony.  Before Remote Learning, they both were working to finalize end of the year trips (Dorney Park and the 12th grade trip), the seniors BBQs, and final graduations.  But then COVID happened.

So...when dealt lemons, we do what we must to create lemonade.

Many thanks to Kelly who has voluntarily stepped up to help Natalie & Danielle coordinate graduation activities during remote learning.  Many thanks to all of the staff who have volunteered to pack boxes AND who have recently stepped up to individually connect with & support our Class of 2020 grads prepare for the ceremony at home. 

Whatever our differences and problems, the one thing that consistently unifies us and brings us together as a staff, is our unwavering commitment to our students and their families.  We may not always agree on how that looks on a daily basis, but for this one example - when it comes to celebrating years of their hard work, we are united.


Committee Launches.   The first ACT (Accountability, Communication, and Transparency) committee met on Thursday.  You can find the notes of that meeting at the end of the THIS DOCUMENT.   The next committee (SCI - which I confess - I do not know what that stands for) is around questions of staffing and programming.  That committee is scheduled to meet on Monday at 3pm.  The notes will be in the same document.  Out of the committee came several key points
  • Trust.  As we engage in the work around restructuring and addressing issues of race, what came to the surface repeatedly was issues of trust.  I heard that many on staff feel that my words are fake and that I am an imposter.  I heard individuals own not speaking up when they should have.  I heard feelings of offence not based on facts, but rather on presumption of negative intent. 

    Right now, words are weak.  Only through constancy of action can trust be rebuilt.  But what makes that work flow forward more fluidly is the SEL skill of
    presuming positive intent.  We are all in a frame of reflection and self-work.  Some of us are in different places on that continuum.  Regardless of where we are, we all must believe that each of us is trying to do the work necessary to move ourselves and our school forward.  We ask our students to do this all the time.  As such, we need to expect the same presumption within ourselves and our colleagues. 

  • People Don't Feel Valued.  Many folks expressed the sense that staff need to feel more valued for their work.  This is a combination of things like bagels, yoga, or personal connections, and recognizing leadership and accomplishments.  We are still working on understanding the root causes and thus appropriate changes, but the concept did get elevated in the meeting.
  • Problems with Digital Communication.  One of the root causes that we discovered is how things are communicated.  Three examples discussed were:  Per session is announced at the end of the blog, Summer School Postings were emailed out, and PD Committee members don't have a formal communication-out method (so decisions made within the committee are just happening in the committee).  It was suggested that we post up announcements in common spaces (like the copy room).  I will happily do that when we return!!  Unfortunately, as we remain in remote learning, we have to rely on digital communication. 

    • Please read all emails all the way through.  Important announcements like summer school postings, per session opportunities, and many, many more things are going to be sent out.
    • Please read the blog all the way through (or at least scroll down to the parts that you want to see e.g. Announcements, Per Session, Calendar, etc.)

Career Exploration Week.    This week, Monday through Wednesday is Career Exploration Week. Please advertise this in your Google Classrooms!!  Many thanks to Jen for working hard to organize this special event for students.  Also thank you to Judy who provided this doc that will help you help kids find the links to access the events!

Celebrating Juneteenth. Big Shout Outs to Ms. Nina, Ms. Suzannah, Ms. Natalie, Mr. Olivier, and PTA Co-President Ms. Dorvil!!  They have been working hard to plan our first ever "Teach-In" celebrating this day's commemoration of the ending of slavery.  Please help us reach out to families and students this week to invite them to join.  The event will be at 5PM on Friday (Zoom Link soon to follow).

The 2020-21 Schedule.  As per UFT teacher contract, I need to provide next year's schedule 10 days before the last day of school.  Prior to COVID and Remote Learning THIS was the schedule.  To date, we still have not received our 20-21 school budgets, please we have received only limited guidance on how to provide socially distant learning.  We do know that next year will be some combination of blended learning.  Last Wednesday, we received these facts:
  • UAI needs to prepare for a MAXIMUM of 260 students at any given time (our enrollment is 484)
  • UAI needs to prepare for at least a 3% budget cut (which is about $120,000 - or 1.5 teaching lines)
  • UAI needs to prepare for staff to be solely at home due to underlying health conditions.
Because we have so many unknowns, the likelihood of the program shifting due to budgetary, staffing, and space issues is significantly higher than normal.  Please be conscious of this fact as you review your program.

Also - mandated counseling, para assignments, and other related service schedule has to wait until all of our students' IEPs come fully into SESIS!

To-Do This Week

NX Follow Check Ins for IEP students.  Please update your data on the "NXer List" on the Remote Learning Tracker.  If you have an IEP student who is going to receive an "NX" as a final grade for the year, there is additional documentation and discussion required.  During remote learning, we need to document the work we've done to support students remotely.  Please review individual IEPs and come to the meeting with examples and documentation of interventions you implemented to support their learning disability while on remote learning.

Final Grades & Follow Up.  This Friday 19JUN20, all final grades are due at 3PM.  Throughout each day of this week, please have verbal, in-person conversations with families and students who are missing work.  Students' families need to hear from you what their child has not yet completed and what, specifically, she need to do before grades are due.  Some families may need you to walk them through accessing your Google Classroom.  Your work time this week should be focused on connecting with families and students and giving both families and students the information and support needed to finish the year as strong as possible.

Summer School Meeting. Those teachers assigned to summer school (Alison, Jamie, Cassandra, Sarah M, Giselle, and Kelly) will have a summer school meeting on Tuesday at 8:30AM.

Per Session Opportunity

Summer Restructuring Committee.  I am creating a summer restructuring committee that will continue the work of the ACT and SCI committees throughout the summer.  I gave first preference to teachers who said they wanted to work summer (period).  Nina, Rachel, and Nadine have committed to signing on.  I'm still waiting to hear from Tiffany.  If you are interested in participating on the committee please complete this Per Session Interest form. Moving forward from today this Per Session Interest form results will be public for all staff to see.  That way folks can see who applied for what positions in addition to seeing who gets assigned to what position.  This committee will meet for a total of 28 hours over the summer (4 hours a week for 7 weeks).  Exact meeting dates are still TBD but they will happen between 29JUN and 15AUG.

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