Sunday, October 30, 2016

Week of October 31st

UAI Staff News

Volume IV
Issue 9
Week of October 31st, 2016

To Do's for this Week

  • [MONDAY, 31OCT16] Early Dismissal for Halloween.  Students will be rapidly dismissed on Monday for Halloween.   At the start of 8th period, please remind students to be get all of their stuff from their lockers and be ready to dismiss at 2:30PM.  After school will be in session.
  • [MONDAY, 31OCT16] Early Start to Monday PD.  Pod leaders should bring student work or other relevant artifacts to reflect on the efficacy of their lesson.   The next teacher should share their lesson with their pod so that everyone is ready to provide feedback during Monday's PD. 
  • [THIS WEEK] Prepare for SLCs.   Student Led Conferences are on the Horizon.  New teachers & coaches should set aside time this week to review protocols and objectives for SLCs.  All teachers should begin in-class conferences (if you haven't already done so) to best prepare students for their reflections on course achievement during their SLCs. If a student is failing or nearly failing your class, please call home this week to notify parents of what supports can be in place at home to avoid failure.  Parents and students should be notified long before SLCs about student struggles.
  • [THIS WEEK] Post Student Work.   Posting student work leads to student pride and engagement in your class.  Please make it a point to post student work in classrooms and hallway bulletin boards.  Remember, not all work needs to be 100% exemplar.  Work can be in-progress and/or provide learning opportunities (e.g. This student has an original approach to this problem...).  Parents and visitors will be coming to the building more frequently throughout November.  Please make sure that your classrooms and our hallways show the work our kids are doing in your classes.


Grades, PLOPS, and Skedula Updates.  Lesson planning and execution take the lion's share of any teacher's attention and intellectual prioritization.  In addition, we need to remember to make time and thought space for the rest of our professional responsibilities.  At the top of the list are Grades, PLOPs, and Skedula Updates.  
  • Marking Period 1 Ends on November 10th.  As stated in the UAI Staff Handbook, teachers are expected to enter grades weekly.  MP 1 ends on 10NOV16 and Grades are due by 3PM on Tuesday, 15NOV16.  Please stay up to date on your grades.  That way you'll avoid being overwhelmed when the marking period comes to a close.
  • PLOPs.  Many teachers have been improving their timely completion of our students' Present Levels of Performance so that our team of IEP coordinators can complete students' annual reviews and write their IEPs.  Some teachers are still struggling to make the time to meet deadlines.  As a reminder, there is time allotted on Tuesday from 3-3:25 to complete this type of work.  Please make it a priority to meet your deadlines so that your colleagues can complete their job duties effectively.
  • Skedula Updates.  For calls home and disciplinary consequences (e.g. classroom removals), classroom teachers must enter their low-inference report on the situation in Skedula.  For calls home, it can be simply SNIS (student not in school), called home, parent aware (or left message or whatever else happened).  For classroom removals, if teachers do not provide a write up in Skedula, then only the student perspective can be reflected.  Please update Skedula appropriately.  Also - please do enter positive Skedula comments for students.  When used this way, positive comments in Skedula go a long way to improve student-teacher relationships, build trust and increase the health of classroom learning environments.

Thanksgiving Potluck Karaoke.  While our PTA Karaoke didn't achieve the goal of increasing parent engagement, the staff and students had a BLAST.  This raised the idea of building some fun times with the entire staff. On Monday, 21NOV16, we'll be doing another early

SEL Updates

SLANT and Accountable Talk Stems.  Jen and I completed a brief walk-through on SEL structures in 6th & 9th grade classrooms last week.  Here's what we found:
  • SLANT and Accountable Talk posters are up in nearly all classrooms.
  • Many (but not yet all) teachers were referencing SLANT to get students to focus on speakers.
  • In classrooms where SLANT was most effective, students were able to explain how SLANT helps them (e.g. it shows the speaker that I'm being respectful and listening - which is important for things like interviews)
  • Teachers who greeted their students at the door had the most effective transitions
  • A couple of teachers used Accountable Stem Talk in both full class and paired discussions (not just small groups).
SLANT and Accountable Talk will not be effective unless you use it everyday and explicitly remind students why using it is an aid to their academic and social achievement.   In SEL classes, students will be learning more about the why and how strategies like SLANT and Accountable Talk Stems can positively impact their learning and understanding.  To complement these lessons, teach into and expect students to use these strategies throughout the class period.

Add this calendar to your own!  See that little "+" sign in the bottom right hand corner?  Click on it to have it show up in your personal google calendar!

Per Session Posting

Dance Chaperones.  Our first dance of the year will be on Friday, November 18th after SLCs.  We are looking for 10 chaperones to be paid from 5:45-11PM.   If you are interested in chaperoning the dance, please email Kiri at ASAP.

Open House Volunteers.  We are having our 2nd Open House on Saturday, November 19th.  We're asking for volunteers to represent our school and take families on tours of the building.  Staff will be paid per session from 9:30-12:00.  If you are interested, please email Kiri at
Open House Volunteers

Sunday, October 23, 2016

Week of October 24th

UAI Staff News

Volume IV
Issue 8
Week of October 24th, 2016

To Do's for this Week

  • [MONDAY, 24OCT16] Pods Resume. We will begin our 2nd round of Inquiry Pods on Monday.  This cycle will run from Monday 24OCT16 through Monday 23JAN16. This cycle will focus on lesson planning and execution.  We will be working in subject teams to examine and workshop three components of the lesson.  Ilyana will kick us off by sharing how she approaches planning her lessons.  Please click here to preview the lesson she plans to share with us on Monday.  Below is the calendar for this Pod cycle and here are the pods:

    Marsha, Phillan, Lauren, Kristina, Joanna, Christina [Special Curriculum Development Pod to participate in a new project with LDC i3 - More info to come on this on Monday and in your emails]

    Danielle, Mike, Tiffany        Alison, Tom, Kristin, Paula       Elena, Anna, Michelle 
    Cherry, Matthew, Jamie        Meaghan, Damon, Martine    
    Ilyana, Cassandra, Kerry, Rebecca, Erick
    Michael, Brodie, Suzannah, Natalie           Sursattie, Tracy, Elana
    • Cycle One:  The Mini Lesson [24OCT16; 31OCT16; 7NOV16]
      • 14NOV16 - Mini Lesson Staff Share
      • 22NOV16 - TUESDAY SWAP for Staff Potluck
    • Cycle Two:  Work Time Practice [28NOV16;05DEC16; 12DEC16]
      • 19DEC16 - Work Time Staff Share
    • Cycle Three: Closure [09JAN17; 16JAN17; 23JAN17]
      • 30JAN17 - Closure Staff Share

  • [THIS WEEK] Phone Calls Home.   Please reach out and invite all advisees' parents to our Parent/Teacher Karaoke Night (THIS Thursday 5-7PM) and Mother-Daughter Spa Day (Saturday, 05NOV16).  If you are still unable to reach homes, please notify Nancy ASAP!
  • [THURSDAY, 27OCT16] PTA Karaoke Night.  The PTA is hosting a Karaoke night this Thursday in the cafeteria.  Join us to belt out your favorite tune!


DRP Data.  Joanna shared the DRP Data earlier this week.  Reading and English teachers should be scheduling DRP data conferences to share this data with students and construct reading goals to build their levels.  All teacher should review the data to inform how to select appropriate resources and texts for the classroom and lessons. Building strong literacy skills is crucial to achievement in all content areas.

The next administration will be in January.  Please reach out to your peer coach or to Ms. Colleen if you need support in figuring out how to best use this data in planning.

As a reminder, all behavior incidents in the classroom which lead to intervention by the dean team must be logged into Skedula by the classroom teacher. Please enter a low inference anecdotal and CC your coach for each incident.   Your coach can help support your classroom management routines and implementation to create sustainable, positive, learning environments. 

Please remember to call the Dean Hub at x.30211 if you need dean support in your class. Students should not be escorted or sent to the SAVE room under any circumstances.

SEL Updates

Week 6 of SEL.  6th grade SEL this past week was all about emotions! 6th graders learned the 7 primary emotions, how to recognize when someone is feeling these emotions, and ways to reflect how someone is feeling back to them. Next week, students will continue practicing active listening, as well as effective collaboration (using the 5 strategies listed here). Students will visit "stations" where they practice disagreeing politely, giving equal time to participate, and presuming positive intent. When you ask students to work in groups, please prompt them to use some of the strategies they learned for effective collaboration in SEL.  Ask them to select one of these strategies they can practice in their group at the moment that would improve how they are collaborating with one another.

The 9th grade is learning to really appreciate the SEL skills they are gaining. Last week, they enjoyed coming up with ways to scale back their technology use as they now better understand some on the negative impacts of being a "digital zombie". While getting to know their new Girls Inc. SEL teachers (half have Marni and half have Vanessa) they learned how to better tune in to others through a better understanding of reading other peoples' emotions.

Add this calendar to your own!  See that little "+" sign in the bottom right hand corner?  Click on it to have it show up in your personal google calendar!

Per Session Posting

None this week!

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Week of October 17th

UAI Staff News

Volume IV
Issue 7
Week of October 17th, 2016

To Do's for this Week

  • [MONDAY, 17OCT16] Weekly PD Resumes. Our weekly PD resumes on Monday at 3PM in room 409.  We will be relaunching Inquiry Pods next week. This Monday, we want to review some important topics.  Here's the Agenda
    • 3:00-3:20 Behavior Interventions.  Ms. Annie will review the behavior intervention protocols and do a quick Q & A with teachers about selection and follow up for students.
    • 3:20-3:40 Suicide & Child Abuse Required Training. Jen will provide the yearly mandatory training on how to identify and report signs of possible self-harm or abuse of students.
    • 3:40-4:20 Writing an Effective PLOP. Bring your laptops on Monday.  Kristin and Christina will circulate to help you all complete and write effective PLOPs for this month's upcoming IEP reviews.
  • [WEDNESDAY, 19OCT16]  PSAT for 10th & 11th Graders.   All 10th and 11th graders are taking the PSAT on Wednesday.  It will be a full day of instruction after lunch.  All other grades are going out on trips.  After advisory, 9th grade needs to move to the basement to prepare for their trips as we will be using the 4th & 5th floors for testing.
  • [THIS WEEK] Launch Collaborative Reasoning Groups & Conferences.   If they are not already happening, Collaborative Reasoning Groups (formerly known as Unison Reading) & Conferences should be fully up and launched by the week of 17OCT16.  If you need help in launching these, work with your coach this week to get them up and running.  For additional support, see Ms. Colleen.
  • [THIS WEEK] Upload Grades.   Many of you have already begun uploading grades, as per the school policy of weekly updates.  For those who are still struggling with meeting weekly updates, please reach out to your coach or Ms. Colleen for support.  In particular, please post participation grades at least weekly.  This will help students self-manage as they see their behavior, attendance, and use of SEL strategies like SLANT and Accountable Talk Stems impact their performance.
  • [THIS WEEK] Uninterrupted Instruction.  Continue to reinforce classroom norms and SEL routines (SLANT and Accountable Talk).  You've done so much work setting up the class expectations.  These past few short weeks have done their part to undo that. Make it a point to use these next three weeks to cement what you started to build in September so that you have an amazingly smooth rest of the year!


Why Attendance Calls Matter.  Teenagers sometimes make bad decisions, and Brooklyn can be a scary place if you find yourself at the end of some bad decisions. Being a parent of a Brooklyn kid, I can completely relate to the anxiety our students' parents express when they call me upset that the school did not reach out to them. When we don't make calls home, we create a loophole in communication.  Our families work to send their children to school. Our job is to make sure parents know when their child absent - to make sure that the loop is closed and that home and school are on the same page.  Contractual time exists for you every day to make these calls. Many UAI staff have found ways to keep this time sacred and have made and documented outreach home. Unfortunately, this week, I have had a few parents express their shock and confusion about kids who we marked absent.  They sent them to school, but they didn't make it to school, and we didn't call home.  If this happened to our own children, we would all be equally livid with the school (and our child).  Our students and their families need our help to close the loop that teenagers will naturally try to exploit.  Please make sure you are calling and documenting in Skedula.  If you find yourself struggling, reach out to me or Val and we'll help troubleshoot the issues!

The Rigor is in the Routine!  As we begin three solid weeks of instruction (except for PSAT Wednesday), it's important to keep up the work with establishing routines and raising the bar on expectations for classroom conduct & behavior.  Lauren, Jennifer JR, Lori, and Marni are working hard in their SEL classes to lay the foundation for developing skills in our incoming students.  7th, 8th, 11th, & 12th grade teachers should reinforce SLANT and Accountable talk stems with some of the updates that they share each week.  See below in the SEL Updates.   Remember, SEL isn't challenging in the instruction.  The challenge for SEL is expecting strong skills and consistency every day as part of the classroom routines.

SEL Updates

Week 5 of SEL.  In 6th grade SEL this week, students will continue building their ability to recognize how others are feeling and reflect that back to them. Students will also learn about the different levels of listening(include attached photo!!) and discuss how it feels when someone listens at a level less than 4. In their classes this week, please continue prompting students to guess how other people may be feeling based on tone of voice, facial expression, or the situation at hand, and prompt students to demonstrate "level 4 listening," with the goal of understanding what you are trying to say. Students should also practice reflecting back to you what you said, in their own words.

In 9th & 10th Grade SEL, the girls had meaningful discussions about put downs and prejudice. They understand the positive feelings from talking about the things they should "H.I.P.E" in their lives. They also were able to explore when communication feels good with a teacher (shout out to Damon who every class felt spoke to them in a clear and respectful way that they can emulate back to him) and how to build better rapport with the teachers they struggle with by using some of the strategies they use when talking to teachers they get along well with. They thought about what it would be like to switch roles with the teacher in order to better understand their frustrations and how to communicate with a class full of students.

Next week students will explore the impact of technology on their lives. How to break free of being a "digital zombie" and create meaningful face-to-face experiences. They will also learn about empathy and different emotions. Why social awareness is important and how to develop those skills. (However the 10th grade will be doing the Plan-O-Rama lesson to help them learn more about their newly acquired planners)

Add this calendar to your own!  See that little "+" sign in the bottom right hand corner?  Click on it to have it show up in your personal google calendar!

Per Session Posting

None this week!

Monday, October 10, 2016

Week of October 11th

UAI Staff News

Volume IV
Issue 6
Week of October 10th, 2016

To Do's for this Week

  • [DUE 11OCT16] Email Student of the Month Nominees.  Now that a full month of school is done, it's time to celebrate our students who shine brightest! Ms. Jen & Ms. Tracy are asking each grade team to nominate a student and email them a brief blurb on why this student was selected to be the grade student of the month.  
  • [11OCT16] October PTA Meeting. All staff are encouraged to join our monthly PTA meeting from 5:30-6:30 in the cafeteria.  This month's meeting agenda will include discussion and voting on how we use Title I funds.  This is a great opportunity to build relationships with parents outside of the classroom.  Those relationships are as critical as the one you have built with students in your class! Make the time and you will reap the benefits!
  • [REMINDER] Short Weeks.   Both this week and next week are three-day weeks.  Maximize instructional time during these short weeks.  With September over, we've already completed 10% of the years' instructional days.  Plan time wisely to maximize instruction.  Be creative with assessment time using both in and out-of classroom time to achieve your goals!
  • [COMING SOON] Launch Collaborative Reasoning Groups & Conferences.   If they are not already happening, Collaborative Reasoning Groups (formerly known as Unison Reading) & Conferences should be fully up and launched by the week of 17OCT16.  If you need help in launching these, work with your coach this week to get them up and running.  For additional support, see Ms. Colleen.
  • [WHEN YOU HAVE A MOMENT] Website Updates.  I've been working on updating the website.  Please poke around the site and tell me what you think!  

8th Grade Jada & her Dad
Bring Your Father-Figure to School a Success!  A big round of applause goes to Mr. McLean and Ms. Carol for coordinating a wonderful event for our students and their father-figures. We had nearly 30 parents and students who joined us for breakfast and lunch and some visits to morning classes. Both parents and students enjoyed spending the morning at UAI and spending time with their family. We look forward to continuing our work with parent engagement.  Please save the date for Haunted House Karaoke night on October 27th.  The seniors will be organizing their annual Haunted House for the middle schoolers during after school.  Immediately following this, we will be having a Karaoke night with parents, students, and staff!  I, personally, can't wait to belt out some Adele or even better - a Journey rock ballad!

Open Houses and Student Recruitment.  We are in full swing of student recruitment for the 2017-18 school year.  Student recruitment is vital to the future health of our school.  At present, we are trying to grow our middle school, which is woefully under-enrolled.  We are competing with loads of District 13 Charter Schools.  Each year UAI is becoming stronger and more amazing.  We need to get this word out and get families to choose us!  Ms. Val is leading this work and is need of your help and support.  We need a committee of 3-5 staff and 3-5 students who are willing to

            • Develop and Produce Recruitment Materials
            • Attend Recruitment Fairs to Promote UAI
            • Visit area elementary and/or middle schools to conduct on-site recruitment activities
            • Conduct School Tours
This is seasonal work and will not extend beyond December 1st, when the applications are due.   Because it's seasonal the time is all smooshed into a few weeks, so team members should expect to spend at least 3-5 hours a week (yes it's per sessionable!).  If you are interested, please email me & Ms. Val ASAP!

SEL Updates

Week 4 of SEL.  Over this upcoming week, middle school students will begin to develop their ability to empathize with others. They will practice recognizing facial, vocal, and situational cues that signal how others may be feeling. Wherever possible, please prompt students to guess how a book character, classmate, or even you might be feeling based on facial expression, tone of voice, or the situation at hand. In the high school,  students will continue to reinforce last week's topics. They have begun to explore the benefits of sharing positive accomplishments and the negative effect of put-downs. They discussed ways to keep the class and school a positive place. Next week they will dive into building rapport with their teachers  - what the teachers need from them, what they need from the teachers and how to better communicate with all school staff. They will break this down and watch a video that further unpacks the importance of these relationships and the significance of school culture (H.I.P.E instead of put-downs).

Add this calendar to your own!  See that little "+" sign in the bottom right hand corner?  Click on it to have it show up in your personal google calendar!

Per Session Posting

None this week!

Saturday, October 8, 2016

UAI Table of Organization 2016-2017



UAI Leadership Team

Kiri Soares as Principal heads up the school and the UAI Leadership team.  She works closely with administrators supervising operations, student affairs, and instruction.  Here she is with her team:

Kiri Soares, Principal.  (ext. 40111;  Kiri Soares co-founded the Urban Assembly of Math and Science for Young Women in 2006.  Targeting the gender disparity of women in STEM fields, through nurturing their interest and developing thier capabilities in math and science.  UAI pairs rigorous academic instruction with strong social emotional education to achieve this goal.  Kiri earned her BA in Philosophy & Education from UC Berkeley and completed two masters degrees (one in teaching from San Francisco State University and one in administration from Mercy College).  She has worked as a teacher, instructional coach, assistant principal, and principal in the NYCDOE since 1997.

Val Binyard, Assistant Principal of Operations. (ext. 30111;  Val Binyard joined UAI in 2008 as a Special Education service provider.  From the start, Val dedicated her work to supporting our neediest students and working closely with her peers to develop strategies and interventions that could be used for all.  As the AP of Operations, Val supervises our Support Staff, ENL and SPED teams to ensure all of our students, especially those with extra needs receive the services and supports they need to achieve.  Additionally, Val supervises our next level guidance team to support our incoming students transition to 6th and 9th grade and to help our exiting students transition to high school or college.
Jen Cusa, Director of Student Affairs (ext. 40111: Jen Cusa is a licensed Master Social Worker and joined UAI in 2007.  She graduated from the University of Massachusetts, Amherst with a BA in Social Thought and Political Economy.  She went on to receive her masters Social Work from Hunter College. Jen's work emphasizes the implementation of social emotional learning practices and creating school-wide policies that promote positive learning environments. Jen supervises our team of counselors, social workers, and deans to provide structured SEL support and disciplinary structures to ensure student success.  Building on this SEL work, Jen also supervises our parent coordinator to facilitate strong family-school relationships.

Colleen DiGuiseppe, Assistant Principal of Instruction (ext. 30111;  Colleen DiGuiseppe has been with UAI for her entire career beginning as the 6th grade Humanities teacher in UAI's 2nd year.  While at UAI, she has taught 8th and 9th grade Humanities as well as 9th grade Reading. Colleen earned her BA in English from George Washington University (with a minor in creative writing and psychology) and went on to earn her masters in teaching from Columbia University's Teachers College. After several successful years as a teacher team leader, Colleen went to Fordham University to earn her 2nd masters in administration and supervision.  As AP of Instruction, Colleen supervises all classroom teachers, coordinates professional learning, and provides adult learning experiences for teacher and staff growth.

UAI Operations - Next Level Guidance and Main Office Support Staff

Val Binyard supervises the team of professional who provide our staff and students with operational support and next level guidance.  Here is her team:

Next Level Guidance

Mara Tucker, College Counselor (ext. 83111;  Mara Tucker became UAI's Director of College Guidance and Programming in the fall of 2012.  Prior to that year, she was the Director of Development and Partnerships.  Since then, Mara has ushered each of our graduating classes into college, resulting in an 100% college acceptance, and a 89% matriculation rate. Mara graduated from Northeastern University with a BA in Journalism and a minor in Political Sience.  She received her Masters in Public Administration from NYU's Wagner School of Public Service.  Mara manages all aspects of UAI's college readiness activities and facilitates all college and financial aid processes.

Lauren McGuinness, Guidance Counselor & 6th Grade SEL teacher (ext. 20111;  Lauren originally began as a Carrera Social Worker in 2012.  She largely worked with our middle school students providing mental health support.  After taking a year away from UAI, Lauren was happy to return to support our young students in developing SEL skills and strategies, and in providing next level guidance to recruit incoming students and help them acclimate to UAI and to help our matriculating students apply to high school.

Support Staff

George Nathaniel, Technology Coordinator (ext. 14241;  George joined UAI in the spring of 2016. As the father of a former alum, George has known UAI for quite some time. George provides tech support for both UAI and our sister school in the building, the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice.  With over 15 computing devices in each classroom plus all of the administrative equipment, George has his hands full at UAI trying to keep our young students plugged into 21st century learning!
Delmeter Carey, Purchasing and Payroll Secretary (ext. 14552;  Del Carey is a founding member of UAI.  She has been supporting our school since the doors opened in 2006.  Del is responsible for all staf payroll, human resource support, and purchasing for teachers and staff at UAI.  As main office support, Del is one of the first faces you'll see when you enter our office and one of the first voices you'll hear when you call.  She is the proud mother of two amazing young men in college and is ready to happily help you whenver and for whatever you need!

Nancy Johansen, Pupil Accounting Secretary (ext. 14553;  Nancy joined UAI in 2010.  She shares the main office support work with Del and provides our teachers and students with student accounting support (metrocards, updates to family contact information, medical record, lunch forms, and attendance).  Nancy is one of the first faces that welcome students and families to UAI (either via phone or in the main office).

UAI Student Affairs - Deans, Counselors, Partner Staff and Parent Engagement

Jen Cusa supervises & supports our team of talented and committed individuals who provide our students with learning experiences both in and out of the classroom.  Here is her team:


Annie Annunziato, Dean (ext. 50811;  Annie joined UAI in 2016 as a school dean.  A long-time Urban Assembly teacher, Annie is deeply familiar with our family of schools and the unique mission we all share in preparing students to graduate from both high school and college.  Annie works closely with Jen to help our students understand how to make strong, positive choices that further their academic goal and help them develop strong social-emotional skills. Annie also provides support to classroom teachers to establish strong classroom management practices and create effective learning environments.

Doris Twine, Dean & Senior Advisor (ext. 83121;  Doris joined UAI as a dean in 2011. She also works closely with each senior class to help them organize and execute all of the activities (including prom and graduation) that make their final year in school a memorable one.  Ms. Doris is the proud mother of her own teenage daughter, giving her a useful perspective on her daily work. Combining empathy with high expectations, Ms. Doris supports our young women to learn how to consistently make positive, pro-social decisions that lead to academic success and college readiness.

Brandon Johnson, Assistant Dean (ext. 30211;  Brandon joined UAI in 2016 as an assistant dean.  Prior to joining UAI, Brandon worked as a teaching artist with the NYCDOE providing students with a wide variety of exposure to the arts including Capoeira, Afro-Brazilian music & dance and many other art forms.  Brandon supports our students SEL development during the day and works in our Girls Inc after school program to continue to share his skills and talents in various Girls Inc classes with our students.

Social Workers and Counselors

Marni Brand, Girls Inc. Social Worker (ext. 20121;  Marni first joined UAI as a social worker with the Carrera Treasure Academy in 2011.  Marni is a Licensed Clinical Social Worker.  She graduated from the University of Massachussetts - Amherst with a BA in Psychology and received her MA in Social Work from NYU.  Marni began her career at Acorn Community High School in Brooklyn.  She has experience with diverse populations including college students, mentally ill adults, early intervention & court-mandated drug abusers.  Marni has a passion for helping her students navigate through adolescence.

Jennifer Jackson Robbins , Guidance Counselor (ext. 20131; Jennifer Jackson Robbins has been supporitng our young women as their guidance counselor since 2009.  In addition to providing our students with IEPs with mandated counseling support, Jennifer also works with our incoming students to provide direct SEL instrution to help our students adjust and transition with strong, positive, pro-social skills.  Jennifer also coordinates Skedula and STARs support for the school, updating transcripts, running report cards, and keeping Skedula up to date.

Lori Lidofsky, Social Worker (ext 20121;  Lori Lidofsky is a Licensed Master of Social Work at UAI.  She earned her BA in Communication and Rhetoric from SUNY Albany and a Masters in Social Work from Fordham University.  She has been trained and certified in Trauma Focused Cognitive Behavioral Therapy, Teen Intervene - A Brief INtervention with Substance Abusing Adolescents and attained a School Violence Prevention and Intervention Certificate.  Lori is working directly with our incoming 9th graders and our 10th graders to provide them with direct instruction in developing social-emotional skills, and successfully transition to high school. Lori is excited about her work to bring a strong SEL-based learning community to life at UAI.

Parent Outreach

Carol Jones, Parent Coordinator (ext. 14522;  Carol became UAI's first parent coordinator in 2008.  In addition to working as a key liaison between school and the homes of our students, Carol also works to support teachers and staff in effectively communicating with parents and families.  Carol also works closely with our PTA president, Mr. McLean to develop and execute a variety of activities that bring parents into our building and engage parents in our students' education and growth.

NeQuan McLean, PTA President (ext. 14542;  Mr. McLean has been an actively involved parent at UAI for years.  In the last few years, as PTA president, Mr. McLean has worked tirelessly to transform the level of parent engagement at UAI.  Mr. McLean spearheaded to team to launch our fundraising activities and to develop events like "Bring Your Father to School Day" and "Health & Beauty Day with Mom" to foster strong relationships between families and school.  Mr. McLean volunteers at UAI two days a week and is always available via email.

Partner Staff

Girls Inc.

Kree Cason, Girls Inc Program Director (ext. 30431;  Kree has been running Girls Inc programs at UAI for many years.  As Program Director, Kree supervises both in-day and after school Girls Inc activities.  In addition, Kree works tirelessly to find opportunities for our young girls, their families, and our staff that complement the programs and activities of our academic offerings.  With her leadership in partnership with UAI, our young women will grow to be strong, smart and bold!

Jade Trevino, Program Coordinator (ext 30441;  Jade coordinate program specialists and after school logistics for Girls Inc Programs.  As program coordinator, Jade manages all new after school applications and works directly with Kree to set up program offerings and student opportunites throughout the year. Jade also tracks and compiles reports on our after school programs for DYCD.

Basya Prabhu, Program Specialist (ext. 30411;  Basya joined UAI Girls Inc. in 2015.  Working with our Carrera Partners, Basya provides our middle school students with Carrera Family Life and Sex Education Instruction.  Additionally, as a program specialist, Basya provides after school instruction in a variety of programs.

Vanessa Santiago, Program Specialist (ext. 30421:  Vanessa joined UAI Girls Inc. in 2016 to provide in-day and after school instruction for our middle school students. Along with Basya, Vanessa supports our young girls' instruction in FLSE.

Dre Thomas, Program Specialist (ext. 30411:  Dre has been working in Girls Inc After since 2014.  Starting in 2016, Dre moved to in-day and after school support providing college readiness, and computer programming instruction to our students.  Dre works with our girls to develop their coding capabilities, making them truly Girls Who Code!


Alyssa Robbins, Carrera Family Life & Sex Educator (ext. 40411; This is Alyssa's 5th year at UAI as a Carrera FLSE teacher. This year Alyssa and Wazina are joining forces with Girls Inc. to train Girls Inc facilitators in delivering the powerful FLSE curriculum and provide counseling support for our young girls as they struggle with difficult choices in health, hygiene, relationships, and a host of challenging choices.

Wazina Zondon, Carrera Family Life & Sex Educator (ext. 40411; Wazina is one of our Family Life and Sexuality Educators in her 8th year at UAI. In her role, she works alongside her students to understand that holistic sexuality - from self esteem to relationships and everything in between -  is a natural and healthy part of their lives and to equip them with tools to navigate it during their time at UAI and after. Wazina has been in the field of sexuality education and training for over 10 years. When she is not at UAI, she works on issues related to intersectional identities and social justice, co-performs a storytelling performance on the theme of faith and sexuality and has a silly yet informative sexuality podcast.

UAI Instructional Staff - Teachers and Paraprofessionals

Colleen DiGuiseppe supervises all instructional staff and provides observational feedback and professional development support to improve the quality of instruction at UAI.

Math Department

Cherry Reid, 7th & 8th Grade Math (ext. 30311; Cherry C. Reid began teaching in 2010 and in 2016, joined UAI. She earned her undergraduate degree in Accounting at SUNY Albany in 2004. She later earned a Masters Degree in Early Childhood Education from Brooklyn College in 2009. After working a year as a pre-K teacher and a middle school math tutor, Cherry returned to Brooklyn College to earn a Masters Degree in Mathematics 5-9 in 2012. She entered the NYC Department of Education in 2012 as a middle school Math teacher. When she isn't assisting children in developing an understanding of and removing the "fear" out of math, Cherry enjoys jigsaw puzzles and reading the work of Nora Roberts.

Danielle Romano, 10th Grade Geometry & 12th Grade Statistics (ext. 51111;  Danielle began as a student teacher at UAI in 2011.  Danielle quickly adapted UAI's learning formats to maximize student engagement and access into complex math concepts. As a peer instructional coach, Danielle works with her colleagues to develop practice and pedagogy so all students at UAI have stronger and more engaging classroom learning experiences.

Jamie Ross, 9th Grade CC Algebra (ext. 40511;  Jamie began at UAI as a student teacher in 2012.  Currently, she is a peer instructional coach and mentor to new teachers and continues to inspire students in math as our 9th grade CC Algebra teacher.  Along with other UAI teachers, Jamie participated in Stanford's Hollyhock teacher development program.  She brings this professional development experience to life in her classroom and in her work with her peers.

Mike Somersel, 11th Grade Algebra 2/Trig and 12th Grade Statistics Teacher (ext. 84511; Mike joined UAI in 2011 to teach Algebra 2/Trigonometry.  Mike also works closely with NYU-Poly professors to support our young women in their early college work in pre-Calculus.  In addition to being an extraordinary math teacher and math team leader, Mike is an accomplished dancer and works after school to support our students in dancing. He has taught game development with Games for Learning and coached the LEGO Robotics middle school team at UAI. Micheal double majored at Cornell University, earning a B.A. in Dance and Psychology. He then earned his M.S. in Education with a concentration in Mathematics from St. John's University.

Matthew Turner, 6th Grade Math (ext. 30911; Matthew began teaching in the Bronx in 2014.  Matthew has a passion for helping our youngest learners develop their excitement about math.  He is dedicated to improving his practice, implementing feedback and advice that he actively seeks out from peers. Matthew also works in our after school program with Girls Inc training our middle school students how to become young engineers via Lego Robotics. 

Science Department

Alison Green, 6th Grade Science (ext. 30911;  Alison began teaching in NYC public schools over 10 years ago.  Five years into teaching, Alison joined UAI as a middle school math and science teacher.  Over the years, Alison has served a mentor and coach for the NYCDOE teaching fellows program, and she now brings that expertise to UAI as a peer instructional coach.  Her work with her fellow teachers has elevated practice in the classrooms and improved learning experiences for students beyond her own classroom.  As the lead teacher of our partnership with Urban Advantage, Alison brings a wealth of resources and experiences in science education to our school, our students, and their families.

Meaghan Haugaard, 7th & 8th Grade Living Environment (ext. 31511;  Meaghan joined UAI in the fall of 2016 after beginning her career as a NYC public school teacher the year before.  She has a natural enthusiasm and exuberance for science that inspires our middle school students to be curious and engaged!  With a special education background, Meaghan is particularly skilled in supporting our learners who struggle the most and creates lessons and resources to promote learning and engagement for all.

Damon Noland, 9th Grade Living Environment Teacher and UFT Chapter Chair (ext. 51511;  Damon joined UAI in 2011 as a first year NYC Teaching Fellow. He also serves as the UFT Chapter Leader. Damon received a BA in TV/Radio Communications and a BFA in Theater from Brooklyn College. He also holds a Masters in Education (with a concentration in Biology) from Brooklyn College, and recently achieved his professional certificate for teaching Biology in grades 5-9. Damon, along with other UAI teachers completed professional development at Stanford University in the Hollyhock Teaching Fellowship. Damon is excited to begin another year of working to support our students in a strong social emotional learning environment, preparing them for their journey to college and beyond.

Thomas Wilson, 10th Grade Earth Science & 12th Grade Environmental Science (ext. 41511; Thomas Wilson is the10th grade Earth science teacher who began his first year at UAI in the fall of 2015. In 2008 Thomas began his BA in Earth science and secondary education at Dowling College in Long Island, New York. In 2010 Thomas moved to New Zealand where he studied volcanology and glaciology at Auckland University of Technology- a partner university of Dowling College. Shortly before Thomas graduated from Dowling in 2012, he studied geosciences abroad in Iceland and Italy during his last semester. In 2013 Thomas began his teaching career in the Peace Corps. Throughout his two year service in rural Malawi, Thomas taught geography, Earth science and life skills at a Community Day Secondary School.

English Department

Michelle Babick, English Language Learner Support (ext. 14711; Michelle is began teaching in 2011 and joined UAI in 2014.  Michelle provides language support services for all of our students who are learning English. Michelle graduated from the University of California at Berkeley, and has a strong love for cats.
Rebecca Candela, 9th Grade Reading (ext. 40911;  Rebecca began as a teacher in NYCDOE in 2004. She joined UAI in 2008.  She earned her undergraduate degree in Elementary Education with a major in Social Studies and a minor in Language Arts at Wayne State University in Detroit, MI.  She moved to NYC to pursue her career in education and began teaching 7th grade ELA at I.S. 347 in Brooklyn.  She earned her Masters Degree in Literacy Acquisition Grades 5-12 at City College of New York.  She is certified in English and Literacy Acquisition and has experience teaching 5th -10th grade.  As a peer coach, Rebecca works with the peer coaches and administration team to develop systems and structures that best support teacher practice.

Ilyana Contreras, 11th/12th Grade English Teacher (ext. 85311; Ilyana began teaching in New York City in 2010  and started with UAI in 2012. As the English team leader, peer coach, and AP coordinator, Ilyana has worked to create a sense of cohesion and rigor for her department and grade teams. In conjunction with several UAI colleagues, lyana studied at Stanford University, participating in the Hollyhock Fellowship program. Along with teachers in the UAI middle school, Ilyana also received a fellowship through Fund for Teachers to travel through South Africa to study gender and socioeconomic issues in the country. Constantly looking to expand her capabilities, Ilyana brings her new learnings back to the community in her work as a peer coach and in her excellence in the classroom.

Kristina Coriarty, 7th & 8th Grade Writing (ext. 30711;  Kristina began at UAI in 2016 as a middle school English teacher, focusing on writing.  Kristina challenges our 7th & 8th graders by introducing them to a wide variety of writing genres that they can manipulate for their own writing purposes.  Kristina uses collaborative groups to build community and help students provide actionable, standards-aligned feedback to their peers so that everyone's writing improves.  In so doing, Kristina works hard to prepare our oldest middle school students for high school.

Marsha Derice, 7th & 8th Grade Reading (ext. 30511;  Marsha joined UAI in middle school humanities in 2013 after 4 years of teaching in NYC public schools. Marsha works with her peers as an instructional coach to support their development and improve English instruction across the middle school. Marsha is committed to the mission and vision of UAI and works tirelessly to help her students and her peers towards achieving it!

Cassandra Guerrier, 9th Grade Writing (ext. 40911; Cassandra began teaching at UAI in 2016.  Prior to teacher, Cassandra was an editor and writer with a passion for lifestyle (women's issues, mental health), education, fashion, beauty and love/relationships. She also had experience with videos/multimedia and spent a lot of time analyzing the latest YouTube and viral trends.. As the 9th grade writing teacher, Cassandra aims to create fun and engaging content, while helping students develop the writing skills necessary to thrive in high school and beyond.
Lauren Haynes, 6th Grade Writing (ext. 31111;  Lauren began teaching at UAI in 2016.  As the 6th grade writing teacher, Lauren focuses on transitioning the elementary level literacy skills of our newest students to secondary expectations.  Lauren earned her BA in English Literature and Foreign Language (French and Russian) from Chesnut Hill Collegeand is currently working towards her Masters degree in teaching at CUNY Brooklyn College.
Kerry Smith, 10th & 12th Grade English (ext. 40311;  Kerry began teaching UAI as a student teacher 2014. She spent her first two years teaching 9th grade ICT. Currently, she is teaching 10th and 12th grade ELA for the 2016 - 2017 school year. Kerry completed her teaching degree in English Education at the State University of New York at Oneonta and she is completing her Masters in Literacy at the City College of New York. Currently, she is participating in a teaching fellowship at Stanford University with several of her UAI colleges. Kerry is looking forward to another great school year at UAI !!

Social Studies Department

Brodie Crawford, 11th Grade US History & 12th Grade Participation in Government/Economics (ext. 84529;  Brodie began as a first year teacher at UAI in 2007, having come to UAI as a career changer in the school's second year.  After 4 years as 7th grade Humanities teacher, Brodie moved to the high school, where he has been teaching 11th Grade US History & Government and 12th Grade Economics/Participation in Government.   After completing a BA in History at Loyola University in Maryland, Brodie attended graduate school at University of Glasgow in Scotland, where he earned a MPhil. in Modern History.  After returning to the States and spending several years in the media business, Brodie completed his teaching credential at Brooklyn College.  Along with several UAI colleagues, Brodie participated in Stanford's Hollyhock teacher development program.

Natalie Rudolph, 7th & 8th Grade Social Studies Teacher (ext. 20511;  Natalie originally joined UAI 2014 as a Job Clob teacher for our Carrera Treasure Academy partner.  At the end of that year, Natalie joined the UAI staff to teach English in the middle school.  Natalie can be found in room 205A teaching history to our 7th and 8th graders this year.
Michael Stuart, 9th Grade Global (ext. 50711; Michael Stuart began as a student teacher at UAI in 2012 and has been with UAI since 2013. Currently, he is the 9th grade Global History teacher. He received his undergraduate degree from New York University with a major in History, and went on to earn his Masters degree from Fordham University with a dual certification in Adolescence and Special Education.

Suzannah Tartan, 10th Grade Global II and 12th Grade Participation in Government & Economics.  After years of teaching in Japan, Suzannah returned to the states to get her teaching degree in history.  She joined UAI in the fall of 2016 as the 10th grade Global and 12th Grade history teacher.  She is passionate about bringing a justice lens to history to invigorate and engage her students.  Suzannah spent two years learning about UAI while working towards her teaching degree.  Her first year, she shadowed students as part of her course project, and in 2015 she returned to UAI to complete her student teaching.  She is committed to UAI and is excited to continue her teaching journey with our young women.

Language Department

Elena Brollo 10th Grade Spanish & 12th Grade Study Hall (ext. 40711;   Elena is a native Italian with a dual certification in teaching Italian and Spanish. She earned an interpreting and translating degree in Italy (Spanish and English) as well an MA in Italian and Spanish from Hunter College. She joined the UAI team in 2007, after teaching at the elementary and college level in NYC. Prior to teaching, her work experiences include translating and interpreting, PR, marketing and TV production. Elena brings creativity, cultural elements, and technology into the classroom to address the many learning styles as well as different needs and interests of her students.

Anna Avino, 11th and 12th Grade Spanish (ext. 84311;  Anna first taught at UAI as a student teacher and Carrera Treasure Academy tutor from 2009-2011, and she returned to UAI as a full time teacher in 2014. She has degrees in teaching Spanish and Students with Special Needs from NYU and Brooklyn College. Anna brings with her a variety of experiences from her four years teaching Spanish, English, history, and music classes in multiple NYC high schools. She also has a long history of working privately with violin and viola students as well as English Language Learners.

Special Education Department

Erick Casanova, 9th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching and 9th Grade Reading (ext. 40911;  Erick began as NYC teacher in 2015 and joined UAI in the spring of his first year. He is thrilled to be part of the UAI family. He began teaching as a NYC Teaching Fellow. His background includes Art&Technology (working for stockmedia startups), Social Work (as a Work Readiness Specialist and Career Advisor), and Theatre (Writing, Directing, and Performing). Erick holds a BFA in Musical Theatre from The New School (in partnership with The American Musical and Dramatic Academy) and is completing a Masters in Special Education at Long Island University. He is a fan of passionate students, devoted teachers, musical theatre, and ice cream.

Christina Choi, 7th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching,  7th Grade Reading and Special Education Coordinator  (ext. 20514;  Christina works with our 7th graders supporting their learning in our middle school ICT classes.  As one of our two special education coordinator,s Christina writes student IEPs, coordinate sAnnual Review team, and liaises with members of our school based support team.  Christina is the proud mommy of a beautiful daughter.

Phillan Greaves, 6th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching and 6th Grade Reading (ext. 31111;  Phillan joined UAI in 2011 as a special education provider.  Prior to UAI she had been teaching in NYC public schools for 2 years.  Phillan is passionate about helping our younger and most struggling students succeed and grow.  Phillan is also passionate about social justice and helping our young women develop a voice to speak out against bias and injustice in their lives.  Through exposing students to a wide variety of literature and genres to broaden our youngest students perspectives and develop their thinking to the world around them.

Martine Mercier, 12th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching and 12th Grade Chemistry.  Martine joined UAI in 2010 in her 3rd year of teaching.  As a special education provider, Martine excelled at helping her co-teachers modify high school curriculum to accommodate a wide variety of learning needs.  After several years with the incoming 9th graders (and one year as a dean), Martine returns to work with the seniors, preparing our students for college and beyond.
Kristin Negele, 10th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching (Global and Earth Science) (ext. 41511; Kristin's first year at UAI was 2014.  She quickly learned how to use UAI's instructional formats to support our students who struggle the most. Kristin completed her undergraduate studies at Kent State University and has two masters degrees - one in Visual Culture from NYU and a M.Ed in Special Education from Hunter College. On the weekends you will most likely find her on a bike.
Tiffany Richards, 10th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching (English) and 10th Grade Geometry (ext. 51111:  Tiffany began teaching in Brooklyn in 2013 and joined UAI in the fall of 2016.  As a special education provider, Tiffany is committed to supporting our students who have the biggest learning difficulties. She helps them face new challenges and overcome obstacles through her nurturing approach paired with high expectations.  Perseverance and grit are her go-to resources for both herself and her students.

Joanna Tirone, 8th Grade Integrated Co-Teaching and 8th Grade Writing (ext. 20514;  Joanna joined UAI in 2011 as a special education and ELL service provider.  Since then, she has dedicated her work to collaborating with her co-teachers to build resources and adapt lessons to better address the individual learning needs of our students with IEPs and our students who are still learning to master English.  In 2015, Joanna took on the challenge of coordinating schoolwide assessment and has been doing a beautiful job ever since!
Physical Education, Dance, Movement and Art.

Juelle Washington, Paraprofessioal ( Juelle joined UAI in 2010 to provide direct support to individual and small groups of students. Juelle is committed to supporting all students. This year Juelle splits her time between the middle and high school providing one-to-one services for students in the classroom.

Physical Education, Movement, Dance, and Art

Elana Greene, Physical Education Teacher (ext. 50311; Elana Greene joined UAI’s community in fall 2012 to launch the first Physical Education curriculum at UAI. She will be entering her 7th year of teaching.  Previously she was a Health and P.E. Teacher for Achievement First Charter Schools and also The School District of Philadelphia.  Elana is qualified to teach Health and Physical Education in multiple states, she earned her Bachelors of Science in Business Administration as well as her Master of Arts in Leisure Sports and Recreation both from Florida A&M University.  Following her Masters, she returned back to school to obtain her certificate to teach Health and PE from Eastern University in St. David Pennsylvania.   Since her start at UAI she has coached various after school sport activities such as middle school Champs basketball, Volleyball and Badminton Club.  This year she is delighted to coach both the PSAL Volleyball Team and Basketball Team for the upcoming season, this will be her fourth consecutive year coaching a PSAL athletic team.  

Sursattie Hariprashad, Dance (ext. 50311;  Sursattie joined our school staff in 2015 to teach middle school physical education and health.  After years of teaching at SLJ, Sursattie decided to join UAI to expand her skills in working with a single-gender population of students.  This year Sursattie will focus her instruction on Dance for grades 6-12.

Tracy Kornrich, Art Teacher & 8th Grade Advisor (ext 20511;  Tracy has been with UAI since 2007.  In the past Tracy taught PE, Dance, and Art.  This year Tracy is again bringing beauty to our building through our student's Art work.  This year, Tracy is also taking charge of the 8th graders and making sure that their final year in middle school is a memorable one!