Sunday, June 21, 2020

Week of June 22

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 42
June 22nd, 2020

Principal's Message

Last Week of the 2019-2020 School Year.    This is it.  We have arrived at the last week of this school year.  This has definitely been quite the roller coaster of the year.  

On Friday I got to have so many wonderful conversations with about 12 of you.  It gave me a glimpse into so many different perspectives of UAI's progress through this year, and in particular during COVID and our work in creating a more racially equitable environment at UAI.  

I began this year's work around implicit bias asking all of us to embrace discomfort and to boldly walk towards our biases.    At the November PD, we took a looking at What's in our Shopping Cart and Understanding Disproportionality (Nov PD AM Implicit Bias WorkNov PD PM Teacher Consultancies).  The last big PD day we had together in January we did a deep data dive looking at disproportionality at UAI (January PD:  Data Dive on our Grades).

Through one lens (or window as Pauls IB series would call it), we completely failed.  Trust with me & staff; Annie & Jen and staff; and staff to staff is broken.  Throughout this year, we have focused our work on undoing the inequity falling upon our students.  Throughout this year, I did not attend to reversing the inequities falling up on our staff.  

Today that is different.  Today, we have our ACT and SCI Committees whose work will be continued with our summer restructuring committee.  These committees are examining practices (e.g. how are coverages assigned; who gets what programming positions and why; who gets onto what committees; who gets hired; what are the budget allocations - how are those distributed and why ... and so many more).  Already we have increased transparency in sharing staff preferences, coverage assignment data, and per session applications.  In committees, we are still working to find the right spot between sharing too much or not enough.  But the goal isn't to get to an answer first.  The goal is to get the the solutions that work best, and that means trying (sometimes failing or missing the mark), but continually trying and trying again.

A couple of people I spoke to yesterday said that these last couple of weeks have been incredibly hard, draining, and demanding on their emotional state and energy.  But, the work was necessary and worth it.  Everyone I had the chance to connect with spoke of being hopeful and looking forward to next year.

I made myself stop for a minute and relish those words.  After COVID, reinventing instruction for Remote Learning, and experiencing the immensely powerful and challenging conversations around racial equity at UAI, everyone (at least the dozen I spoke to on Friday) - they all looked ahead and saw hope.

That's what makes UAI a great place.  We hold hope through thick and thin, and we use that to fuel ourselves and our work.  There is so much that is unanswered and unknown right now, and for many, that can be an unwieldy and anxiety-producing circumstance.  

To have hope in the face of all that we have already been through and all that we will face together illustrates the commitment each of you have for our school, our students, and their families.

It is that hope which will bring us together in celebrating our students and connecting with our families to end the year.

It is that hope which will propel us through the summer as we prepare and build a newer, more equitable (and more digital UAI) for launch in Fall 2021!

Thank you all for your honesty, your courage, and your persistence in taking on so many different and significant challenges this year.  I see what you do and how hard you work.  I'm working on being more socially adept at sharing with you how much you are valued.  But until I get there, know that I do hold you and cherish your work for our girls and their families at UAI!!

Happy last week everyone!


Happy Birthday!!!
Ms. Amanda (Friday, 26JUN20!!

Happy Father's Day to All our UAI Dads and all of your Fathers/Father Figures!!!

First Annual UAI Juneteenth Teach-In.  Over 50 people joined the first annual UAI teach in.  Many huge shout outs to Nina, Natalie, Suzannah, and Olivier for putting this together on top of everything else that they had to do as graduation and the end of the year approached!  Student, staff, parents, and community members joined this event to learn more about the history of Juneteenth and to understand some of the steps that can be taken to act to make Juneteenth a recognized national holiday.  It was a beautiful and informative event.  Nicely done!!

College Awareness Week.  This week for students, Jen is working with Danielle & Doris to plan a series of events to engage students in exploring and learning about different college options.  Please be on the lookout for their email so that you can promote it in your google classrooms this week.  

To-Do This Week

Implicit Bias Training Registration.  Please remember to complete the three 45-60min workshops prior to Tuesday at 12PM.  On Tuesday at noon, we will join Paul Forbes, Executive Director of Educational Equity, Anti-Bias and Diversity.  Please register in their system HERE.  As an FYI:

Module 4 will be facilitated in the DOE Zoom platform. For you to participate, you MUST sign into the DOE ZOOM account using your DOE log in and password. If you have a personal Zoom account, you will NOT be able access this session until you register/sign into the DOE Zoom account. The security reasons and the way to log-in to this account can be found HERE. You should have received an email about these security measures from Chancellor Carranza on May 7th.

If you are encountering technical issues with your email address, password and/or accessing Zoom, you will need to contact the DOE Help Desk at 718-935-5100. 

The link to the live, Module 4 session for Tuesday, June 23rd from 12:00 PM - 1:30 PM is HERE.
Meeting ID: 995_8098_2786
Password: 952899

From Paul:  At the end of my session, time permitting, there will be an opportunity for participants to share their "Where I'm From" poem that you learned about and started in Module 2. I hope a few of you are interested in sharing your poem in the live session. If so, you can go HERE to hear and see samples of "Where I'm From" poems (including my poem). You will also find a template on page 4 of the document that you can utilize. During the session, if  you are interested, you will be unmuted and allowed to share your poem.  I look forward to our session together!

Final Grade Review.    Jennifer, Phil, and I performed a series of technological dance steps to finally get the grades loaded up into STARS.  Skedula and STARs in Remote Learning is a whole new set of skills!  Many thanks to Jennifer & Phil for working so hard to get that done.  Many, many thanks to you both!  Later today, I will be posting up the grades for your review in the Remote Learning document (I need to whip together a Father's Day BBQ and Brunch first).  When it does get posted, look for the email so that you can review your grades and make any changes before we run final report cards on Wednesday.

Graduations.  All staff are expected to join in celebrating the culmination of hard work for our 8th graders and 12th graders.  All staff should join the 8th grade stepping up virtual ceremony on Wednesday at 11AM and the 12th grade virtual graduation ceremony on Thursday at 11AM.  Virtual ceremonies are not an ideal replacement for real life ones, but there are what we have for now.  Please join to help us bring celebration and meaning to each of our young women during this important rite of passage!

Attendance.  Yes, we still have to take attendance through the last day of school.  Please continue to post your daily attendance questions and please also promote our College Activities this week to engage students.

Last Day of School.  We will have our final staff meeting from 8:30-9:30 on Friday 26JUN20.  After that meeting, all advisors are expected to email out final report cards and also confirm receipt (via email, text, or phone).  If you have more than 12 advisees, please reach out to Annie.  She will coordinate out-of-classroom staff to support you.  After you have confirmed receipt of report cards, you are finished for the year!

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.

Sunday, June 7, 2020

Week of June 8th

UAI Staff News

Volume VII
Issue 40
June 8th,  2020

The Uncomfortable Truth Poster
An Uncomfortable Truth.  This weekend I was making posters with my family to join in the protests in Groton, CT.  My 83-year-old mother came down the stairs with her poster, saying "All Lives Matter".  This opened up very long and hard conversation.  As we spoke, I shared with her what I know of American History.  

I took no joy in recounting the history or talking to my mother about her innate racism. But I did see the justice, and it did help me find my own words in the work.  My mother did not know about the 3/5ths compromise that built one of the first foundational cornerstones of racism in the US Constitution.  My mother didn't know about Supreme Court Cases of Plessy vs. Ferguson or the  Dred Scott decision, which were two more pivotal pieces in America's construction of Racism, designed for black people.  

Then Harvey jumped in...and shared with me this speech from one of the Lincoln-Douglass debates where Harvey quoted Lincoln as saying:  "I will say then that I am not, nor ever have been, in favor of bringing about in any way the social and political equality of the white and black races, [applause]-that I am not nor ever have been in favor of making voters or jurors of negroes, nor of qualifying them to hold office, nor to intermarry with white people; and I will say in addition to this that there is a physical difference between the white and black races which I believe will forever forbid the two races living together on terms of social and political equality."

To which both my mom and I chimed in unison, "Lincoln said that?!?!??" 

(Harvey then told us about the movie called The Uncomfortable Truth, which I had heard about but never saw.  It's on Amazon Prime now, if you're interested.  Loki Mulholland the documentarian, director, producer traces the construction of racism and oppression of black people in America.)

Oppression is a human tool as old as humans.  Racism in America is a fire that was lit nameley and explicitly under black lives.  From our country's most revered document to it's most prestigious laws to it's every day laws & guidelines (like the GI Bill or Redlining), Racism in America is build to oppress Black Americans, and that was the truth of this nation, and the truth to help my mom understand why it is "Black Lives Matter."

Did I make any headway?  Yes...but 83 years is a lot of experience, so it's still a process.  However, she made a new sign that said "I'm a Republican AND Black Lives Matter"

Collage of locations and people having to do with Stonewall.

Celebrating the LGBTQ Community.  A few weeks ago, the mayor announced that no large gatherings would be sanctioned, and cancelled the parades, the year of the 51st anniversary of the Stonewall Riots.  Today would have been the Brooklyn Pride parade.  There is so much in the world today, and so much that must be done to really dismantle the system designed to oppress.  However, I want to make some space and time to recognize another community beaten, bloodied, and marginalized both the powerful in this country.  Annie shared with me this article about the history of the Stonewall Riots, prompting me to remember that it is necessary to celebrate the pride of our communities AND to remember the pain and how that pain was intentionally constructed to elevate one community over another.  We need both pride and knowledge to be able to enact change.


Happy Birthday!!!
Ms. Emma (again?? Tues 09JUN) and Ms. Jamie (Thurs 11JUN)


Last Week of Academic Instruction.   Your final assignments should be posted up this week and due no later than Monday.  All final academic grades will be due next Friday (19JUN20).  For the week of 15JUN20 and 22JUN20, we will be doing a series of college and career activities to engage students.  This week and for the rest of the school year, teachers need to be asking students to complete attendance questions and taking attendance in Skedula.  We still need to be taking attendance through to the end of the year.

Student Check Ins.    On Monday June 8th, Jen and the counselors will be working with grades of students to engage them in connecting them with their peers and the UAI community, and to check in on them.  Much like we did on Monday's staff check-in last week, students will have rounds to share their thoughts and feelings.  Teachers are invited to join, too!  See the times below.  Check Jen's email for the zoom information, and please do help get the word out by posting in your Google Classrooms.  In addition, I know that many of you are working with students to organize and develop action steps.  Can you please share with Jen so that she can pass on to the students?  Thank you!
  • Topic: 6th Gathering to check-in and share
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 09:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 7th Grade Gathering to check-in and share
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 10:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 8th Grade Gathering to check-in and share
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 11:00 AM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 9th grade Gathering to share and connect
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 10th Grade Gather to Share and Connect
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 12:00 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 11th grade Gather to Share and Connect
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 01:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)
  • Topic: 12th Grade Gather to Share and Connect
    Time: Jun 8, 2020 01:30 PM Eastern Time (US and Canada)

To-Do This Week

NX Follow Check Ins.  Your data "NXer List" on the Remote Learning Tracker is accurate for your class.   We will be having daily check ins immediately following AM check ins during the week of 08JUN20 and 15JUN20.  Any teacher who has an NX student on the NXer list will be asked to stay on after AM check in and we will be going through the list of students one at a time to review outreach attempts, results, and necessary next steps.  In particular, we will be looking for answers to the following questions:
  • What is the student missing and why hasn't she turned in the work? 
    NOTE:  If you don't know, please reach out this week to find out.  
  • Which assignments are necessary to show student academic skill level?
    NOTE: Keep assignments focused on student outcomes vs. student academic behaviors.  Summative assessments in latter May & June should be course cumulative assessments of student learning (thereby inbedding learning targets from earlier in the year, including March and April).  Therefore, having students complete course cumulative tasks AND tasks from March are repetitive evaluations of student competency.  Please have these cumulative assessments named in the Teacher Updates column on the NXer tab of the Remote Learning Tracker.
  • How many different methods and how many different times have you attempted contact?  To what success or no?  Any student on your NX list should have at least one active (phone call, text exchange, What's App exchange, etc) outreach attempt per day. If the active attempts are unsuccessful, there should be at least two passive attempts (email, text, remind, etc.) to connect with student.  Each contact should be contacted in Skedula until successful contact is made OR you have completed two passive contact attempts for each contact listed.  
    NOTE: Please update your log of contact in the NXer Tab (far right) on the Remote Learning Tracker

Graduation Team. Those teachers who signed up to be part of the team to prepare the graduation boxes (Cherry, Elena, Brodie, Kristina, Jamie, Courtney, Phillan, Marsha, and Doris), please report to school at 10AM on Monday. Please be fully masked, gloved up and ready to enter into public space. Remember, this is purely volunteer, and there is absolutely ZERO problem with changing your mind and not coming (just text me so that I know something didn't happen to you!!).

This volunteering does not come without risk. COVID is still happening. We will maintain social distancing and we will be limited to the Cafeteria, Main Office, and 1st floor rooms. Please do not plan to access your classrooms during this time. The permit I needed to file was super explicit about that.

I know that sounds very doomy and gloomy - particularly since packing the graduation boxes is going to be pretty fun, but it's my responsibility and duty to remind you of the risks we are taking during this Global Pandemic.

Summer School Staffing Update.  I am still finalizing the shifting pieces for summer school staffing.  You will hear from my by EOD on Monday with the final update.

Selection of Accountability, Communication, and Transparency Committee (ACT!).  Dude - I told you I'm bad at naming stuff!!  Anyway, I know I didn't get to hear the end and I apologize for having to run out.  I needed to meet with the principals of the UA about re-opening in the fall (more on that soon, I promise).  

I did hear that folks wanted to meet at 2:30 to select representatives from their Affinity Groups to join me on a committee designed to ensure clearer communication, transparency and accountability for school based decisions.  I just don't know if I'm supposed to host that meeting or if you're meeting on your own.  I'm happy to open the space and break you into your rooms and hand over hosting privileges to folks in the Affinity Groups.  Either way, please let me know.  The goal is to have our first ACT committee meeting this week!