Monday, August 31, 2020

Week of August 31st



 UAI Staff Summer News

Volume VIII
Issue 6
August 31st, 2020

Principal's Message

Next week, staff and students return to school (presumably).  There are so many unknown answers and an endless array of questions coming from each and every one of us.

Many of you are now dealing with the very difficult decision that if our Mayor and Chancellor continue with the calendar and school opening plans as is, you may be the first NYC teachers to strike in over 50 years.  The opacity of what actually happens to you if you violate the Taylor law does not make the decision any easier.

However you decide, please know that Annie & I will always have your back and always support you.  It is remarkable to me that the mayor continues to parade individual school leaders as exemplars of the "can do it" attitude that he consistently champions as the bedrock of all New Yorkers.  At the same time, he continues to ignore the requests from the unions, school leaders, teachers, and central staff to slow down and give more time to safely opening our doors to 1.1 millions students, 175,000 teachers in over 1500 school buildings.   Striking is never an easy option.  But when confronted with such a deep refusal to listen (or even acknowledge) the concerns of so many of those in your charge, sometimes job-action is precisely what is needed.  

The media and mayor will likely rail against you.  He is quite the spinner, and the media has never really been that great of a friend to teachers in general.  However, as your school leaders, we DO know you. We honor you, we support your decision, and we know that however you decide, you are doing so with the love and commitment that each of you have to the success, health and safety of our students, their families, and yourselves.   


Schedule Release & Program Look Up. The Program Look Up tool is not as intuitive as I would have hoped (You win some, you lose some). I cannot upload schedules into STARS and Skedula yet because every day more and more kids are continuing to opt out of Blended and into Remote Only. As a result, to keep advisories balanced, it is a constant game of whack-a-mole. My plan it run the programs on Friday, and run with the numbers that we have. Until then we have to use the Program Look Up tool and Student Program Tab with student. If students reach out to you, will you please help them to try to understand how to use it? The biggest problem happens, I think when multiple people are using the doc at once. The way out of that is to just wait a minute, THEN enter the ID number. Being patient is a learned skill (I'm still working on that one!), so our students will definitely need some support there.

Town Halls. Students and Parents have been invited to a series of Town Halls.  Just as with staff, we are asking that they complete THIS FORM to submit their questions.

Instructional Planning. You will learn more about this in PD this week, but here's some quick notes to answer a frequent  question. "How many lessons should I plan for in this new program of blended learning?"

  • Every course at UAI will have a mix of Live (Synchronous) and Independent (Asynchronous) learning. ACADEMIC COURSES: For all academic courses (ELA, Math, Science, Social Studies, Language), students should receive two synchronous (aka live zooms) lessons per week and two asynchronous lessons (e.g. recorded flipped lesson (like the video I did for ordering NYSTL stuff), other videos, and independent work activities). Each day you are in-person, you have a "RL (remote learning) prep" to complete this. I understand that this may run counter to what you are hearing in the media and from the union, but then again, so does our entire program. It can't be easy navigating all these mixed messages, so keep the questions coming!! In addtion, teachers should rely on student class data and coordinate with grade teams to form targeted small groups and meet with students during office hours and small group Fridays to provide feedback, and additional intervention or enrichment support as needed. ALL OTHER COURSES: For all other courses Theater: Two Live zooms per week (plus office hours - no small groups) PE & Health: 1 live zoom & 1 async lesson per week (+ office hours, no small grp) SMALL GROUP TUTORING: If you have small group tutoring on your program, you are doing reading/writing intervention for that grade. Work with grade teams and individual students to pull kids into small group work as needed.

PD Kicks Off Today. As a reminder, next week kicks off a series of PD and planning time to prepare for the upcoming school year. Please CLICK HERE to register by (Training rate per session will be paid to all registered participants!)

Sunday, August 23, 2020

Week of August 24th

 UAI Staff Summer News

Volume VIII
Issue 5
August 24th, 2020

Principal's Message

Today, we are 10 work days from the first day teachers are to report to school and 12 work day from the first day of instruction (maybe).   I have to say "maybe" because we are still awaiting an official calendar for the school year.  However, we do know that soon, school will begin, and our students and families will be looking to each of us to provide structure, consistency and inspiration in the months to come.

Before diving into this weeks barrage of announcements and updates, I want to share a story.  These last few months have been exceptionally trying for all of us.  For me, when I pause to look ahead to the year that is to come, that stress and anxiety that has grown in me since March, flares up into something nearly uncontrollable.  Sprinkle on some hefty splashes of agita from from the mayor's and chancellor's offices, and my own state of mind is stretched thin, and I am pushed to my own brink.

But then a couple of weeks ago, a teacher asked me for some time to plan with her.  She was thinking about her first unit, and was looking for some ideas about how to proceed.  We sat and chatted for quite awhile and before I knew it, I was smiling and excited to be thinking about all the cool and different things that could get kids excited about learning at home.  During that conversation, I allowed myself to think alongside this teacher and move my thinking from the chaos of my current work to the joy of figuring out how to make learning fun and meaningful for our students.  The conversation was fun, refreshing, and inspiring, and I found myself for the first time all summer, truly excited to begin school again.

In the months to come, the world, the media, the impending many factors will be beating away at us relentlessly as we all survive this pandemic and current socio-policital state of our country.  What I learned as I planned with Sarah is that we, as pedagogues, have a precious resource - we can always tap into the joy of working with our students and their families.  

I want to say thank you to Sarah R for reminding me about why I actually chose to do this job each and everyday.  I love working with kids, I love working with people who love working with kids, I love thinking about cool and better ways to challenge and push kids to realizing their greatest potential, and I love working with their teachers & leaders to do the same!  Thank you Sarah, for reaching out to me for help, because in so doing, you helped me more than you can know!

I also want to charge you all to reach out to your planning partners, and create an agreement to hold each other up and push each other to remember to find or create the joy in your jobs. That happiness is always there - we just need to lift it up!  However it works for your team, make sure you prioritize naming the things that make you feel joy in your jobs.  If you are struggling to find those words, that's normal, but that is exactly the sign that says you need to reach out to your colleagues or your school leaders.  We cannot do this alone, particularly this year.  We need each other (like I needed Sarah to remember the joy and she needed me to think through some planning).  

When we reach out to connect with each other, doing the level of work that inspires us, that is when we will be able channel the joy and fulfillment that will carry us through this crazy year.

So let's do this UAI, and let's know the socks off COVID School year 2020-2021!!!

(Hat Tip to Phillan for giving me the words to express what I was feeling.  In her end-of-the-year conference, we spoke a lot about finding the joy in her work.  That convo hung with me all summer, and it wasn't until I worked again with Sarah that I was able to connect the idea to reality).


Happy Summer Birthdays!!!
Doris (26AUG)

COVID Updates. I have been constantly working with Carlos, our Custodial Engineer, and our District Director of Facilities to make sure our building is safe for reopening. In addition, Annie has been working hard to implement DOE guidance to implement protocols and procedures to maximize our ability to mitigate COVID transmission for in-person staff and students.

As a reminder, we are instituting layers of strategies to mitigate COVID transmission and protect students and staff from infection. For example, we are mandating that all in-person people where masks AND remain socially distant AND work in well-ventilated spaces AND have access to hand sanitizer/gloves/washing AND screen for symptoms. Our goal is to maintain all strategies all the time. At times, however, some strategies might have isolated points of failure (e.g. this student's mask breaks or those people are too close on the stairwells). It will not be perfect, but the temporary fail of one strategy does not erase the others. There is redundancy built into our systems for this precise reasons. That said, we will relentlessly work to maximization implementation of all of our COVID strategies.

That said, here's our current status on preparations for securing a safe & healthy school opening:
  • PPE and Health & Safety Protocols.  ThNYCDOE Back to School Pledge promises to secure the health and safety of our staff and students.  As your leader, I will not open the building if we do not have sufficient PPE and protocols in place to ensure the health and safety for all of our in-person staff and students.  Currently, I am working with Carlos and the principal's COVID Supplies hotline to make sure we are ready.  There is definite forward movement, and we are aiming to be able to open on September 10th.  Please review our UAI Health and Safety Checklist to see our status on the checklist of items we will need to meet in order to open.  

  • Preparing for In-Person Work.  This week the DOE is piloting prioritized COVID testing for select DOE personnel (principals and APs).  They will be opening this Prioritized Testing Plan promises 24-48 hour turnaround of results, and it will be integral in maximizing our ability to mitigate COVID transmission.  As a reminder, here is the citywide COVID-19 DOE School Health Policy

Classroom Setup. Last week, I asked for volunteers to come in and set up our classrooms for social distancing (see a Model Classroom).  Many thanks to Jen, Elena, Phil, Kelly (and Dashiel) for helping to set up our classrooms for the upcoming school year. They were so efficient that I had to call our other volunteers Rachel, Damon, and Nina to say we were going to finish before they arrived! Thank you everyone for volunteering!!

This year, you will not be able to move any furniture in your rooms. Each chair is 6' apart from all other chairs, and there is space set aside for teachers and paraprofessionals. Teachers will not have work space in classrooms when they are not teaching. All teachers will be assigned a work space and desk in an unused classroom or windowed and ventilated office space. In addition, this year, interior classrooms (and classrooms without windows) have been closed for use. All extra desks and furniture have been removed from instructional classrooms and all excess furniture is being stored in rooms without windows (so like 304, 302, 402, 404, locker room, B53, and B57. About four - six teachers will be assigned (and socially distanced) to unused classrooms, and we will try to make sure that planning teams are rooming together as much as possible.

Student Movement & Main Office Access. We are implementing new directional movement policies in halls and stairways and the main office will be closed to public access for the year (so no students are to be sent down to the main office for any reason). The particulars of those policies are still being finalized, but in general, students should remain in their rooms for all periods (except if they need to use the bathroom). If a student must be removed, an adult will come to get them.

Building Access. Beginning August 31st, staff & students will be able to access the building to collect personal belongings only. Unfortunately, we will not be able to grant full staff access until we receive further guidance, but students and staff may come to collect personal items from classrooms or lockers. Please use THIS FORM to register for an appointment time. No access will be granted without first registering.

Student Programming Look-Up. Starting later today, students and families will be able to use this Student Program Look-Up Tool to find out what their in-person days will be and what program they will be following. For seniors, their specific courses selections are still being chosen. Seniors should use this Senior Course Selection Form to submit their preferences.

PD Next Week. As a reminder, next week kicks off a series of PD and planning time to prepare for the upcoming school year. Please CLICK HERE to register by Friday, August 28th (Training rate per session will be paid to all registered participants!)

Sunday, August 16, 2020

Week of 17AUG20


Staff PD

UAI Staff Summer News

Volume VIII
Issue 4
August 17th, 2020

Principal's Message

As I emailed earlier this week, a collaboration of principals, parents, school staff, and school community members are coming together to call for a Phased Reopening of NYCDOE schools in the Fall.  I do not yet know whether these efforts will be impactful, but I want to give a huge shout out to Annie's wife, and my friend and colleague, Emily Paige, principal of the UA Unison school, who has led this charge with a plan that is thoughtfully and intentionally put together with input and feedback from her colleagues throughout District 13.  The plan draws from another colleague's proposal, Principal Luke Bauer of the UA Maker Academy.

I have joined my colleague's in their call.  In March, we were thrown into a situation that arrived unexpectedly.  However, the opening of schools is not unexpected and both NY State and NY City implemented a phased in approach to ensure a safe recovery from COVID.  We only ask the same.

It is important to leverage whatever we can to create a strong foundation to opening a school year like no other.  I encourage you all to review the District 13 proposal and to share it far and wide with those who you feel would like to know more and/or support.    


Happy Summer Birthdays!!!
Matthew (19AUG); Rebecca F(21AUG); Doris (26AUG)

Introducing Nakita & Jean Necole. I would like to warmly welcome our newest staff members Nakita Van Biene (Earth Science Teacher) and Jean Necole Longmore (ICT Earth Science & AP Environmental) to UAI for the upcoming school year. Just as I have with all of you, I've asked both Nakita and Jean Necole to give me their pictures and bios so that we can all get to know each other a little bit better! If you have Nakita or Jean Necole on your planning teams, please reach out to them and give them a warm UAI welcome to your planning team! Phil has already set them up with UAI emails! Nakita: Jean Necole:

(Nakita & Jean Necole - all UAI staff bios and pics will be coming soon - so you'll be able to catch up with everyone too!)

Nakita VanBiene (pronouns: they/them/theirs) is excited to join the UAI community this year as an Earth Science teacher. They studied Geosciences at Williams College in Massachusetts before moving to New York City, where they assistant taught geometry. They then pursued their Masters in Teaching Earth Science at the American Museum of Natural History, where they were able to make many connections between Earth Science and New York City. This shaped how Nakita views education--they want their students to be able to look around and see science anywhere and everywhere. Nakita wants their students to see themselves as scientists, who can one day expand the field of science to include and celebrate more diverse voices and experiences.

Jean Necole Longmore.  I attended Cortland University where I received my Bachelor's Degree in Childhood Education. I later earned my Master's Degree for Students with Disabilities. I became a middle school teacher for 5 years where I taught Science and Mathematics. I am now eager and excited to be joining the UAI team!

Summer Departures. As we knew, Joanna & Amanda have moved on. During the first week of August, I received calls from both Nick and Giselle that they, too, were leaving UAI. Nick is transferring to the High School for Health Professions, and Giselle is transferring to Laguardia High School. We thank them for all of the work and commitment that they gave to our girls and our community while they were with us, and we wish them the best of luck in their future endeavors!

Updates from the Summer Restructuring Committee. The Summer Restructuring Committee has been working tirelessly to rethink our systems and structures that obstructed equity at UAI. Here are some updates from the committee. This summer, the Summer Restructuring Committee divided into three main subcommittees:

  • Programming: The goal of the Programming Subcommittee was to create a program that incorporates teacher voice, maximally mitigates COVID transmission, addresses the needs of ENL and SPED learners, and enhances the capacity for co-teachers to work effectively. Nadine, Laura, Doris, Rachel worked collaboratively with school leadership (Kiri & Annie) to gather feedback from staff (via union meetings, SLT meetings, phone calls, surveys, etc.) and build a program that achieves these goals. Ultimately, the work of the committee resulted in The 2020-2021 Schedule

  • Grading: The Grading Subcommittee (Cherry, Nina, Danielle R, Tiffany, Annie, & Kiri) has been working on revamping our current grading policy, and has met with Darnese Olivieri, Ruben Mina, and Marilyn Stotts from the DOE Office of Equity to create a policy that it is rooted in equity, is consistent and transparent, promotes student accountability, increases student motivation, and encourages teachers to increase both rigor and have high expectations for student success and growth. To do this, we have decided to implement some aspects of the Mastery Collaborative that call for ongoing formative assessment that lead to "clear, timely and actionable" feedback for students, and drive them toward mastery. We are in the process of developing a draft, and will share out with the staff for feedback. Additionally, we aim to get feedback from staff on the support needed to effectively and consistently implement the new grading policy.

  • Professional Development. The programming subcommittee (Damon, Phillan, Jen) enlisted the help of many of you to plan and deliver a week of professional development experiences aimed at preparing everyone for the upcoming school year. Please check out their flyer below:

Launching an Equity Team. At the end of the year last year, UAI engaged in much overdue and very challenging conversations around race and equity. To carry through that work and to not let it die, Rebecca has been working hard to put together a thoughtful and well-researched plan for launching our first Equity Team. I know she presented this to staff at the last union meeting, but so far only FOUR people have shown interest. It's summer, so know that has a lot to do with it, but we do need your voices at the table. Please take a moment to complete this BRIEF SURVEY

Preparing for Next Year. Finally, please Archive Your Google Classrooms from 2019-20. As we wind up the summer to prepare for next year, we will want to start fresh and create an organized Google Classroom Environment for our students and families. Please attend the PD session on Google Classroom and Zoom to learn more!

Sunday, August 2, 2020

Week of 03AUG20

UAI Staff Summer News

Volume VIII
Issue 3
August 3rd, 2020

Principal's Message

School Re-Opening and Your Value.  Almost daily, the press, social media, everyone is sharing their opinions about whether or not schools should open.  It should never be the case that we are pitting health and safety against learning and development, but here we are.  

We are all struggling with the tension between protecting our own (and our family's) health & safety and providing the quality instruction that our students deserve.  Again - an impossible dilemma - but here we are.

Throughout everything, please know that you are valued.  Whether blended with in-person work or working fully remotely, I know each of you will continue to bring your best efforts and creative thinking to providing our students with the learning they deserve.  For that I thank you, and I appreciate everything you do.

As we move forward in the planning processes for school re-opening, I know it will not be possible to find a solution that will perfectly satisfy everyone, but we will create systems and policies that represent our best efforts to educate, safeguard, and promote the intellectual, social-emotional, and physical well-being of our students and their families.  

Despite the external chaos, this fact is my beacon of hope for the upcoming school year.  We are a fantastic team of smart thinkers who are committed to social justice and equity for our young women.  When we all work together to bring our best, it is always our girls who win.  This will be a year unlike any other, but with our UAI team, I see a bright beam of wonderful possibilities shining through the cloud of COVID.


Happy Summer Birthdays!!!
Matthew (19AUG); Rebecca F(21AUG); Doris (26AUG)

Advisory Model Blended Learning Mock Up.
  Thank you to everyone who joined our first town hall to review your questions around the original blended learning mock up and the advisory model. The SRC (Summer Restructuring Committee) discussed your feedback and wanted a more official mock up.  We will be holding another town hall on 04AUG at 10:30 AM Please share any feedback, questions or concerns you have in  THIS SURVEY.   

School Re-Opening and the Last Chancellor Update. 
 Chancellor Carranza shared more information around school re-opening which you can watch here.  Here are some highlights:
  • What Triggers a School Closure?  Both the CDC and the DOE are strongly encouraging cohort (or pod) programming for schools.  As a result, here are the plans for when schools will close in case of a COVID infection:
    • 1 positive case in a class - If a person (staff or student) tests positive for COVID, that class (and any other person/class(es)) that the COVID positive person had close contact with will quarantine (staff and students) for 14 days and work in Remote Learning.  The rest of the school will remain open.  
    • 2 or more positive cases in 2 or more classes - The school will close for a 14 day quarantine, and all teaching and learning will happen remotely.
  • What About Testing? The DOE s asking all school community members who are participating in In-Person learning (staff and students) to take COVID tests at least 7 days prior to the start of school (which they still say is September - tho they are not saying which day in September, yet).  Additionally, they are encouraging staff and students to get tested every three weeks, and shared that DOE staff will have priority testing status for access and results.

Summer Restructuring Committee (SRC) Work.  The summer restructuring committee continues to meet and work on UAI school systems and structures for next year.  At any time, you can review notes and agendas HERE.
  • Building out an Equity Team.  Rebecca & I attended a workshop from the DOE Department of Equity around how to Launch Equity Teams.  We discussed the our learnings with the SRC, and Rebecca C. is putting together a proposal of how to construct the team - which voices should be on the team.  The next step is for the SRC to decide the who those voices should be.  If you have ideas or suggestions that you would like to include, please email Rebecca at!
  • Grading Subcommittee. The next meeting for the grading subcommittee will be facilitated by a member of the DOE Department of Equity who will help us do some root cause analysis around student performance, teacher expectations and equity.  The team is asking for teacher feedback in the survey below.  If you are interested to learn more, I've also attached the document that links to the team's research and data around UAI student performance.
  • Professional Development Subcommittee.  The PD Committee is working with teachers to plan a sequence of PD experiences aimed at preparing teachers for the upcoming school year.  Damon shared out a survey earlier.  If you can, please do reach out to the PD committee (Jen, Damon, Phillan, or Annie) with any suggestions or feedback!
    • Damon shared a PD survey (I don't have that link- sorry!)