Monday, October 11, 2021

Week of October 11th

UAI Staff News

Volume IX
Issue 7
October 12th, 2021

Principal Message

A Time for Healing.  Today is a hard post to write.  It's difficult for me to know where to begin.  But, I do know is that in any moment of upheaval, I turn to our north star - and that is our students.

At the root of everything we do is our students.  Their safety, their well-being, and their sense of trust in us to protect them and help them grow.

Last week, one of our teachers told her students that she is a racist and shared her biases with her students.  Regardless of well-placed intentions, in sharing with her class her own biases and thoughts about her own racism, this teacher failed to consider the impact of her actions on the safety, mental health and well-being of her students.  

She failed to prioritize their safety and well-being.

Students were hearing that their teacher, who they trusted and loved, was telling them that she was a racist.  As victims of racism in their own personal experiences, they no longer heard the words that followed.  They only felt the crushing weight of racism breaking the trust and safety of their school.  

As a result, this teacher irrevocably failed her responsibility to secure the safety and well-being of the children put in her charge.  When anyone does that in our community, they can no longer be a part of our community. 

This teacher understands this and has left UAI to allow our community to come together to begin the process of healing.

Because of my own family issues, I was pulled away from the school last week.  My mother is rapidly declining, and family conflict among my siblings and next steps for her required my immediate attention this week.

In the interim, Annie and Jen led our school community through an very challenging crisis.  I thank Annie and Jen for all of their work to lead our school through an incredibly complex and difficult series of events.  I also thank all of the staff who stepped into to support and help our students process what had happened.  The community bonds we share will be the strength we'll need to rely on to move forward to repair and heal.

The impact of what happened in this class has far reaching effects throughout our entire community.  Our students, families, and staff have all felt the impact of these events and all of us need to come together to address the root causes and reconnect and heal in an effort to make sure our school is stronger, and to make sure that our students, staff, and family, do not experience this again.

What is going to happen is still in development as I am just coming back into the situation and need some time to take stock and evaluate all of the details.  The priorities will be:

  1. Student Support and Safety.  Annie & Jen have worked with several teachers (apologies - I don't know who all they tapped, yet - so I don't want to leave out any names - but I am appreciative!) to speak directly and begin processing the events with those students directly impacted.  Annie & Jen have also begun working with the rest of the students who have heard or been otherwise impacted by the events of last week.  Moving forward, Annie, Jen, and I will continue working alongside teachers, counselors, and deans to use restorative practices like circles to support students in processing their experiences.

  2. Student Voice.  We need to have an organized, supported mechanism to actively empower students in our school.  I am creating three separate student councils to work with UAI school leadership and a teacher-coach (see posting below) on school policies, culture, and other areas to secure equity in our community.  (See the To Do Area below)

  3. Staff Voice, Safety, and Well Being.  In addition to student harm, I also know that staff are also feeling ill at ease and unsafe (for a wide range of reasons) at UAI as the result of this last week.  I will be working with Nakita and the Circles committee to collaboratively create mechanisms for staff to process experiences, and then we will also be having our first Consultation Committee on Tuesday to raise issues and ideas about what we need to do as a community to heal and move forward.

  4. Family Support and Safety.  Later today, I will send out a message to families to share with the community what has happened.  The first goal is to stem the tide of rumor and provide them with clear information.  Next, I will hold an open Town Hall for families to voice their concerns and questions.  Families are always actively welcome and encouraged to join in our PTA and committees like the Equity Team, and we will listen to families via their communications and participation in the Town Hall to add in more next steps where needed.  

In addition, I am available for anyone who would like more individualized support, and I will be connecting with the teacher herself this week to first, see how she's doing & what I can do to support her own transition out of UAI, and then second, make sure that our students have a seamless transition for their learning.

Every step of our journey towards healing from the broken trust and loss of safety will be hard.  Now more than ever, all of us need to be a part of a collective healing and resolution.  It will probably not be perfect, because rarely is anything actually perfect, but working together, we can make it through.

Committee Updates

Committees are Staffed!  We are still working on staffing committees.  Postings close tomorrow - committees will be announced in next week's blog.  There's still time to apply!

  • Equity Team
    Lead:  Rebecca
    Applied:  Sarah M, Phillan, Laura, Elana, Olympia (staffed to Circles)
    Staffed:   Sarah M, Phillan, Laura, and Elana
  • Instructional Leadership Team
    Leads:  Kiri
    Nina, Nakita, Phillan, Rachel, and Kelly
    Staffed:   Nina, Nakita, Phillan, Rachel, and Kelly

  • Circles Committee
    Lead:  Nakita
    Applied: Juelle, Jennifer, Olympia, Jean, Kristina
    Staffed:  Juelle, Jennifer, Olympia, Jean, Kristina

  • School Culture Committee:  
    Lead:  Jen
    Applied:  Kelly, Kristina, Elana, Cherry, Phillan, Elena, Laura
    StaffedWe are recruiting 1 staff person from each grade-team for this role (so that we have a person on each grade team to streamline communication).
    • Phillan 6th Grade Rep
    • Laura 7th Grade Grade Rep
    • Kristina 8th Grade Rep
    • Elana 9th Grade Rep
    • Jessa 10th Grade Rep
    • Cherry 11th Grade Rep
    • Kelly 12th Grade Rep

First Consultation Committee Meeting.  The Consultation Committee will be fulfilling the role of the SRC this year.  This meeting is open to all who are interested in attending.  It will follow the UFT/DC37 meeting each month, and the agenda will be collaboratively driven by union and school leadership.

  • Learning Labs:  What needs to change to make them more effective?
  • Class Size:  Can we rebalance class sizes?
  • School Facilities:  Who do we get desks from?
  • Grading Policy PD:  How do we support teachers to implement grading policy?
  • Attendance Updates:  How do we support students to come to school?
  • Race, Equity, and Inclusion at UAI:  What are our next steps to continuing our work?

We will meet in room 403 at 3PM.  We'll start promptly at 3PM. The meeting is open to all who are interested in joining!  Kiri will facilitate this first meeting, with Annie taking notes and Jen keeping time.  We'll set meeting date, and meeting roles for next meeting at the end of this first one, and that will be our ongoing cycle.

To Do This Week

Please review your responsibilities as a Mandated Reporter. As school officials, we are all mandated reporters.  Please take the time to review expectations around Mandated Reporting.  After you have reviewed this slide deck, please sign off to indicate that you completed the requirement. 

Metrocards.  We have ordered replacement Metrocards to accommodate our students in need. Once we receive them we ask that you help us keep to our new policy for distribution.  Metrocards will be distributed on Tuesdays and Thursdays ONLY in the main office.  Please! If/When a student tells you they are in need of a Metrocard send the name of that student and respective advisory information to Ms. Aisha and Dai as a heads up. It would be incredibly helpful. 

Attendance.  I've put together our first monthly attendance report.  Please review your advisee's attendance rates.  For any student who is not meeting the goal of having 90% or better average daily attendance, please prioritize them for outreach.

Advisory Leadership Council.  I am launching three student leadership opportunities to join my PAG, my principal advisory group.  The goal of this advisory group is to get student input and insight into the continual improvement and growth of UAI, and in identifying student-articulated needs to improve UAI for all.

This is not a formal election or students government.  We will move to create a formal structure for that.  This is an advisory council that will advise the principal on school wide decisions.

I am looking for 1 student from each advisory to meet with me weekly during their learning lab time (1st period for juniors and seniors, 3rd for 8th-10th graders, and 4th for 6th/7th graders).  We will meet weekly on Fridays to:
  • Raise up student concerns (as sourced from the advisories they represent)
  • Co-construct solutions/strategies to address concerns
  • Create Communications to share with their constituencies (aka advisories)
In advisory this week, please let students know that
  • Ms. Kiri is looking for students representatives to join her PAG (principal advisory group)
  • These are student leadership positions aimed at elevating student voice and engagement in our school.
  • Each advisory chooses 1 representative to join me and to discuss student identified areas of improvement for UAI and to share out with students developments and work at UAI aimed at school improvement and our anti-racist progression towards full inclusion.
    • There will be three PAGs that meet each Friday during Learning Lab
In advisory this week, also please encourage students to
  • Become a representative for their advisory (if interested).  Please encourage students into leadership positions for their own growth and development!
  • Support your students to identify collaboratively what qualities they want in a student who is representing them and their voice.  
  • Identify a time in your advisory class to have the representative report back or collect feedback from the advisory.
By the end of this week, please email me the name of your advisory's student rep to my PAG

Per Session Postings

  • PAG Teacher Coach.  Work for 1 hour a week to plan PAG meetings and student supports with Kiri.  Teacher will receive per diem coverage to join in meetings with student PAG.  Posting closes 26OCT21


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