District 16 Community Education Council: Town Hall

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District 16 Community Education Council hosted its first Town Hall meeting with NYC Chancellor Carmen Farina on September 14th at M.S. 267, which drew approximately 250 people.

To access the auditorium, town passed through table displays of various community organizations ready to partner with interested schools: The Sankofa Global Project, Kings of New York Marching Band, Digital Girl, Not Just Hoops and Foot Soldiers among several others.

Once the meeting began, Farina shared her initiatives for the year. She discussed the need to rebrand schools by inviting the community, including local businesses to see schools’ stellar programs and feel their positive energy. She also provided several strategies for increasing enrollment by suggesting schools provide brochures and administrative presence at the Welcome Center and consider implementing a Korean World Culture Program. The chancellor will guarantee residence eligibility for any Korean child interested in enrolling. She also emphasized the need for schools to focus on striving to be the best: best student, teacher and principal. Breaking down walls between superintendents is another Farina priority by encouraging collaboration among schools. She promoted sharing resources such as Advanced Placement courses or adopting successful programs from other districts, providing Thomas Edison’s drone program as an example. One final initiative is developing the teachers that schools will need in the future to avoid teacher shortages.

At 6:55pm, Farina opened the floor for the reading of the pre-written questions by Superintendent Rahesha Amon-Harrison. Individuals either submitted their questions online or wrote them on an index card upon arrival. The chancellor provided her actions, perspective, advice or plans concerning the topics below.

Homelessness: In many cases, families are merely doubling up, but for children in shelters we are providing busing services, guidance counselors, libraries and homework help. We are partnering with CBOs who demonstrate excellence and meeting needs of this population.

Creation of selective programs: “Find me a high school and we’ll find a program”, but keep in mind our Advanced Placement course initiative which increased by 50% and achieved the same goal since AP-certified teachers provide more rigorous courses.

High school co-location in elementary schools: This occurred before I was chancellor but is not the wave of the future.

Plans for increasing after-school funding: The larger the student population, the larger the budget. However, principals should look to exercising more creativity by partnering with other schools with after-school programs and working together to share resources.

Plans to prepare District 16 students with 21st century skills: Our Summer in the City programs show we’re already doing that. We also had programs for parents, but we need a critical mass of parents to attend. We even have schools where students are learning coding in the first grade.

Single-sex literacy programs: Several schools are experimenting with the idea. We have mother-daughter and father-son book clubs, but skills of the 21st century entail getting along with others, conflict resolution and the ability to read.

Roadmap for this district’s success: That is the responsibility of the CEC. By giving you Superintendent Rahesha Amon-Harrison, I have given you the best.

School closures: We will have closures but they will be done in collaboration with the district and parents. If a school is “too small to succeed or has too much history to turn around”, we will have no choice but to close. Schools need 300-350 students to have enough funds for needed resources.

Metrics for measuring the success of the Gifted and Talented programs (G&T): The director of the G & T programs visited programs throughout the city and returned to the office with glowing reports for District 16’s G & T programs to the extent that she recommends others to visit. Students weren’t quietly sitting, they were interacting. If you have kids who are quiet, you’re not preparing them for the 21st century.

Facilitating District 16 “copying” what charters are doing: The copying should go both ways.

When charter school administrators observe teachers, they critique well and provide specific strategies to improve performance.

On students graduating high school but not staying in college: KIPP has initiated a program where they bring back high school graduates for two nights a week and where they share their experiences and receive support.

How do we talk about college? From the womb. The more you talk about it, the more likely it becomes a reality.

Additional comments by the Chancellor: We have to start thinking about our schools creatively to address the needs of our students. For example, many college-bound students cannot afford to purchase the supplies needed at away schools, so we had a pop-up shower for sheets, towels and all the other supplies freshmen need. To fill seats, one school will begin a Korean program and will outreach to the Korean community to publicize the program.

Funding for high-needs students: First, you have to reexamine how you identify high-needs students and design wider use of integrated co-teaching (ICT) learning. ICT students perform better than self-contained students.

Providing help to raise millions like established PTAs in wealthier districts: The best way to increase funding for special funding is through partnerships. Become partners and sister schools with wealthier districts. If a 100% Title One school teams up with a 100% non-Title One school, the odds increase that the proposal will be approved.

The next segment congratulated teacher Charise Richardson for twenty-nine years of sustained enthusiasm, fight and love for students and parents, and Benjamin Lemons for his work and rapport with students and raising students’ reading levels.

Board member Marta Torres won an award for serving the board the longest—ten years.

A student bestowed a bouquet of flowers to Chancellor Farina, and the superintendent ended the meeting with a display of the newly launched District 16 Web site.

The Town Hall meeting was well-received by everyone in attendance, and the community departed the auditorium content that the district is moving in the right direction.