First Day of School, 2016

First Day of School, 2016

It’s a big first-day-of-school in our office!

Our chief-of-staff Rachel Goodman’s son Max is starting his first day of Pre-K.

Our education liaison Vicki Sell’s daughter is starting middle school.

My daughter Rosa is starting 8th grade, and my son Marek is starting his senior year in high school.

Pretty emotional, all around. So you can be sure my team and I have both a deep appreciation for the New York City public school system – and many of the same same anxieties that all parents feel.

We’re buoyed by the bright promise of the new school year – new friends, new ideas, new discoveries – and also (though we try to hide it) a little anxious about what challenges and fears they’ll face.  

The school system itself is full of bright promise and big challenges too. We’re making some real progress (check out this great piece in The Atlantic that calls out what a big deal NYC’s universal Pre-K effort really is). But we’ve got a long way to go toward our vision of providing a great education to every kid in the city.

As our kids head to their first day, we’re looking forward to another year working with so many of you – and the tireless principals, teachers, staff, students, and parent leaders – who put in so much time to make our schools strong.

Here’s some of what we’ll be working on this year:

More diverse schools:

Over the past three years, we’ve joined with a coalition of advocates confronting school segregation and pushing for meaningful change. Since we launched the effort, we’ve seen growing momentum, and some good first steps.

As the doors open today, PS 133, the Brooklyn New School, the Brooklyn Children’s School, and PS 130 are more integrated, thanks to changes we’ve pushed. More schools are considering similar policies. Parent leaders in Districts 1, 3, and 13 are pushing for district-wide options, and I’ve called for changes in District 15’s middle-school assignment system as well.

We have not yet seen systemic action, or a real, citywide plan from the DOE or City Hall – but both Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Farina have promised more action in the coming months.

Over the summer, with integration advocates from around the city, we released a public letter outlining a comprehensive, concrete set of recommendations that NYC DOE should take to make real progress toward more diverse schools.  

The next report under the “School Diversity Accountability Act” (which I sponsored along with Council Member Ritchie Torres) is due on November 1st. With continued effort, I believe we can see some real progress by then. 

More school seats: 

We will continue our consistent push to get more schools built and more seats for students – to make sure our growing neighborhoods have fewer overcrowded classrooms and wait-lists.

Since I started in office, the NYC School Construction Authority has brought over 2,000 new seats online in my district (PS 133, PS 118, PS 130 Upper Schools/MS 839, the new Pre-K center at Bishop Ford, and today new Pre-K classrooms for PS 58). We have commitments to build another 430 seats at PS 32, and a new Pre-K center on 9th Street.

We’re constantly looking for creative ways to expand the number of seats available. That’s why school overcrowding is one of the most important issues we’re discussing through the Bridging Gowanus community planning process. You can give your priorities for Gowanus and weigh in on this recommendation and others in the Bridging Gowanus survey – the survey is up until September 15.

Another year of great relationships with PTAs and Parents:

Our fantastic PTAs and highly engaged parent communities are a big part of what make our schools work so well. We’re always looking for new ways to connect with parents and to discuss needs in your child’s school, and how they can be filled.

One great way do that – Participatory Budgeting (PBNYC) – is kicking off its 6th year in our district this fall.  Through PBNYC we’ve collectively funded a wide range of projects at our local schools.

Just last year alone you voted to retrofit auditorium lights at PS 282, bring 3 new mobile laptop cars to West Brooklyn Community High School, and improve translation with new equipment at PS 130, 131, 179, 230, and MS 839.

If you’ve got an idea for how to improve your school, and/or want to talk about other issues related to education, come to our special education-focused PBNYC assembly:

PBNYC Assembly at Carroll Gardens Library

(Focus on Arts and Education)

Monday, September 19th

6:30 p.m.

396 Clinton St. (near Union St.), Brooklyn, NY

RSVP here.

As we try to hide our jitters and take pride in the big steps our own kids are taking, Rachel, Vicki and I wish good luck to all the parents, teachers, staff, crossing guards, custodians, cafeteria workers, and of course students on another fantastic school year!

-Brad

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