District 19 Newsletter

April 2021

D19 Celebrates Read Aloud

Message from Superintendent

Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr.

won’t you celebrate with me


won't you celebrate with me

what i have shaped into

a kind of life? i had no model.

born in babylon

both nonwhite and woman

what did i see to be except myself?

i made it up

here on this bridge between

starshine and clay,

my one hand holding tight

my other hand; come celebrate

with me that everyday

something has tried to kill me

and has failed.

I love the month of April for a variety of reasons. It represents a time of full emergence and growth. It is also the time we celebrate Poetry Month. As a student, I was introduced to literature through poetry from the works of Langston Hughes, Nikki Giovanni, James Weldon Johnson, Gwendolyn Brooks, Robert Frost and Shakespeare. The poetry represented creative expression of personal truths, world and social commentary, and optimism of what can be. I recently stumbled upon an old favorite poem my AP English teacher Mrs. Pacheco, who stimulated my love for literature, shared was one of her personal testimonials that related to her experience as well. In the poem, ‘won’t you celebrate with me’ by Lucille Clifton, she addresses racism and inherent gender inequality. The speaker has overcome every hurdle and modeled herself in her own image.

Throughout this poem, the speaker explores her journey and the obstacles that were in her way to becoming her true self. She did not have anyone to model herself after, so instead focused on her own morals and personality. Her strength comes from her belief in herself, and she’s unwilling to relinquish that to anyone or anything. She’s her own person and is constantly aware that the world wants to take that away from her. She hangs onto it tightly, ensuring that if something tries to take it away from her, it will fail.

The poem begins with a call to action, ‘won’t you celebrate with me’ much like the call to action we are hearing today. Clifton's exploration of themes of identity and self resonates with the struggle many of us face, and what we are experiencing trying to exist and just be during this time. Despite the circumstances and challenges of being black and a woman, her belief in herself allows her the freedom to stand up for her morals and beat off any attempt to undermine her self-confidence and identity. This is what we strive to embed in our scholars every day, the undeniable belief that they are brilliant, strong, and capable to achieve anything they set their minds to. We celebrate them for their resiliency, ingenuity, perseverance, and individuality that gives them the same freedom to explore and cultivate their uniqueness.

The final lines of ‘won’t you celebrate with me’ flow quickly and smoothly. They ask that the readers, or a specific listener, come and celebrate with her. The world has tried to “kill” her and has failed. It has tried to rule out and damage her identity (consider the use of a word like “nonwhite”), and she’s not allowed that to happen. The poem ends suddenly with a period after the word “failed.” This suggests that never will there be a time when she doesn’t keep the upper hand over the “somethings” trying to kill her. It’s that same unconquerable spirit that we celebrate in us all that no matter what attempts to keep us from rising, it will not succeed. We take the time this month to celebrate with everyone who has overcome any obstacle while standing strong and confident in who they are, knowing that they will get the victory in the end.

Message from Deputy Superintendent

Dr. Tamra S. Collins

There is something about a good book that ignites all kinds of emotions. Some books make you cry, some make you laugh, others make you angry or scared, and some calm and reflective. Growing up that book for me was Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry by Mildred D. Taylor. In honor of our District 19 Read Aloud Day, I would like to share an excerpt from one of my favorite books:

“There are things you can't back down on, things you gotta take a stand on. But it's up to you to decide what them things are. You have to demand respect in this world, ain't nobody just gonna hand it to you. How you carry yourself, what you stand for--that's how you gain respect. But, little one, ain't nobody's respect worth more than your own.” - Mildred D. Taylor, Roll of Thunder, Hear My Cry

This book was set in Mississippi at the height of the Depression about a young girl and her family’s fight to keep their land amidst racism and social injustice. It was such a powerful book because I saw myself in Cassie, a 9-year-old girl who was learning about self-respect and dignity. I felt her pain and her pride as I read her story. Through Cassie’s eyes, I got a glimpse of the everyday racism that permeated our country’s past. I am not sure I knew the words or definitions, but I was aware of the subtle instances of discrimination, bias, and prejudices that I was experiencing. I saw Cassie’s growth from not really understanding to social consciousness that was similar to my own journey.

This book spoke to me. It taught me about having the strength to fight in the face of adversity, the power of family, and the impact that race had on my own life. It also set the stage for my passion of empowering young girls to use their voice for social change, to be confident and know that they are strong and beautiful. – Self Respect.

“Roll of thunder hear my cry   Over the water bye and bye   Ole man comin’ down the line   Whip in hand to beat me down But I ain’t gonna let him Turn me ’round”

District 19 MBK

April Convening

District 19’s MBK Clan held their Convening on Friday, April 30th. The theme for the month was “What’s Your Plan? Where’s Your Destination?”, which is a continuation of our yearlong work around “Strategic Advocacy”. Our young men learned how to formulate a plan by starting with the end goal in mind and working backwards to identify the important steps along the way, which is a process that not only will help them in completing their projects, but also in life. Our mentees used a planning tool to help guide their thinking while they created music beats and mapped out their morning routines. Mentees even used the planning tool to map out how the Black Panther Party created their Ten Point Plan.

MBK groups were then tasked with using the planning template to create a “Shark Tank” style elevator pitch to a panel of D19 “Sharks”, to convince them to invest in their Strategic Advocacy projects.

The month of April also saw the launch of our “MBK Junior Fellows” program which is a collaboration with Brooklyn North High Schools, where high school students provide mentorship to a select group of 8th grade mentees.

The month of May will continue to be exciting for our mentees as they will begin working on our “Hidden Gems” documentary as well as beginning to finalize their Strategic Advocacy projects.

District 19 GEM

April Convening

On Friday, April 30th, GEM had an amazing event to celebrate college and career readiness with all over 150 District 19 GEM girls participating in GEM College Day. The event was kicked off by keynote speaker Dr. Yvette Morgan who encouraged our girls to start the process now, research scholarships, spend time researching careers and what schools offer topics they would like to study.

The college workshop day was broken into sessions:

Real Talk Panel: How to Achieve Your Dreams

The panel shared their college experience and how college helped prepared them for their current careers. The panelists encouraged our girls to visit schools of interest and consider campus life as well as the academic programs when deciding on a school.

The Experience: College Info/Tour

The girls signed up for a variety of workshops including virtual college tours of Medgar Evers, University of Albany, University of Minnesota, North Carolina AMT, Syracuse University and Rensselaer Polytech Institute. The girls participated in a virtual tour of each school where they were able to ask questions directly to the college admissions advisor about scholars.

The Scoop: Life as a College Student

A panel of three current college students were able to answer questions about what college life is like in a pandemic world, as well as, how they made their decisions to attend college and what opportunities college has provided for them. Their message to our GEM girls was “Just do it and do everything,” “You can do it," and “You will do it.”

The day concluded with final reflections from our girls who shared what they learned on this college exposure journey. Some of their reflections were captured in the Nearpod below.

Friday, April 30th, was Read Aloud/Poem In Your Pocket Day in District 19! It was heartwarming to see the many school-based events that took place over social media, #D19ReadAloudDay. Our staff and scholars shared their favorite poems or short stories, including original pieces written specially for this day. We are Bringing Our World Together by expressing ourselves through reading. Please take some time to view the mixtape below of some of our staff/student Read Alouds from that day. These are just a few of the more than 100 submitted! It is sure to fill your cup! Shout out to our Read Aloud Committee Members, Teacher Leaders Jessica Brown (013), Sherly Cadet (292), Jessie Fields (325), Maria Tsamis (346), Alica Martin (557) and Michelle Allia (760) for organizing this event! They were diligent in compiling resources, sharing ideas, promoting the event, and getting schools involved!

On April 27th, the Principals Conference focused on “Getting Back to Why: What is my priority/focus?”. The meeting kicked off with a mindfulness moment and the ice breaker, offering everyone a chance to engage in wellness and connection.

Dr. McBryde then shared the overall District 19 NWEA data. The Districtwide data which was shared focused on a comparison from the Fall and Winter, both for ELA and Math.

Dr. McBryde engaged principals in an empathy conversation to support issues and concerns centered around the current school year. Principal Avery shared a beautiful, original poem with everyone, which opened the floor for others to share as well.

Principals then had a review of leadership practices to support Wit & Wisdom implementation, led by our Great Minds Consultant Ashley Cook. A quick refresher allowed the principals to think and plan for next year, as we close out Year 2 of implementation and move into Year 3. Principals reflected on how they can use the resources provided to move instructional practice as it aligns to the curriculum’s best practices for teachers and students.

We reexamined MPPR domain 4 which focuses on community, specifically identifying corresponding practices and documentation to demonstrate how leaders partner with and engage the community.

Principals spent the afternoon in their Professional Learning Communities focused on shared Problems of Practice.

This month’s AP Conference kicked off with a Moment of Mindfulness led by LaToya Stone. This gave us all a moment to pause and engage our bodies in tai chi movements to relax and bring our whole selves into today's conference. Dr. Collins then opened the stage for an Empathy Conversation. APs were able to reflect on the school year's successes and challenges, new learnings to inform next school year, the political and social justice climate, and what they are doing to prioritize self-care and "filling their cup". So many voices were heard and affirmed across our D19 AP community during this powerful and impactful conversation.

In connection to our work on Emotional Intelligence, we shared in a Padlet and gave voice to our personal journeys in the work this year. APs were able to name and make connections to how they used components of emotional intelligent leadership to inform decision-making to bridge the gap between academics and SEL. They shared how they flexed their EI Leadership muscles, how it will help them approach the "unknown" school year ahead, and what leadership moves they will make to support this work.

Shout out to AP Jennifer Rygalski (19K662) who presented on Liberty Avenue Middle School's Priority Instructional Focus. She walked us through how the school's leadership team bucketed the instructional focus into clear, detailed and tangible components that provided the staff and students with clarity and input into school improvement. Aspects of the presentation that resonated with APs were using student voice as a driving force to make adjustments and inform progress, communicating clearly to teachers what the look-fors are and aren't by providing continual year-long coaching, and leveraging outside partners and resources that support and align to the school's goals on CRS-E.

Before closing out, APs joined their Consultancy Protocol groups to engage in one last round of the protocol. We are looking forward to each group's presentations on the trends, patterns, and findings, as well as how it changed the group's thinking throughout the process of the three dilemmas explored from the past three months!

This month, Math Teacher Leaders kicked off their inter-visitation to support our Year 2 focus on Eureka Math implementation and lesson customizations. SHOUT OUT to Ms. Ines Ellis (19K089), Ms. Jennifer Persaud (19K108), and Ms. Christina Richards (19K158) for hosting our first round! TLs used a modified Coaching Co-Op protocol to engage in a pre-observation centered on naming Problems of Practice as it relates to lesson customization and curriculum implementation, an observation, and a post-observation focused on Praises and Pushes, grounded in our year-long focus. TLs were also able to analyze the coaching actions/moves needed to engage the teacher observed in a coaching conversation by drafting questions that could be used to support growth in instructional practice. We look forward to another round of inter-visitations next month!

This month, ELA Teacher Leaders engaged in two presentations: one from the Read Aloud Day Committee and one from WE Charity. TLs were able to get ideas and inspiration for how to host school-based Read Aloud Day events in connection to our district-wide asynchronous activities and offerings, which included pre-recorded Read Alouds from published authors, a variety of online resources, and our Flipgrid of student/staff Read Alouds. TLs then engaged in the WE Charity Grants training on Trauma-Informed Practices, which they were able to connect back to our October focus on Self-Care, namely creating plans and having readily accessible resources for staff and students who may be in need. TLs shared that this was timely as they think about how to reorient students, many of whom returned to in-person classrooms for the first time in over a year, last week. TLs shared their interest in the Social-Emotional First Aid Kit that was presented and how some TLs have already used this activity in their school communities with much success. We continue to prioritize SEL and Wellness in D19 district-wide!

Throughout the month many principals and assistant principals engaged in the Wit & Wisdom Virtual Guided Observations for Leaders. During this professional learning opportunity, we focused on developing and strengthening the skillset for coaching and supporting improved implementation of Wit & Wisdom.

We had an opportunity to work in school groups, virtually visiting 3-4 classrooms at one of our schools. Shout out to 19K065, 19K345, and 19K654 for virtually opening your schools for us to observe instruction and learn from!

At the visits we:

· Used Wit & Wisdom classroom observation tools to strengthen implementation.

· Analyzed elements of effective Wit & Wisdom instruction.

· Built skill with evidence-based observation, coaching, and feedback of Wit & Wisdom instruction.

More sessions coming soon!

D19 How Stressed are You?

Perceived Stress

The D19 Guidance Counselors have been hard at work reviewing the Perceived Stress Scale data and ensuring that students who fall in each of the three tiers: low perceived stress, moderate perceived stress and high perceived stress, receive the support needed. School communities have developed tiered intervention plans to ensure that all student needs are addressed. This quantitative data provides an additional resource to identify students who may be at risk. Guidance Counselors are also providing qualitative updates about their Social Emotional Wellness programs monthly to create well-rounded pictures of each school’s SEL impact on student emotional wellness.

Trauma Informed Practice

Over 300 district staff members have already participated in the Trauma Informed Practice workshops geared to provide resources and activities that schools and classes can engage in. As we prepare for our students' return to the classroom during this challenging time, Guidance Counselors are ensuring that 25% of each school staff participates in Trauma Informed Practices professional development provided as a result of the district being awarded the WE Charity Grant. The D19 Resiliency Project: Emotional First Aid Kits is our district-wide project to provide all students with at least one trauma informed practice to assist them in managing their own emotions. Each child in the district will have created their own kit. This practice has not been limited to students. School staff and parents have also created Emotional First Aid Kits to aid in managing their emotions as well. Creating emotional wellness for students starts with ensuring the adults around them can manage and model managing their emotions. The projects will be highlighted at the district's Arts Showcase.

Wellness Spotlight - PS 13K

Our school facilitates Wellness Wednesdays for teachers and parents surrounding mindfulness. We also had a guest speaker Tatum Munerva who facilitated a Wellness Workshop for our K-2 students which focused on Healthy Eating. Our April workshop was hosted by Chef Millie who provided cooking lessons.


P.S. 273K

I began reading at a very young age. When the kids in my neighborhood were outside playing, I was on my porch reading. Reading gave me comfort. It took me places that I could not afford to go. Pippi Longstocking and Beverly Cleary were my favorites in elementary school. The book that changed me, was “Beloved” by Toni Morrison. It took me on an emotional ride that I never recovered from. I wanted to know so much about who I was and what fabric I was from, after reading that book. I began to read books about history and biographies about African Americans. I am proud of my people, my culture, and will do anything I can to help them succeed. I believe we must know our fabric in order to know our worth and capabilities. Books hold all of the information you seek. I love books! I love reading!

To my fellow principals: reading is one of those priorities that can never be ignored. Build incentives and time in your school day where everyone including the adults can enjoy a little reading time. Having opportunities for discussion around literature will surely pay off big.


Mr. Thomas (013), Ms. Latorre (065), Ms. Collins (213), Ms. Williamson (218), Ms. Frank (224), Mr. Pierre (224), Dr. Fowler (325), Dr. Vafiadi (346), Ms. Green (452), Ms. Greene (557), Mr. Campbell (654), Ms. Rygalski (662), Ms. Dominique (678), Ms. Anderson (760), Ms. Jeanjacques (907)

This month we want to highlight and celebrate the Assistant Principal Think Tank! They are a group of enthusiastic and committed Assistant Principals who come together every other week to apply all we have learned thus far this year around student engagement and intellectual safety, coupled with new learnings and discussion. The ultimate outcome is to develop a District 19 Framework that integrates SEL and Academics to promote academic excellence that can be shared and implemented across the district. Assistant Principals have worked together to form a common definition of student engagement, creating a common understanding of what it looks like and sounds like. They have discussed how intellectual safety shows up in their schools and classes, and what it looks like to be in that space. Currently, Assistant Principals are developing a rubric as part of the Framework, focusing on the goals, indicators and descriptors for Classroom Environment, Self/Focus, and Instruction.

To quote one of our AP’s, “these sessions have been so rich and thoughtful!”


The Fresh Creek School

I am only as great as my team. Thank you Principal Goodson for your guidance and leadership. Thank You Dr. Fowler for your innovations, Mrs. Fields for creative and fast forward thinking ideas and of course, my partner Ms. Vargas. It is because of you I am following my dream of becoming an educator. I believe all children can learn. As a parent coordinator, I have learned how important my title is in our school community, building strong and long-lasting relationships with my school community. I can look at my families with a smile, reassuring them that I will do my very best to support them during these difficult times.

Being a parent coordinator and working with the school community together to encourage families to nurture the dreams and aspirations of their children, we are able to provide examples of ways families can support the positive spirit of a child at home.

There are times when I am working in places where life is extremely difficult for my spirit, places where it seems there is no opportunity to experience the joy of hope at all. But like children, I will always find a way. We crave hope, we want hope, and we need hope to thrive. Hope is where the heart is.

The advice I would share with my fellow Parent Coordinators would be the following: be that ray of hope, use words or phrases of value or encouragement, like "it is good to see you today,” or “you put a smile on my face.” Let us nurture families with appreciation. Let’s get them using our words of kindness as a daily affirmation of how much they are loved and valued. Every family deserves the chance to dream big. We can practice this with families by starting with the children. Thinking positive is only half the battle, but having our families speak and act out those positive words of kindness is the other half. Be Transparent, Be Clear and Be Kind my fellow parent coordinators, because every family deserves the chance to Dream Big.


Brooklyn Gardens Elementary School

As I reflected on a poem that has impacted my life, I immediately thought of the poem, “What Teachers Make” by Taylor Mali. In this poem, the poet speaks about the differences teachers make in the lives of so many people. Despite what teachers make financially, what counts is all their time, dedication, and the differences that they make in the process. As young children, we are taught how to read and write. As our education continues, we learn a wealth of knowledge from dedicated teachers. If it weren’t for our teachers, where would we be?

Being an educator at this time has been challenging. If this pandemic has done nothing else, it has glaringly shown the disparities that our students face and have been dealing with for years. But as teachers at Brooklyn Gardens Elementary School, we always rise to the occasion to ensure that our students have positive learning experiences. I have had the opportunity to work as a teacher leader these past two years and to say that this work is rewarding is saying the least. As a teacher leader, I work collaboratively with our teachers daily to ensure rigorous instruction is being provided, students’ needs are addressed, filling in any learning gaps, and meeting their social-emotional needs. I take great pride in working collaboratively with my school leaders to develop action plans, coach my peers, mentor cycles, and provide professional learning opportunities. I also commit to being a lifelong learner. Teachers know that there is always something new to learn in this profession. There is a difference between not knowing and not knowing yet, so go ahead and continue to learn and teach!

"A teacher affects eternity; he [or she] can never tell where his influence stops." - Henry B. Adams

“Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world.” – Nelson Mandela

Books increase our knowledge and improve our intellect. They reveal different concepts and introduce numerous shades of cultures in the world. Reading takes you on many adventures, strengthens the brain, explores the past, increases vocabulary, increases empathy, reduces stress, and aids in helping you sleep. There’s nothing like that good book before bedtime that relaxes you enough to get a good night’s rest. As the Instructional Lead/Coach of Brooklyn Gardens Elementary School, I enjoy working with my colleagues to identify their strengths and abilities to impact our students’ growth in literacy. Reading opens our minds to new possibilities and new ideas that help us experience and analyze the world. During this challenging time, we must focus on keeping students engaged and develop their love for reading. One of my favorite picture books, “I’m Gonna Push Through!” by Jasmyn Wright, talks about when things feel too hard, don’t feel defeated, push through. So, push through the obstacles that we face every day, whether in a pandemic or injustice. Our students need us. Whenever it’s too hard, just say, “I’m Gonna Push Through!” Push through to educate our children to be the change we need to see in this world.

D19 Community wellness check-in

"In the long run, the sharpest weapon of all is a kind and gentle spirit." - Anne Frank

Our April Community Wellness Check-In, facilitated by Ms. Victoria Edwards, started with a Unity Video, "in a world where you can be anything, be kind." Former D19 educator Mr. Curtis Smith led our community in a moment of mindfulness to kick the check-in off. Superintendent Dr. McBryde addressed the community followed by Ms. Yasmin Potts-Thomas, School Mental Health Counselor, who was back to engage our community in a Mental Health Conversation guided by questions that parents had about navigating the pandemic at home and at school with their children and family members. The conversation was guided by the quote, "A person without self expression is a person without freedom." - Robin Sharma

Before wrapping up the event, there was a Parent Raffle based on the Brooklyn Basics. The first parent to identify the program based on the symbols shared and the first parent to name one of the Basics' principles won a wellness bag full of D19 Brooklyn Basics' branded self-care products! We look forward to seeing everyone at our May Check-In on 05/26!

Community School District 19's Brooklyn Basics Relaunch on Wednesday, April 14 was a success! Over 100 attendees were present and learned about the history of the Basics, founded by Dr. Ronald Ferguson. The relaunch was interactive and comprised of breakout rooms for school presentations, a live virtual poll, parent and child videos, and presentations from D19 Brooklyn Basics' stakeholders.

Litlife is collaborating with the district to provide upcoming workshops for parents and teachers on the Basics' principles Maximize Love/Manage Stress, and Read and Discuss Stories.

For more information about D19 Brooklyn Basics, visit District 19 Website - Brooklyn Basics or follow us on Instagram @D19brooklynbasics.

Upcoming Dates

5/4 - CEC Meeting

5/13 - Eid Al-Fitr (Schools Closed)

5/20 - DLT Meeting

5/26 - Community Wellness Check-In

5/28 - MBK/GEM Convenings

5/31 - Memorial Day (Schools Closed)