District 19 Newsletter

December 2020

Message from Superintendent

Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr.

“When the power of love overcomes the love of power, the world will know peace.” - Jimi Hendrix

The holidays are a special time usually characterized by overwhelming feelings of family, joy, happiness and love. It’s the time of year when you can visibly see people being nicer to each other (even in NYC, lol) and trying to help out their fellow man/woman. The spirit of giving and helping those less fortunate permeates throughout the land as we see organizations facilitate coat, food, toy drives and solicit donations to help those in need. It’s the time when our true humanity is on display and we show the best of who we are. This year I wondered how I would feel during the holidays given what we all have had to experience as a result of COVID. Would people be able to find and feel joy after so much loss this year? Would we be able to feel connected to our loved ones and friends in spite of the social distancing? Would we be able to feel safe physically, emotionally, and mentally despite the anxiety, fear, and frustration caused by social unrest and injustices that have pervaded this year unlike any other in our lifetime? Would we find Peace?

In early December, I made up my mind that I would end this year in Victory. I would not allow all what I have gone through this year to steal the spirit of the holiday season that I treasure so much. I went back to what I knew that makes this time special for me: watching holiday films, decorating my home, listening to holiday music, reaching out to my friends and family, and giving to others. Most importantly, I remembered that the intention of the season was to reconcile humanity to God through peace and people's actions to one another through good will. This further reminded me that this season was not necessarily about me, but how I can be used to help someone else and bring them Joy. “Through the actions of peacefulness and goodwill, we reclaim our power and the reason for the season.”

I know we all have been through a lot this year and are still going through it. And yes, there is still considerable uncertainty about a lot of things. There are a lot of things that I am uncertain of, but one thing I am surely certain of is this, we will never get this time back again. There will never be another December 2020, so make this time count by finding joy where you can, acknowledging and being thankful for the things you do have, being kind, helping others when and as often as you can, and loving on each other. How you show up and how you treat people matters, so bring Peace wherever you go. “Peace I leave with you; my peace I give you. I do not give to you as the world gives. Do not let your hearts be troubled and do not be afraid."

Wishing you all a Wonderful and Safe Holiday Season and Happy New Year!

Message from Deputy Superintendent

Dr. Tamra S. Collins

“Peace on earth…goodwill towards all!” This is my favorite time of the year… it is that time of year when the world is sincere and we are all kind to one another. It’s the time of year when we put others first. It’s a time for family and friends… even if on a Zoom call. There is something magical about the season that unites us, brings peace into the earthly world and taps into our humanity -- "goodwill toward men".

Remember peace on earth is about the happiness and joy we give to all people, no matter race, color, national origin, religion, sex or gender identity. During Kwanzaa, an African American holiday that celebrates family, community and culture, the first candle we light represents the principle Umoja. "The principle of Umoja (unity) speaks to our need to develop and sustain a sense of oneness, righteous and rightful togetherness in the small and large circles and significant relations of our lives, from family and friendship to community and the cosmos. It urges us to practice a principled and peaceful togetherness rooted in mutual respect, justice, care and concern, security of person, and equitably shared goods. And it calls on us to stand in solidarity with the oppressed, suffering and struggling peoples of the world in the cooperative achievement of these goods.”

Now more than ever during this holiday season, we need one another. We need peace on earth and goodwill towards all! So, if the world is getting you down… let go of it all this holiday season. Look for the good in yourself and in those around you in your corner of the world!

I wish you happiness – you’ve been through a lot this year and you deserve to end it smiling. I wish you peace of mind – in a busy, overthinking world, may you find time to relax your mind. I wish you love – love is the greatest healer. I hope it wells up within you, overflowing into the lives of others. I wish you and your loved ones a joyous and safe holiday season and a spectacular 2021!

Our December MBK Convening was held on Friday, December 18th. Our young men had a great time engaging with each other and participating in our virtual Holiday games, while digging deeper into the concept of "Strategic Advocacy" as they began to explore how to advocate for themselves and develop their elevator pitch.

Mentee Uriel Urena from School of the Future Brooklyn led our young men in a moment of mindfulness to begin our meeting, followed by Mentee Detwane Williams from Legacy School of the Arts who led the group in reciting the affirmation.

The group was also joined by special guests, Dr. Anael Alston from the New York State MBK, as well as Mr. George Patterson from the NYC DOE MBK team, and Mr. Lee Church from the Division of Gang Violence Prevention.

District 19 GEM

December Convening

At this month’s convening our GEMs continued to Dream Big! We kicked off the convening with holiday tunes before engaging in a moment of mindfulness, “Joy to the World." The girls reflected on “What brings you Joy and how do you give Joy to others?” At this month’s convening our ES and MS girls broke into two groups to further explore dreaming big, and to reflect on how Affirmations are the Windows into your Dreams.

Our Elementary School GEMs referred back to their dream catchers and wrote down their dream. Then we discussed what affirmations are, and how they can help you move closer to your dream. Each girl created a positive affirmation to motivate her towards her dream. Then we broke into groups where each girl created a dream collage, as they used the power of visualization to achieve dreams!

Our Middle School GEMs watched a TED Talk Video and Dared to Dream Big! The girls engaged in discussion around the video and were open “to the gifts the universe has to offer.” The girls then broke into groups to create their Dream Story Via Instagram. The girls wrote their dream, developed a hashtag based on an affirmation that will motivate them towards their dream, found a picture online that reflects her Dreams, and posted her message – “my why.”

Look for the hashtag #d19GEMSquadDreamsBIG in the new year! We closed out our convening with all of our GEMs coming together for a holiday celebration filled with a TikTok Holiday Dance Challenge, Holiday Scavenger Hunt and Holiday Fashion Show.

The week of December 7th-11th was recognized as National Computer Science Education week. In honor of the great Computer Science work being done across the district, District 19 held a "Computer Science for All Showcase" on Friday, December 11th. During the showcase, all 35 schools were highlighted for their different programs such as coding, droning and robotics. Additionally, schools had the chance to highlight the work they did for an "Hour of Code" during the week.

During our celebration, we were also joined by two professionals in the Computer Science industry, Mr. Amen Ra Mashariki who is the Global Director of the Data Lab at World Resources Institute and Ms. Shantel Schloss who is a Program Manager at Black Tech Matters. They spoke on their journeys in the field and the importance of diversity in Computer Science.

The theme of the December Principal Conference was A Christmas Carol: The Snow Angels of Christmas. We welcomed Ms. Latoya Morgan from Brain Power to lead us in a Moment of Mindfulness to launch our meeting. To kick off the meeting, Dr. McBryde read a story to the principals providing holiday inspiration, laughter and joy to fill the air. At this time the principals opened their packages that the "elves" delivered to them to engage in a fun-filled, and yummy icebreaker... making s'mores together!

As there was a balance to this meeting, we welcomed Katie Raab to provide information around compliance for our schools and district as they learned to navigate the platform. Dr. McBryde then facilitated a conversation with the principals around Adaptive Leadership, "Adapting to the New Year", which is the focus of the work this year. He discussed the difference between "Being on the Balcony" and "On the Dance Floor", and engaged in discussion with principals about where they are. Thank you to all of our principals who shared!

As we closed the meeting we were visited by the Angel of Games, Angel of Creativity, and Angel of Song for fun, laughter and togetherness.

The theme of our December Assistant Principal Conference was "Holiday Happiness". Oftentimes, the holiday can bring out a level of undue stress and anxiousness as we create our overwhelming task/to-do list, and especially during these challenging times. Dr. Collins inspired all of our assistant principals this season to just let go and be happy as she brought us holiday cheer!!

The assistant principals brought their cookies and cocoa, wore their favorite holiday attire and headwear, and added a virtual background to decorate our space... as they filled the Zoom call with holiday happiness!!

In the middle of the fun, we continued to work to know every student well with a session facilitated by Ashley Cook from Great Minds, Wit & Wisdom. Assistant Principals had an opportunity to strengthen their toolbox to support and coach teachers with:

  • Preparing for integrating SEL and student engagement in the virtual ELA environment.

  • Integrating SEL through embedded curricular routines.

  • Strategic decision making for asynchronous vs synchronous learning activities within the curriculum

Take a peek at the APs' 'Twas the Night Before Winter Break story! Click here!

As we come to the end of 2020, TDEC Steven Surujbali centered the D19 Teacher Leader Conference on mindfulness, and acknowledging present feelings and thoughts as TLs reflected on the “ornaments” of Teacher Leadership that are hanging on their tree this year. It was a time to stop, reflect, and celebrate the community, trust, and joy that we have built together as a district. We highlighted our Year 2 priorities of customization within our shared Great Minds’ curricula, specifically as it pertains to the Priority Learning Standards, and our District Roadmap and Overview documents. Ashley Cook from Great Minds - Wit & Wisdom shared strategies for lifting and highlighting the SEL and CRS-E components of the curriculum with the ELA TLs. Mr. Surujbali led the Math TLs through a Lesson Planning Protocol, where TLs were able to bring all their learning on lesson customization this year together and Discern the Plot, Find the Ladder, and Hone the Lesson in groups. The TLs shared such deep, rich mathematical conversation around customizing the lesson to meet the needs of all of their students, while maintaining the rigor, integrity, cultural responsiveness, and routines of Eureka Math. We brought out our competitive spirits and had a lot of Holiday fun as we continue to build strong relationships between teachers across all 35 schools in D19! As we move into the New Year, our Teacher Leaders will be sure to use their “ornaments”, whether it be listening, leading discussions, identifying needs, etc., and leverage those strengths to write the next chapter in our work together in 2021!

District 19 Guidance Counselors met for their final farewell to 2020. During the meeting they actively engaged in a competitive holiday scavenger hunt before sharing the creative activities each school has hosted to promote the social and emotional well-being of our students during this difficult holiday period. The activities included an emphasis on mindfulness techniques, exercise classes, healthy coping skills workshops, Bitmoji self-regulation read-alouds, extracurricular clubs such as video game and Martial Arts, bereavement groups, Mentor/Mentee check-ins, school spirit weeks with fun activities and themes, community coat and food drives with lots of giveaways, as well as exciting school performances such as talent shows and Broadway plays! The next issue of our newsletter will include the wonderful pictures from these events!


Legacy School of the Arts

Peace on Earth.

Peace. A word we use a lot in the holidays but I don't think ever conceptually or spiritually understand. This year has forced me to reconcile with the fact that chaos will always ensue, pandemics and presidents will come and go, but I am stuck with me, with my spirit, through it all. I can choose to let my spirit live in the chaos of the world with its cycles of ups and downs, as I have my entire life, or I can focus on the consistency of my inner peace to ensure that I am unaffected by the outer chaos.

I've been a principal for about one year. A very atypical, wild ride of a first year, filled with lessons on lessons that I am grateful for. I am grateful for the mentorship I receive from Dr. McBryde, Dr. Collins and Ms. Spence. If I know one thing after this year, it is that my inner peace effects each and every staff member on my team. My team deserves a leader who gives them hope, motivation and consistency. My school has adapted mindfulness through the help of the Headspace app. We start every day, every student with 5 minutes of mindfulness in our morning advisory groups while starting every staff meeting the same. Mindfulness has truly given us a sense of calm as a staff as we navigate the pandemic. It helps us focus on what is important.

I wish everyone a Happy Holiday filled with self-care, inner peace and absolutely no work.


P.S. 224K

“Change will not come if we wait for some other person, or if we wait for some other time. We are the ones we've been waiting for. We are the change that we seek.” - Barack Obama

During these unprecedented times there still remains one undeniable truth, inequity knows no bounds. The despair and trauma experienced by our school communities has shed light on the digital divide and educational inequities for our marginalized children. The implications for improving our school community entails an unwavering commitment to teacher development and love for children. Now more so than ever, I am committed to being a change agent, who empowers our community members, inclusive of staff, families, and children. All children deserve a quality education. Therefore, as an assistant principal at PS 224 I empower teachers to be champions for children by: showing appreciation for their work, following up on conversations and interests, offering constructive feedback, highlighting best practices, and providing opportunities to include their voice. Teachers who are empowered are the ones who show up daily to positively impact the lives of children.

The work we do in education is essential and is not easy. That is why it is considered a call to service. As stated in the quote by our former President Barack Obama, “we have to be the change that we seek.”


East New York Elementary School of Excellence

As Parent Coordinators we must be FLEXIBLE. I never imagined that we would be in these unprecedented times. During this time, there was a lot I needed to learn and I had to learn fast. Providing technical support was a foreign place for me. With practice and a lot of patience, I adapted and became savvy enough to provide the best service to our families. Now more than ever this community is leaning on me for love, tech support and meaningful connections. Being able to provide platforms where families feel comfortable to express themselves has been the goal and focus during this difficult time. To all my colleagues who never ask for help... I am always here. We lean on each other and I believe that no one should struggle alone. With time and support our community will continue to thrive.

"You will face many defeats in life, but never let yourself be defeated." - Maya Angelou


P.S. 345K

During this holiday season, it is customary to reflect on the year. Though we have endured many challenges this year, we are eternally grateful for all we have learned and all that we can celebrate as a first-grade family. Through our hard work, collaboration, and our love for our children, we have been able to build a learning environment where every student truly matters. We are so proud of the mutual respect and kindness that truly live in our classroom. Our students shine every day and spread such authentic joy and enthusiasm to learn and grow together. We continue to marvel at the genuine sense of encouragement and support our students offer their peers in our virtual classroom. They are absolutely amazing!

To be educators in such an unprecedented time is truly a challenge, but we still firmly believe that we have a positive impact on the lives of our students. By cultivating genuine relationships with all of our students we impact their learning as well as their social emotional growth and well being. We continue to believe in our shared vision that ALL learners deserve the best education possible that we can provide them. As this year comes to an end, just remember it’s ok to make mistakes; we may struggle to learn something new at first, but to see your students smile when you greet them each morning is absolutely worth it!

Upcoming Dates

December 24 - January 1 - Winter Break (No School)

January 5 - CEC Meeting

January 18 - Martin Luther King Jr. Day (No School)

January 27 - Community Wellness Check-In

January 29 - MBK & GEM Convenings

Have some fun with your loved ones with the virtual Holiday activity linked below: