District 19 Newsletter

January 2021

Message from Superintendent

Dr. Thomas McBryde Jr.

“Even though we face the difficulties of today and tomorrow, I still have a dream.” - Dr. Martin Luther King Jr.

We draw upon the powerful and poignant words of one of the world's greatest leaders who used his life to create change to help guide us as we enter the dawn of a new year and new paradigm. Many would agree with me when I say that we as a country have been living in darkness for some time now. Division, racism, poverty, pestilence, fear, and hatred have been just a few of the plagues that have ravished us all, creating states of depression, sickness (mental and physical), and utter hopelessness. We’ve seen an insurrectionist/terrorist attack that mocked our very democracy freely without consequence, while peaceful protestors were consistently met with police brutality and violence as they simply advocated and fought for justice. Many of us found ourselves enraged at the blatant “inequities” that exist as we continuously fight for our place in this world; one that has long since been earned, bought and paid for, yet consistently denied. But I still hear Martin saying, “Darkness is only driven out with light, not more darkness.” And we must be the light that guides our scholars to the mountaintop.

Our children are looking to us at this time of transition to be their Sherpa (mountain guide) by establishing the path/route, providing them with the tools needed for success on their journey, carrying some of the load for them up the mountain, providing them with wisdom and knowledge from our experiences, protecting them from danger, and pushing them toward their goals even when they want to give up. We see what can happen when we do our job well. We create more Amanda Gormans who remind us that “there is always light if we are brave enough to see it and brave enough to be it” and shakes the world with her power and brilliance. We create more Kamala Harrises who break through barriers, setting a precedent for all women to dream and aspire to be anything of their choosing. We create more Alexandria Ocasio-Cortezes (youngest Congresswoman in history) who stands staunch in her convictions as she advocates for her community and constituents. We create more Raphael Warnocks (1st Black Senator in Georgia) and Jon Osoffs (1st Jewish Senator in Georgia and youngest member of the Senate) who shatter long held racist ideologies and disenfranchisement in Georgia. And we even create more Dr. Lester Youngs (1st Black NY State Chancellor) who will go on to shape policy that significantly impacts, changes, and improves the quality of life for our families and communities.

This New Year has definitely ushered in a New Dawn. You can feel the lightness, the calmness, and hope being restored. Although we know the journey ahead will not be easy, for recovery is never easy; we are collectively believing that this will be the year of Greater: Greater Love, Hope, Health/Wellness, Healing, Collaborations/Connection, Success, and Change. As educators, we must continue to push our scholars, communities, and ourselves to be Greater, so that we all can finally see that mountaintop Martin dreamed of.

Message from Deputy Superintendent

Dr. Tamra S. Collins

The dawn of a new day! The dictionary defines the word “dawn” as beginning to grow light as the sun rises. I imagine a little ray of light in the middle of darkness. A feeling of joy, happiness, or even optimism shining through on a rough day. A smile or laugh in the midst of crying. Or in the words of one of my favorite songs by Nina Simone:

“It's a new dawn

It's a new day

It's a new life for me, ooh

And I'm feeling good!”

The dawn of a new day is not worrying about what happens today… today happened. Or worrying about what didn’t happen… it didn’t happen. It is about knowing that you have a new day to try again. You have new opportunities to learn and succeed. When we let go of the darkness and the things that weigh us down… we are able to see the light. We allow ourselves the freedom and permission to start over and open ourselves up for “greater”.

Leadership and optimism are key in these unsettling times. It is what allows us to overcome hurdles, be resilient and “bounce back” from failure and setbacks in life. We just have to have the courage to continue. Courage isn’t about being a battle-ready soldier. Some days courage is saying tomorrow is another day – A brand new day!!

“When day comes, we step out of the shade, aflame and unafraid. The new dawn blooms as we free it, for there is always light if only we're brave enough to see it, if only we're brave enough to be it.” – Amanda Gorman

District 19 MBK

January Convening

This month’s MBK Convening was hosted by Principal Robert Burnside and the Mentors from School of the Future Brooklyn. The session was designed around how Critical Thinking will inform and lend itself to the Research component of each MBK group’s school-based project on Strategic Advocacy. The men and young men spent time in breakout rooms crafting questions that will guide their research projects.

In honor of the birthday of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Principal Burnside spoke to our young men about Dr. King’s legacy and how he was an advocate for social justice.

The Mentees spent the final portion of the Convening in breakout rooms engaging in a ‘fun factor’ activity – Family Feud. Principal Burnside offered the winning person in each group a gift card prize.

We look forward to Principal Ronald James Jr and the Mentors from P.S. 202 hosting next month!

District 19 GEM

January Convening

At this month’s convening, our GEMs continued to Dream BIGGER! Our GEMs entered the virtual convening listening to the words of Amanda Gorman, “The new dawn blooms as we free it. For there is always light, if only we're brave enough to see it. If only we're brave enough to be it.” Dr. Collins echoed these words, inspiring the girls to reflect on their dream stories as they plan for GREATER. To ground our dreams in our values, the girls engaged in a Strike A Pose community builder, embodying our core values of GEM. We welcomed motivational speaker and author, Jamila T. Davis, an honorary D19 GEM who “dropped jewels” centered around making your dreams a reality through goal setting and action planning. She was a true inspiration to our girls, providing them with the passion and tools to manifest their dreams.

Then it was time to get to work to make the GEMs dreams come true. Our GEM mentors planned and facilitated activities focused on Expansion & Exposure, providing opportunities for our girls to learn more about careers aligned to their dreams. After learning more about the careers, the girls created a goal and began to identify action steps to make their dreams come true!

Our GEMs are looking forward to meeting the Experts in the field next month to learn even more. If you or someone you know would like to join our team of experts that will be engaging in discussions with the girls in February please reach out to Amanda Adorno. Continue to not only dream, but DREAM BIGGER!

Our Principals' Conference began with opportunities to connect to self and others with a Moment of Mindfulness, followed by our ice breaker. The focus of the meeting was to get more "granular/deep" in progress monitoring work streams in order to achieve "GREATER" results and movement toward school goals and to accelerate learning in the New Dawn of 2021. Principals were asked to share out what their work stream buckets are and to reassess how to monitor progress, thinking through the distinction between micro-managing and not managing at all. Finally, Principals thought about how they are collecting data and deliverables to strategically clarify and adjust expectations as we move toward a year of "GREATER" in D19!

In addition to this focus, Principals engaged in their Cohort Kickoff Meetings! Cohort Lead Principals planned a session to outline the research, work, and expectations that each of their respective cohorts will engage in this year. In the afternoon, we attended an NWEA MAP Data Session in preparation for meaningful school-level analysis of our Winter Assessment to inform strategic instructional decision-making and achieve "GREATER" results districtwide.

Our AP Conference focused on the Culturally Responsive and Sustaining practice of "Relevance". Our district has advanced the role of rigor across content areas, through the use of our shared Great Minds' curricula. In our "New Dawn", we are ensuring that we achieve "GREATER" by providing more opportunities for our scholars' voices and experiences to be included alongside and within our curricula. We unpacked the work that needs to be done to shift our classrooms and lesson design to be structured around relevant learning opportunities to process information that promote a true learning environment for all students.

APs also engaged in Restorative Justice circles about how self-awareness and social awareness play a role in helping themselves and their teachers unpack how their and their students' opinions, feelings, and thoughts are connected to the idea of relevance. We ended our meeting by unpacking where opportunities for this work currently live and can live in our Wit & Wisdom curriculum, led by Ashley Cook from Great Minds' Implementation Team.

This month, ELA Teacher Leaders began their session with a Moment of Mindfulness focused on Affirmations, led by TDEC Steven Surujbali. We continue to prioritize SEL and mindfulness as the entry point into our professional learning this school year. ELA TLs also continue to share best practices across all 35 schools in the district around Wit & Wisdom implementation. Some key highlights that were lifted in our group share-outs (shout out to Ms. Brown – 013, Ms. Higuera – 108, Ms. Morel – 662, and Ms. Allia – 760 for leading) were how lesson customizations can lead to Teacher Clarity by allowing teachers to strategically group students, incorporate digital tools for prioritizing speaking and listening asynchronously via Flipgrid etc., help teachers identify look-fors leading up to a culminating task to help monitor and address which students are/aren’t on track to show progress, etc.

Middle School Math TLs attended a Great Minds’ Preparation and Customization workshop in which they focused on honoring the curricular components of Eureka to support whole-brain learning and coherence across topics and grade levels.

As we aim and aspire to be "Greater" this year, the TLs' takeaway task was to refocus on our shared teacher leadership practice of having reciprocal conversations with their Principals/APs about the work that happens within our sessions so that it flows freely throughout all of our school communities to impact instructional practice districtwide.

District 19 Parent Coordinators engaged in a professional learning session on how to host virtual NYC schools account sign-in events for parents. The session was facilitated by Sheree Gibson and Panoon Dass from the NYCDOE's 2021 CEC Elections Team. District 19 Parent Coordinators were provided with strategies and resources to view and provide to parents for support. This professional learning was also extended to all Brooklyn North Parent Coordinators representing Districts 13, 14, 15, 16, 23, 32 and High Schools.


P.S. 224K

“You may not control all the events that happen to you, but you can decide not to be reduced by them.” - Maya Angelou

This pandemic has shown us all that life is filled with uncertainty and the only thing we can do within our power is to find peace with the present. One of the ways in which I have chosen to find peace is to focus on my purpose and channel my energy to attain my future goals. As a servant leader, I am committed to changing the narrative one day at a time by building a pathway that prepares students academically, socially, and emotionally to excel in school and beyond.

As leaders, we are currently laying the foundation for innovative teaching practices and new modes of instructional delivery, knowing that our choices will have a long-term impact on our entire school community. As we all know, it is always the darkest before dawn. Education will never be the same. Therefore, we have to strengthen our faith to rise above all odds. Recovery will spring forth with new beginnings. Until then, our charge is to keep our communities equipped with the knowledge to embrace new norms and tackle future challenges. Stay the course, light will prevail after dawn.


P.S. 346K

“It is the mark of an educated mind to be able to entertain a thought without accepting it.” - Aristotle

The publication of A Nation at Risk (U.S. Department of Education, 1983) resulted in the creation of a number of school-wide reform initiatives, including comprehensive school reform at the local, state and national levels in an attempt to increase outcomes for all children. Despite the reform initiatives, the persistence of an achievement gap between advantaged and disadvantaged students is evident in the national public school system.

Educators have advanced educational arguments supporting competitive approaches in the field of reading research, literacy and education. Proponents of proficient readers’ research such as Lucy McCormic Calkins, founding director of the Teachers College Reading and Writing Project support the theory of Balanced Literacy, a skills-based approach to literacy development embraced by the NYC DOE. Balanced Literacy has prevailed in the instructional programs in primary school education. However, E.D. Hirsch(2006) attributed the failure of NYC public school students to a lack of factual knowledge found in books. Hirsch developed a specified curriculum, the Core Knowledge curriculum to create academic success.

As educators continued to debate school reform, ideological differences and discuss best practices to close the achievement gap, the whole educational world was shocked with the sudden closing of schools due to COVID -19 pandemic. Educators in 2021 are facing a fundamental schism: the period before COVID -19 and the new normal that will emerge post COVID-19. The convergence of technology and the new development of cognitive science has forced us to rethink education. Technology has changed our relationship to knowledge.

Content and knowledge is now readily available, but not always reliable, through devices such as smart phones, iPads, and laptops. Schools now need to focus their energy on defining digital strategies to keep track of a changing workforce and updated technologies. Educational communities have to rethink curriculum. We see the evolution of curriculum. The old curriculum was based on content, reading, writing and arithmetic. However, technology has shifted curriculum towards process, which relies on relationships, resilience, and reflection. Our teachers and students need to think in terms of communities, receive instant feedback without judgment, and reflect to rethink the assumptions of what we already know. Education now needs to be viewed as a design construct, rather than as a tool for students to acquire information because information is already readily available. In the words of Jose Bowen, “…our focus as teachers is to make ourselves obsolete by thinking, ‘How do I design a system in which you do the work?’ In this design content matters, but I as the teacher, need to teach you how to do this so that you can learn how to change yourself without me. My role as a teacher is to watch you think.”

Teachers in the “New Dawn” are the curators, motivators, designers, and role models for students. They are required to be the cognitive coaches who make the students intellectually sweat. Teaching is about change. Teaching is about reflecting on assumptions about what you have learned. One of the hardest things to do being a teacher is to model for students what being a “smart person” looks like.

That raises the question: How do school leaders develop cognitive coaches who make students intellectually sweat?

The way leaders can achieve these goals is by evolving to embrace the “New Dawn” to shape how education is designed in 2021. This requires empowering school communities to complete work remotely from any location, enabling teachers and students to have a great experience regardless of the channel of engagement, modernizing technology, applying data analytics to better understand practices and most importantly modeling what a “smart person” looks like by demonstrating an ability to change your mind.



As a parent coordinator, with each season I have to find new and innovative ways to adapt to current circumstances. This past year has been like no other, but the one thing that I can say is the passion I have has not changed. I have always been a believer of “it takes a village". This past year has been evidence of that. Because I have the support of Principal Grandchamps throughout this ordeal, it has made a heavy load light. To all my fellow parent coordinators, no matter how hard a situation may seem, continue to put our families first. I will leave you with a few words from Nina Simone, “It’s a new dawn, it’s a new day, it’s a new life for me (us)".


P.S. 290K

The dawn of each new year presents an opportunity to start over or to elevate oneself from where we left off. Each January, we are able to reinvent ourselves, set goals for the year to come and take advantage of new opportunities.

In 2020, the global pandemic darkened our lines of insight and attempted to suffocate our ability to grow. We have experienced sorrow through the lost loved ones and colleagues. However, we kept trudging on with the dawn of each new day.

With the dawn of 2021, we will continue to embrace and enrich our knowledge and skills of Remote Learning. As we venture into this new year, we will explore this new knowledge and adapt various digital platforms to create new ways for our scholars to connect and engage in learning. As educators we are constantly learning, however teaching remotely created an imbalance in our necessity and desire to learn, and our ability to teach.

Regardless of the composition of our pedagogy, it is important to remember learning in solitude is difficult and that as a community of collective hearts and minds, we are better able to support our scholars in embracing the new and shine bright. We can guide them to excel and relish in this new dawn that awaits.

D19 Community wellness check-in

This month’s Community Wellness Check-In featured Mental Health Consultant, Jessica McJunkin-Flatts, LMHC. She answered the questions, “Why is mental health important?” and “How do we discuss mental health with our families?”. Parents were open in sharing their experiences with their children, surviving the pandemic and the necessity of self-care. Our next Community Wellness Check-in will be on Monday, February 22 at 4pm.

District 19 moves to roll-out the Brooklyn Basics initiative with schools 19K108, 19K149, 19K158, 19K306 and 19K938. We have so far met to discuss the tenets of our D19 program and to begin to develop our branding, awareness and visibility. Schools are identifying CBOs to form partnerships that will educate families and the community on the Basics for children Ages 0 to 3. School staff and Brooklyn Basics' Parent Leaders will participate in a 3-part series training to support the implementation of the Basics principles - Maximize Love/Manage Stress, Talk/Sing/Point, Count/Group/Compare, Explore Through Movement and Play, and Read and Discuss Stories.

Upcoming Dates

February 2 - CEC Meeting

February 12 - Lunar New Year (No School)

February 15-19 - Mid-Winter Break (No School)

February 22 - Community Wellness Check-In

February 25 - Black History Month Show

February 26 - MBK & GEM Convenings