THE NEW YORK CITY DEPARTMENT OF EDUCATION

Danielle Giunta, Community Superintendent District 26

Contacting the District Office During Remote Learning

Due to the effects of COVID-19, while we are limiting office hours, we will be supporting our community remotely.

During this period, there are many ways you can reach out to the District Team:​

  • call the District 26 Office

  • send us an email

  • call our Family Coordinators on their Blackberrys

(between the hours of 8:30 AM and 4:30 PM)

Click here to see the District Team contacts on our Family Engagement page under the Parents & Families tab.


D26 Letter Winter 2021.pdf

January 2021

Dear District 26 Community:

As we step into the new year, we have the space to take a breath and look back at 2020. It’s almost unbelievable how our lives have changed. In our community, across our country, and throughout the world, how much we've all experienced! Our everyday activities became newly impossible. We adopted unfamiliar protocols and behaviors to keep ourselves and others healthy. We faced unprecedented social isolation from our friends and families. Even the nature of our conversations with our children changed in ways we could never have imagined. So many of the comforts, big and small, that we had previously taken for granted and considered necessary were stripped away.

At the same time, our country grappled with powerful issues of racial equity and social justice. As historic national events reverberated through our diverse community, we all took a hard look at social inequities and systemic racism. These tumultuous events raised difficult and necessary conversations about our country and our community, bringing us up against our own ideas of what it means to be American.

But the adversity of 2020 has also created opportunities for us to look ahead in new ways. We widened our perspectives and homed in on what we really consider essential for 2021.

In September, we started off the school year sharing the picture book What If with our school leaders and parent councils. What If tells the story of a young artist’s imaginary journey of resilience and self-discovery. As her artist’s materials and resources are taken away, one by one, she rises to meet each new challenge. Again and again, she rallies, strengthens her resolve, and invents a new way to create a masterpiece. In the end she discovers that her drive to create is essential: it is the heart of who she truly is.

In District 26, Excellence in Education for every single child, in-person or remote, is the heart of our work, essential to who we are as a community. Our shared commitment to excellence connects us all--leaders, staff members, students, parents--within individual schools and together as a district. Throughout the twists of 2020, we had to pivot many times to meet unexpected challenges, but like the young artist in What If, we did not despair. At each difficult turn we shifted to problem-solve creative solutions, honing our talents and discovering new strengths.

We led through adversity, listening to and learning from each other, exploring new ways of communicating and working together. As a district, we reinforced our resolve and reconnected with our commitment to excellence. Listening, Learning, and Leading through the challenges of 2020, we deepened our community connections and we’re stronger for it in 2021.

Listening

We ended the year in June listening and raising up student voice. As the culmination of our Student Leadership Project, our student council presidents shared feedback about the successes and challenges of the transition to remote learning. They created PSA videos to help keep our community mentally and physically healthy during the pandemic (Check out @D26Team on Twitter). Opening the school year under unique circumstances, we circled back to our students to guide us. To get first-hand advice about what makes in-person learning safe and successful, we interviewed children who attended the Regional Enrichment Centers (RECs) and shared their messages with school leaders to prioritize student experience in 2020-21.

We continue to meet with our new student leaders to define our leadership and center students’ voices as our guide for improvement. In December and January, our newly elected Student Council Presidents’ gathered virtually to begin redefining the leadership role they play within the District and in their own individual school communities. Student feedback has been invaluable in meeting the challenges of 2020. In 2021, we’ll continue the dialogue with our remarkable students to gain insight and inform classroom practice and policy.

Learning

The shift to remote learning changed the way we connect. Without chance meetings in school hallways, quick conversations passing in the main office, or regular check-ins at dismissal we felt less connected. To provide regular points of connection in the virtual world and to capitalize on the great thinking across our community, we expanded existing avenues of communication and created new ones.

School leaders met weekly through the first months of remote learning to unpack new policies, brainstorm solutions to problems, and maximize our efforts for the community collectively. Coffee and Conversations, Open Office Hours, Town Halls--district leaders, school leaders, parent coordinators, teachers, and parent leaders opened new spaces to share information and gather feedback. We were all in this together, partners who needed to learn from one another.

In June, our school leaders created deeper spaces for our community to come together to grieve the death of George Floyd and process the national unrest that followed. Our Diversity in Educational Leadership group extended its calendar to meet biweekly through July and August. District and school leaders, teachers, parent coordinators, and parents shared defining experiences around identity and social justice. School equity teams from around the district shared practices that promote diversity and equity in the classroom and their school environments.

The Diversity in Educational Leadership committee, our district task force committed to equity, diversity, democracy, and social justice, continues to prioritize student voice and participation in delivering a diverse, inclusive, anti-bias curriculum. We remain committed to training school leaders, teachers, parents, and students in understanding and empowering their role in furthering our mission to strengthen the work of school-based equity teams. Currently our team is working in sub-committees to support professional learning ideas, curriculum adjustments, community-based book clubs, and student equity teams across the district. Our shared experiences as a district allow us to learn from each other’s progress, momentum, and struggles, while remaining interconnected to this work as a community.

Leading

In 2020, District 26 leaders have done amazing work under extraordinary circumstances, with each new challenge recouping and regrouping to create something new. Like the young artist in What If our leaders focused on what is essential to their communities and made the most with the limited resources.

Through the tumult of 2020 our school leaders planned, pivoted and planned again, repeatedly. They have worked tirelessly into 2021 and remain ready to flex again to lead their communities through new, improved, in-person and remote learning experiences, especially all of our 22 elementary schools who pivoted back to in-person learning five days a week.

Our monthly Principal and Assistant Principal Conferences are the foundation for our leaders to be able to “visit” each other schools and classrooms to study instructional practices and student learning. We thank M.S. 67, P.S./I.S. 178, P.S. 186, P.S. 221, and P.S. 390 for hosting their colleagues in December; M.S. 74, P.S. 159, P.S. 173, P.S. 188, and P.S. 205 in January, and we look forward to our next round of virtual visits.

December was the perfect time to recommit to our focus on Computer Science Education (CSE). We launched our BootUp Professional Learning Partnership, training more elementary school teachers to teach CSE and furthering our efforts to ensure that even at this time, students have access to at least one meaningful unit of computer science each year. With more than a third of our elementary schools participating in year one of this professional learning partnership, we are committed to living up to the mission designed by the District 26 Computer Science Task Force this summer:

District 26 will teach computer science to build equity and opportunity for all students, particularly for traditionally underserved groups, leading to:

  • An increase in the diverse innovations, solutions, and new knowledge that positively contribute to society,

  • A greater recognition of and methods to critically examine and combat bias that may be coded in existing technologies,

  • More opportunities for young women and people of color to engage in STEM fields.

Through computer science, we will engage students in problem-solving and computational thinking as pathways for creative expression and voice in their own culturally responsive and sustaining 21st Century education.

When we shifted to remote learning, our amazing parent leaders found themselves volunteering under very different conditions. Holding meetings virtually with significantly increased attendance, they navigated new and shifting guidance amid growing parent frustration. And through it all they led with grace and grit. Our Family Support Team continued to provide support, helping parent leaders understand all of the new policies and information, while brain-storming new and incredible ways to collaborate and support our families across the district from remote spaces.

Our two parent councils, Presidents’ Council and our Community Education Council, have led the charge advocating for our students and families. Since March 2020, they have been working tirelessly to elevate parent concerns, grow relationships and collaborate with District, Borough, Central leadership, and elected officials. We are in awe of our parent leaders and humbled by their service to the District 26 community.

We will continue to support and empower our parent leaders on a school and district level, developing close professional relationships, and creating opportunities to build their capacity and strengthen their leadership.

We will remember 2020 as a year of unprecedented change and challenge. We were all tested many times over, deepening our resilience and revealing new strengths.

In 2021, we know that we are strong and connected as a community. We will face what comes like the young artist in What If, with hope and resilience. With our commitment to Excellence in Education at the heart of our work we will continue to create spaces to listen, learn, and lead together 2021.

As we step into the new year and enter the month of February, this is a typical time for mid-year reflection and progress monitoring. With your partnership and collaboration, we are excited for the second half of the year, and wish you continued happiness and health in the new year.

Danielle Giunta and the District 26 Team

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District 26 Office

61-15 Oceania Street

Room 129

Bayside, NY 11364

718-631-6943 (phone)

718-631-6996 (fax)

Located inside of Nathaniel Hawthorne Middle School (M.S. 74).