Q. Tell us about your role here at the DOE as the Chief Executive Officer of the Office of School and Youth Development. What’s a typical day like for you?
A. The Office of School and Youth Development encompasses many areas. One big area is safety and emergency preparedness. We also support students and families through attendance initiatives and services for students in temporary housing, and we help schools develop and sustain supportive learning communities that have positive climate and culture. We help to address the rights of students within schools, ensuring that they are treated equally and protected against bias-related instances. So those are the big focus in OSYD.
For me, a typical day involves lots and lots of meetings. I also spend a lot of time connecting with schools, borough-based teams, and network leaders, helping schools that may be having issues that day. As I said, we do quite a bit of planning and meeting, which helps us continue our work and develop ways to evolve as an office and further enhance the supports that we provide to our schools.
Q. How long have you been in your current role? How long have you been working in New York City schools?
A. This coming February, it will be three years that I've been Chief Executive Officer of the Office of School and Youth Development. Before becoming the Chief Executive, I was the deputy to the senior counselor who had the role before me. I took that role in 2004. So, I’ve been in the world of safety and emergency preparedness since January of 2004. At that time, the office expanded its portfolio to include student support services. This made sense because our office was already helping to create safe and secure schools through student support and a focus on positive climate. When that happened three years ago, it was really a natural progression.
I started with the Department of Education in 1974. I started as a teacher. I then became a school supervisor, a district-based supervisor, and a district-based superintendent. Then, in 2004, I came here, to Tweed.
Q. How did you become interested in education?
A. I don’t think I ever thought about doing anything else from the time I was a little girl—I think I always wanted to be a teacher. Although, at one time, I did want to be an astronaut. I always wanted to work in education and I went to school to be a teacher. I have a Master’s degree in education. And I went to study at the doctoral level, all in education. I’ve never really thought about doing anything different, except maybe being an astronaut as a little girl.
Q. Talk about Notify NYC. How will this help parents? What’s an example of how and when the public school emergency alert system will be used? How is it connected to the City’s emergency alert system?
A. Notify NYC is a mayoral initiative that’s already been used throughout the City. Now, it’s exciting that the Department of Education will be a part of it. Parents who sign up for Notify NYC will get a notification about what’s happening at schools within the zip code that they have signed up for.
Let’s say, for example, that a school for some reason had a delayed opening or that there was an unforeseen event—like a water main break—and kids had to be evacuated. This would be a way for parents to be notified—either by e-mail, text message, or phone call—that their child or children had been temporarily relocated to another school and should be picked up there, or maybe that students would be back at schools for regular pick-up. Notify NYC is a way for us to stay even more connected to families in an emergency situation of relocation, or if a school is closed, or if something happens over the weekend that prevents a school from opening, like a broken boiler.
Right now, we actually do post this information on 311 and on our DOE Web site, but Notify NYC will give us additional avenues we can use to reach out to parents. It will be very helpful, and I think our parents will welcome it.