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ayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña are taking a smart stance on smart phones.

After nearly a decade of prohibiting students from bringing their cell phones to school, the Department of Education is finally lifting the ban. The decision reflects the current reality in New York City public schools, the Chancellor said. Parents, unable to contact their children before and after school, have long voiced safety concerns. Enforcement in schools has been uneven, with metal detectors at select schools better able to detect electronic devices. Students have been forced to either leave their cell phones at home or with private storage companies at an average cost of $180 per year. Other schools have operated under a don’t ask don’t tell policy.

As of March 2, that will all change. 

“We’re bringing our schools into the modern era,” Schools Chancellor Carmen Fari ñ a says. “Lifting the cell phone ban is about common sense.”  

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The new policy empowers each school and community to decide on an appropriate student cell phone policy. Principals and their School Leadership Team, made up of an equal number of teachers and parents, will meet to discuss issues such as when the use of a cell phone is permitted, whether students will be allowed to keep their phones during the school day, whether phones will be used for instructional purposes, and how students will be disciplined if the policy is violated,  

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among various other issues. Schools will have a range of options for discipline if cell phones are misused, including confiscation.

Waiting until March to lift the ban will provide schools with sufficient time to discuss proposals and develop rules that allow students to communicate with their parents, all while ensuring the safety and well-being of all. Schools will also increase training for identifying and preventing cyber-bullying.

One parent in Brooklyn, Rosemary Crowder, says the new policy offers ease of mind.

“Because I’m a parent, I worry. I worry from the time my children walk out the door, until they come home, because so many things can happen,” she says. “We need to know where our children are — cell phones have created that convenience.”

Because the current cell phone ban requires a change in the Chancellor’s Regulations, the  Panel for Educational Policy  will vote on the policy at their February 25 meeting.

  
    
 

    

     

How does it feel to be starting your second year as New York City Schools Chancellor? 

It’s been an exciting and fast-paced first year, and I anticipate 2015 will be more of the same. Already this month, we’ve announced the lifting of an almost decade-old cell phone ban in our schools. Just last week, we committed to the opening and expansion of 40 dual-language programs across the City. Learning two languages will give our children a leg up in the global economy. We learned only last week that enrollment in our after-school middle school programs has reached 121 percent, and 49 new programs are set to be added, totaling more than 2,500 seats.

This Thursday, January 22 at the Association for a Better New York, I’m going to talk about my priorities for improving our public schools and ensuring

 

better outcomes for all students. For more information about the announcement, I encourage you to check the Department of Education’s website on Thursday: schools.nyc.gov .

If students are able to bring their phones to school, won’t they become a distraction?

Each school will be able to develop its own cell phone policy that meets the needs of its students. Because the cell phone ban won’t be lifted until March, principals and their School Leadership Teams will be able to have robust conversations about when and how students will be allowed to use their phones. Some schools may have a collection point in the morning, so that students won’t have phones during the school day. Other schools may allow students to keep them during the day but out of sight, while other schools may incorporate students’ phones into classroom instruction.

I anticipate open parent and parent-teacher association meetings, as well as assemblies with students, to make sure the entire community understands the school policy. Students will know their rights, but they will also know the consequences. Schools will host trainings, including a “Misuse It, You Lose It” policy.

 

What kind of parent would make a good Community or Citywide Education Council candidate for the spring election?

As a parent, you are already an excellent candidate. You don’t need any particular background or specialized skills.

What’s important is caring about education, our children, and making a real impact on your community and local schools. 

Which education issues are you passionate about? Helping families stay more informed? Reducing overcrowding? Building better arts or sports youth programs? Increasing technology in schools? Ensuring student safety?  If you’ve been active in your school’s parent or parent-teacher association, or School Leadership Team, now is a great opportunity to continue your advocacy on a larger scale. Even if you haven't been active but have been thinking about getting involved, now is the right chance. By serving on your local Community Education Council, or one of the four Citywide Education Councils, you will have a voice for all the parents you represent, in your district or citywide. It’s an opportunity to work hand in hand with your community, parents, elected officials, the Department of Education, and me to enact real change. I encourage you to learn more at NYCparentleaders.org .

  

    


Wallace’s Lists
(Katherine Tegen Books, 2004)
Written by Barbara Bottner and Gerald Kruglik, illustrated by Olof Landstrom

Dear Readers,

For growing children and young adults often managing busy lifestyles—class assignments, extracurriculars, obligations at home—it’s important to stress structure and order: staying organized, keeping a schedule, and maintaining a to-do list. But as the adage goes, it’s possible to have too much of a good thing.

In this month’s story, a wary, bespectacled mouse named Wallace lives a life ruled by lists. Lists of frightening experiences, clothes in his closet, tasks for the day, and more. His life is so structured that when his neighbor, Albert, introduces himself, Wallace doesn’t even respond. Saying hello is not on his list.

So Wallace writes a new list:
1. Say hello to Albert.
2. Laundry. 

After exchanging greetings, Albert invites his new friend to listen to music, but Wallace declines. He’s got laundry to do.  Albert paints pictures of ducks, while Wallace can only wish he’d included painting on his list. But when Albert leaves  



 for the airport as a dangerous storm approaches, Wallace’s concern pushes him out of his comfort zone. Searching for his friend, he endures rain, bumps along a baggage claim conveyor belt, pursuit by a cat, and splashes by a bus. He finds Albert safe, but sad because his flight to Glockamorra was cancelled due to the storm. In an affectionate display of friendship, Wallace takes Albert on a whirlwind adventure that’s not on any of his to-do lists—and learns the value of letting go.

Wallace and Albert’s unlikely friendship shows the importance of balancing structure with spontaneity. Organization can go a long way—being prepared ensures assignments get done—but students need to find time to put down their lists. While we prepare our children for the responsibilities and demands of adulthood, we must also remember the value of daydreaming, relaxing, and being open to the moment.

Warmly,

Carmen

  

 


    

      


 


Dear Parent:

The campaign for the 2015 Community and Citywide Education Council elections has officially launched! Chancellor Fariña kicked off this exciting campaign on January 8. Beginning February 11, parents can begin submitting an application online to run for a council seat. Now is your chance to make a difference and ensure that the voices of your fellow parents are heard.

As a council member, your duties range from advising the Chancellor, to working directly with the district superintendent and reviewing district educational programs and needs. Parents interested in becoming members of a Community or Citywide Education Council should visit NYCParentLeaders.org for more information.

As a fellow parent with experience as a parent leader, I strongly encourage as many of you as possible to apply for a council seat. The more candidates to choose from, the more robust and representative these elections will be. Remember, this is a concrete way you can make a difference in your child’s school district.

If you are unsure how to get involved, I invite you to attend our first information session at Tweed Courthouse, 52 Chambers Street, New York, NY 10007, on January 26 from 6 to 8 p.m . More information sessions will follow during the campaign season.

After applications have been received, candidates will speak with parents and parent leaders at forums held between March 18 and April 18 in each respective district or borough. These are exciting opportunities to meet the candidates and understand their positions, and why they have chosen to run. Shortly after these forums, the officers of each school’s parent or parent-teacher association will be voting for their preferred candidates.

Please visit our website regularly for more information. We will also be sending timely e-mails to keep you up to date. Sign up for emails at schools.nyc.gov/Subscribe .

Your voice matters, and the more we come together as parents, the more we will ensure a first-rate education for all of our children. Raise your hand to become a transformative parent leader for your school district!

Best,
Jesse Mojica
Executive Director, Division of Family and Community Engagement

    


  

A conversation with Isaac Carmignani, former member of District 30’s Community Education Council

Isaac Carmignani has several children, the oldest of which just graduated last year from Cardozo High School. He’s a former PTA president, and works in technology for the U.S. Postal Service.

All in all, you could describe him as a regular parent—which is exactly why he’s been able to accomplish so much in the last seven years.

As a member and president of the Community Education Council (CEC) in District 30, Mr. Carmignani has helped prevent the closing of Long Island City High school, helped redraw zoning lines, open an accelerated middle school program for the district’s gifted and talented elementary students, and much more.

“I wanted to be more involved, and make a positive difference on a bigger level,” Mr. Carmignani says of his decision to serve on the CEC. “It’s a pipeline to progress both personally and professionally, to look at [education] policy on a deeper level and learn why things are being done, and have input.”

CEC elections are held every two years, and this February, the election cycle will open up for New York City parents interested in running. Although he left his CEC post at the end of 2014 to pursue a position on the Panel for Educational Policy, Mr. Carmignani is proud of his time serving District 30.

Each of the City’s 32 school districts has a CEC, made up of 11 parents who help create and guide local education policy, as well as serve as an advisory board to the Chancellor. Nine of the members are elected by local PTAs, and two are appointed by the borough president.

CEC members typically commit an average of 3-5 hours each week to their education work. Some members spend more, others a little less, but “everyone does their part, and we need them,” Carmignani says. In District 30, each member serves as a liaison for a group of schools and their principal, parent coordinator, and PTAs.

Members are especially plugged into their local communities. Advocating for crossing guards, writing letters to the Department of Transportation or local precinct, meeting with your legislature, or helping a PTA fundraise are a few examples of CEC District 30’s work.

“When I left there was far more involvement on a parent engagement level with our families. We did a lot to support schools that were in need,” he says. 

Mr. Carmignani encourages parents to run. To sum up a good candide, he lists three qualities that could easily describe just about any regular parent.

“First and foremost, be positive. Inform yourself as much as possible, and listen. Parents have to feel that they can come to you and voice their concerns.”

Parents who want to learn more about the CEC election process, important dates, and other information should visit  NYCParentLeaders.org .

 

    

 

   


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It’s Time for the
2014-15 School Survey!
The 2014-2015 version of the NYC School Survey has been revamped to align with the DOE’s Framework for Great Schools. This year, the survey will collect vital information about a school’s capacity to incorporate the six transformative elements to improve student achievement—rigorous instruction, supportive environment, collaborative teachers, effective school leadership, strong family and community ties, and trust—that drive school improvement and help develop students to compete in the 21st century. The revamped survey will be one of multiple measures used to help the DOE assess the six elements of the Framework for Great Schools.

The survey will be open for students and families from March 3 to April 2. Your responses are vitally important because the survey results will help inform the conversations principals and school communities have as they plan for the 2015-16 school year. Families can complete the paper survey or provide responses online at
ww.nycschoolsurvey.org   using the survey access code printed on their individual surveys.
 
If you lose your survey or experience any technical difficulties with the online survey, call the Survey Hotline at 1-800-690-8603 . The hotline provides you with information to take the survey online. If you have additional questions about this year’s survey, please review the Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) located here.

 


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