N.Y.C. Program Aimed at Diversifying Elite High Schools Comes Up Short

N.Y.C. Program Aimed at Diversifying Elite High Schools Comes Up Short

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A program meant to diversify New York City’s infamously segregated specialized high schools failed to admit representative numbers of black and Hispanic students this school year, figures released last week by district officials show.

The Discovery program, hyped as a desegregation tool for elite schools, mostly benefited Asian students despite the fact that those students already account for a majority of enrollment.

In contrast, black and Hispanic children, who account for about 67 percent …

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Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Bronx private school

Racial discrimination lawsuit filed against Bronx private school

By Evando Thompson

A student at the Ethical Culture Fieldston School, a K-12 private school in the Bronx, announced that he and his parents filed a lawsuit against the institution Monday, April 1, in United States District Court, Southern District of New York, with the demand that the Head of the School Jessica L. Bagby and other administrators resign or be terminated.

Students from Ethical Culture Fieldston School CONTRIBUTED

Students from Ethical Culture Fieldston School CONTRIBUTED

The last straw for senior Malakai Hart, it is alleged, was when a student blatantly used the ‘n’ word. When Hart confronted higher faculty about the issue, no steps of further discipline were taken. One of the attorneys at The Cochran Firm, which will serve on the behalf of Hart’s family in the lawsuit, claimed that multiple grievances had piled up to that point. Hart’s mother Robin and father Carl alleged racial discrimination, retaliation, aiding and abetting unlawful practices and negligent hiring, training and supervision.

“The school failed to address the student involved in the incident, to be able to show himself [on a video recording] among other students and refer to my client as a ‘ni*r’,” said Derek Sells, one of the three Cochran attorneys. “For that reason, he wanted to sue and did not want to deal with the administration anymore as he felt they had let him down. Now, he is going to the courts to try and rectify this situation.”

For Malakai Hart, this is not the first incident in which he has been discriminated against by other students. He has attended the school since kindergarten and has faced similar situations before.

Last year, Fieldston also was in court for a similar lawsuit, this time in which a 12-year-old student voiced racial discrimination allegations, but the school retaliated by making false allegations to Child Protective services. The case is still ongoing.

“We had received some complaints from parents about bringing false claims to administration about what happened to the students,” said Sells. “The school claimed that the parent sent the kid to school hungry so as a result, there was an investigation launched into that. There was a threat that the child may be taken away from his parents, but the investigation found that the claims were unfounded. The school then sent a school wide emailing that they were sorry and had said untrue things about the family.”

Last week, a large group of students held a sit-in at Fieldston to protest the treatment of African-American students. Hart did not participate in the sit-in although he was very supportive of the students who initiated it. Hart believed that taking it to court would be more significant than the talks due to the lack of progress in the past.

The newly issued lawsuit echoes incidences of the past and reflects the issues that Fieldston School has had before. Head of School Jessica Bagby recently distributed an email to parents of students acknowledging that there has been a “multi-year racial trauma” at the school.

The Ethical Culture Fieldston School issued a statement, in light of the recent charges that have been put against them.

“One day we’ll have a better understanding about why this particular lawyer finds it productive to file frivolous lawsuits against Fieldston, but for today we can say without reservation that this is meritless and does not reflect the truth about our school,” said Clio Boele, on the behalf of the school. “Jessica Bagby is not going anywhere and does not deserve to be blamed or scapegoated for whatever this family’s concerns may be.”

Sells listed the specific reasoning for the lawsuit and what the family is suing for, among the future they hope to engender through the case.

“We alleged that federal civil rights were violated, human civil rights were violated, the New York State human rights were violated among other causes of action,” said Sells. “We are also asking the court not only for damages to be awarded for what my client has suffered but also, we are asking the court to tell Fieldston to stop discriminating against African-American students there.”

This article originally appeared in New York Amsterdam News.

A New Year’s Resolution for Children in New York: School Improvement

A New Year’s Resolution for Children in New York: School Improvement

By Arva Rice, President and CEO of the New York Urban League

New Year’s resolutions are underway across the state of New York, and I’m one of those who are trying hard to keep the promises I made to myself. I’m focused on finding an exercise I like and can maintain, journaling more, and eliminating debt, but I am quickly learning that mapping out a clear plan with how to accomplish these will make my success much more likely. New York state officials are engaging in a similar exercise as they lay out our state’s priorities for 2019. As Governor Cuomo reflects on how our state is succeeding and where there is still room for growth, we must ensure that education and school improvement remain top priorities for New York. 

In his recent budget address, the Governor made a commitment to support an education system that distributes funding based on schools’ needs and fairness. Further, he also took the first steps to follow through on that commitment by allocating increased aid for our highest-need schools in his 2019 budget. While this can be considered encouraging progress, these priorities must remain at the forefront of Governor Cuomo and his administration’s to-do list for the upcoming year for the success of our state and our students. 

As President and CEO of the New York Urban League and a lifelong advocate for young people, I know that closing achievement gaps between our highest- and lowest-performing schools is one of the most pressing equity issues of our time. If we want to improve education outcomes and strengthen our state, we need to improve our schools and assure that every child has access to a high-quality education, no matter their zip code or the color of their skin. Especially as companies like Amazon bring more tech jobs to New York City, we must ensure that all schools promote skills like math, science, problem-solving, and innovation so that children across our city and state are qualified for such positions.

Under the most recent education law, the Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA), our state has an opportunity to make the bold and innovative changes necessary to improve the trajectory of all New York students. A recent review of New York’s plan to improve low-performing schools by education experts and civil rights leaders found that New York has laid a strong foundation but can still improve the sustainability of its plan. Overall, New York’s plan focuses on equity in schools and ending segregation inequities. It also builds on proven, successful school improvement strategies and emphasizes school improvement at the local level, so that tools and techniques are tailored to local and diverse communities. However, while New York empowers local communities to lead turnaround efforts for low-performing schools, the state could take additional steps and use its authority to help ensure schools and districts make progress on their improvement goals.

As the Governor works with lawmakers on our state budget and embarks on 2019, I urge them all to put actions behind words and assure that our schools have sufficient support to increase equity and give every child a high-quality education. I also urge educators, parents, and community members to make your voices heard and advocate for the changes you want to see in your local school. We all play an important role in helping our students learn, and their success is our most important resolution for the new year.

Arva Rice is President and CEO of the New York Urban League. 

Dual-Language Learning: 6 Key Insights for Schools

Dual-Language Learning: 6 Key Insights for Schools

Kindergartner Ava Josephine Mikel and teacher Priscilla Joseph dance to Haitian music during a game of “freeze dance” at Toussaint L’Ouverture Academy, a Haitian Creole dual-language program at Mattahunt Elementary School in Boston. More dual-language programs are cropping up in districts around the country.

—Gretchen Ertol for Education Week
September 15, 2018

For decades, two factors drove the demand for dual-language education: a desire to preserve native languages and recognition that dual-language learning can boost overall achievement for English-language learners. Now, a growing number of states also see bilingualism as key to accessing the global economy, as evidenced by the surging popularity of the “seal of biliteracy”—a special recognition for graduates who demonstrate fluency in two or more languages. The popularity of the seal is spurring even more demand for dual-language-education programs.

There is no definitive count of the number of schools that provide dual-language instruction, but new programs are cropping up each year in districts of all sizes. The New York City schools alone have more than 100 dual-language programs, but schools in at least 40 states and the District of Columbia also operate programs. With more new programs undoubtedly in the works, Education Week talked with several regional and national dual-language education experts, who offered insights into what it takes to launch dual-language programs and strengthen existing ones. Here are some excerpts from those conversations, edited for clarity and length…

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Westchester Community College Adds Members

Westchester Community College Adds Members

VALHALLA – The Westchester Community College Board of Trustees has added three new members:

Elizabeth Lugones has been selected as the student representative to the college’s Board of Trustees. Her goal is to graduate from the college with a degree in Engineering Science and then move on to a master’s program before entering the industry.

Deborah S. Raizes is a senior consultant for Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, Ltd., which specializes in searches for administrators, including superintendents, at public schools. Prior to this position, she was a teacher for the Durham County Schools in Durham, North Carolina.

She has a significant record of voluntary public service in the field of education. Highlights include her affiliation with the Westchester Community College Foundation Board for which she has served in a variety of roles including member, chairperson, and president. She has also served as vice chairperson and chairperson for the Lesley University Board of Trustees. She is currently a member of the Board of Trustees for this private institution in Cambridge, Massachusetts.

In addition to her work with Westchester Community College Foundation, her local impact has been significant through her involvement with the Scarsdale School System. She served as president of the Scarsdale Council of Parent Teacher Associations, was a member of the Westchester-Putnam School Board Association, and was a member of the New York State School Board Association. For the Scarsdale Board of Education, she held several roles ranging from member to vice president and president.

A member of the Institutional Review Board of the White Plains Hospital Center, she received her B.S. in Education from Lesley College. She was recognized by the Westchester Community College Foundation, which bestowed the Abeles Award to her due to her commitment to public service. She also received the Lesley College Community Service Award.

Dr. Gregory Robeson Smith is the senior pastor of the Mt. Hope A.M.E. Zion Church, the oldest African-American Congregation in Westchester County. He is the president of the Mt. Hope Community Development Corporation; Prince Hall Housing Development Fund Inc.; and Prince Hall Fund Inc., a multi-million dollar non-for-profit 501(c)3 Foundation providing program funds/grants to assist the poor, distressed, and underprivileged. In 1990, he was appointed by President Bush as president and chief executive officer of the African Development Foundation, an independent Federal agency in Washington, D.C., with offices in 25 African nations and a staff of more than 3,000 individuals. Dr. Smith continued to serve in this position in the Clinton Administration. The agency assists the most vulnerable members of society with grants for technical assistance and capacity building to grassroots organizations, cooperatives, and community enterprises that strengthen local institutions and achieve lasting impact. He also has served as Director of International Disaster Response for Church World Service, an entity of the National Council of Churches.

A graduate with honors from Livingstone College in Salisbury, North Carolina, Dr. Smith also earned two Masters and two Doctoral degrees: MBA Degree in Marketing and Finance; a Master of Divinity Degree; Doctorate in Higher Education Administration and Finance ABD; and a Doctorate in Ministries.

Dr. Smith is the grandnephew of the late Paul Robeson, the renowned singer and activist.

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600 Students Awarded Diplomas at Vassar

600 Students Awarded Diplomas at Vassar

By Jennifer L. Warren

POUGHKEEPSIE – Diversity. Tolerance. Pluralism. Being an American.

Vassar diploma candidates are all smiles just prior to the start of Sunday morning’s 154th Annual Commencement ceremony.

They were words and phrases frequently alluded to at Sunday’s 154th Vassar Commencement, in many ways defined the Class of 2018. This year’s group of 600 (which now brings Vassar’s all-time total alumnus tally to 39,566) was comprised of graduates from 47 states as well as 29 foreign countries or U.S. territories. 234 studied abroad in 39 countries on six continents. And then there are the long list of varied, impressive feats, spanning the athletic, academic and civic realms, by those graduates. It’s that range of activities, ethnic, racial and other compositions, and far-spanning backgrounds, that will prepare this group of young people for the challenges that will confront them as they venture off into the ever-evolving workforce as well as communities they will encounter.

“Your new voice, the one that you developed here, can be your greatest voice,” stressed Elizabeth H. Bradley, Vassar President.

Referring to “engaged pluralism,” Bradley further spoke of the critical need to depend upon two things should that voice falter: imagination and empathy. The first year President added, “Imagination will allow you to try to live like another does, seeing things through their lens; while empathy, will let you not just tolerate difference, but flourish with it, something that requires using muscle memory.”

That muscle memory is something the morning’s Commencement Speaker knows very well. Heather McGhee, leader of Demos, a nationally known public policy organization, as well as frequent guest on such national political shows as; “Meet the Press,” “Real Times with Bill Maher,” and “Hardball with Chris Matthews,” opened her passionate speech with an immediately riveting tale. Alluding to a time early on in here career when on live television a man said to her, “Im a white man, and I’m prejudice,” McGhee further detailed how she ultimately turned that initially very disturbing remark into a profound learning experience, as well as the man, into a good friend.

“I remember telling him (“Gary”) thank you for admitting his prejudices, as so many are afraid to do so,” said an energetic McGhee. “I then gave him ideas of how to combat his ideas, such as meeting with black people and reading, and he took my recommendations to heart over time; all of this made me think: What does it mean to be an American?” McGee then went on to detail the long list of seemingly justified reasons why so much discrimination has riddled this country’s history, adding that none of them were logical, fair, or humane.

Looking directly at the Vassar Class of 2018, she continued, “I think it’s going to be up to you to determine exactly what that means, challenged McGee. “As you go out today, I want you to remember, the majority of Americans, have not had the pluralistic education you have had here; it’s not going to be easy, but it is always worth it; being a better American is to love more people than the people who look just like you.”

Bringing her talk full-circle, McGhee, who co-chaired a task force for Americans for Financial Reform, one that made pivotal changes to the Dodd-Frank Wall Street Reform Consumer Protection Act, then smiled wide as the rain began to pick up momentum, and added, “Gary and I are counting on you.”

Scholarship Awards Recognizes 11 Students

Scholarship Awards Recognizes 11 Students

By Jennifer L. Warren

NEWBURGH – Eddie Ramirez often offers his friends a special kind of “economic” advice.

“I always tell my friends, don’t invest in the Stock Market,” related Ramirez. “Invest in the Latino community.”

Ramirez, the CEO of R & M Promotions as well as the Director of the Latino High School Scholarship Fund, has been diligently following his own people tip for much of his life- particularly with area youth-for over 20 years with the creation of the Hudson Valley Latino High School Scholarship Awards program. Together, with his wife Norma, the two have relentlessly sought out gracious sponsors so that these higher education monies, along with other forms of recognition, can be secured for well-deserving, often overlooked youth. Their efforts have now resulted in yet another milestone: 140 recipients have received these scholarships. A record-setting 11, who were honored at Newburgh’s Ramada Inn Thursday night, made that number official. And the selection was not an easy process: another record-setting number, 65 candidates applied. Each carried with him/her an impressive resume of academic, athletic, and community accolades as well as creative, well-written essays and stellar teacher references. That pool of candidates, along with the special ethnic flair of the scholarship, were just a couple of the reasons Newburgh Free Academy senior, Taino Caballero, was thrilled to have been chosen.

Pine Bush High School seniors Eduardo Jaime, John DeGeorge and Sean Bergos, were recognized at Thursday’s 20th Annual Hudson Valley Latino High School Scholarship Awards.

“When I found out I was one of the winners, I was super excited; it was the first scholarship I actually got out of several I applied for,” recalled Caballero, who is headed to the University of Albany in the fall to pursue a major in Digital Forensics. “This one is special to me because it’s for my ethnicity of Puerto Rican and Dominican; I’m going into the STEM field, which is related to the sciences (and technology), a place where the Latin female presence is not really visible, so I want to inspire more Latin women to join that field.”

The evening’s guest speaker, Jacqueline Hernandez, Town of Woodbury Councilwoman and Deputy Supervisor of Woodbury, knows all about taking uncharted paths and inspiring just the way Caballero aspires to some day. Attending a predominantly white, upper class student body at Colgate University, Hernandez spoke about the discriminatory challenges that gave her a “tough skin,” helping mold her into the persistent, hard-working, “never-take-no-for-an-answer,” woman she is today. Relating her initial career path in the sciences, she spoke of the “meant to be” twists and turns that steered her toward being a businesswoman as well as politician, two paths she had no formal training in, but possessed something much deeper.

“A lot of times you have your sites set on one path, but the journey changes; every part of my journey led me to a bigger picture,” Hernandez asserted. What I thought was a dead end, actually started a new season.” Urging soon-to-be graduates to take chances, be creative, and most of all: follow their passion, she added, “You need determination and a plan, and you then need to put wings to it, execute and make it come alive.” Hernandez said. “You can achieve and overcome, as long as you put your mind to it.”

Four Newburgh Free Academy high school seniors were honored at Thursday’s 20th annual Hudson Valley Latino High School Scholarship Awards. In total, 11 high school seniors were recognized for their academic, community, athletic and other outstanding feats.

At least one of this year’s recipients appears to already be living the life Hernandez alluded to. Kayla Deleon, has been hard at work this past year with the McLymore Foundation, an organization promoting non-violence in Newburgh. The Newburgh Free Academy senior has been assisting with the group’s mission of getting kids off the streets while using art as a form of expression rather than violence. “Being Latina really shapes your mind and how people see you,” said Deleon, who will attend SUNY Cortland with a major in elementary education in the fall. “So, I want to break the mold, and not be another statistic; rather I intend to come back to Newburgh, the place and community that raised me and made me who I am, and teach here some day.”

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State Restrictions on School Choice Earn Betsy DeVos’ Ire – Education Week

State Restrictions on School Choice Earn Betsy DeVos’ Ire – Education Week

Education Week logoU.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos, who has had difficulty selling her school choice agenda in Washington, railed against state constitutional prohibitions on public funds going to faith-based institutions, in a recent speech to a Roman Catholic organization.

The target of DeVos’ wrath: so-called “Blaine” amendments to state constitutions that prohibit public funds from being used for religious purposes. DeVos said those amendments, many of which originated in the late 1800s, began as “bigoted” against Catholics.

“These Blaine provisions prohibit taxpayer funding of ‘sectarian’—a euphemism at that time for ‘Catholic’—activities, even when they serve the public good,” DeVos said, according to prepared remarks of the speech to the Alfred E. Smith Foundation, which is affiliated with the Archdiocese of New York. “Activities like addiction recovery, hospice care, or—the amendments’ primary target—parochial education.”

Those amendments are still on the books in 37 states, DeVos said in her May 16 address. And though she didn’t mention it in her speech, that includes her home state of Michigan. Back in 2000, DeVos helped lead an effort to change the state’s constitution to allow for school vouchers. It failed.

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SUNY Orange Celebrates Record Number of Grads

SUNY Orange Celebrates Record Number of Grads

MIDDLETOWN – Speakers at SUNY Orange’s 68th Commencement ceremony on Thursday evening (May 17) emboldened the more than 500 attending graduates to “build” a brighter future for themselves and their community, “step” briskly into that new future, and positively “influence” those with whom they come in contact.

Dental Hygiene professor Dr. Frederick Melone and graduate Rachael Richards were the featured speakers as SUNY Orange feted an estimated 527 graduates, the most ever to attend Commencement. A partly sunny sky blanketed the crowd of 4,000 on an Alumni Green turned soggy by rains earlier in the week. In all, a record total of 901 students are expected to have completed their degree requirements within the past academic year (pending certification of all May graduates’ transcripts)

Richards, a graduate of Warwick Valley High School, earned her liberal arts degree with honors (magna cum laude) in December and spent this spring semester as a chemistry major at SUNY Binghamton. She is presently conducting research, under the direction of a Binghamton professor, aimed at discovering organic, solvent-free methods of removing lead from drinking water.

“Some of us may aspire to shape behavior until it changes minds; craft science until it changes lives,” Richards said. “Some may want to build movements, speak up and out, join walk-outs and sit-ins; write books or create music that people look to when they’re lost; provide every human with a meal and clean drinking water; build buildings for people to stay in and trusses for others to cross; find cures for diseases and solutions for problems; spread love and literally never ever stop.

SUNY Orange celebrated it’s 68th commencement ceremony on May 17, featuring 527 participants and a crowd of approximately 4,000 attendants.

“And trust me, I know that when you want to build (something) that big you often find yourself looking down at your hands thinking: ‘I can’t do this, my hands are too small,’ but I assure you they are not. Just start laying bricks. Because with this education we’ve earned, with this knowledge we’ve acquired, with this drive for whatever it is we do, we would be shocked at just how many beautiful things our hands can create,” Richards added. “There is time for all of these things, and although the work is never easy and the journey is seldom pretty, it’s the only way things get built. We all learned that, right here at this college.”

Melone, a recipient of the 2018 SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Teaching Excellence, was selected to serve as the faculty speaker. He has been a member of the College’s faculty since 2000 and was among three faculty members and one staff member to be recognized during the ceremony for having accepted a Chancellor’s Award.

“Now, you stand at the summit of your success. Now you stand ready to take a step once again – a step to be inspired not by your footprints from your past, but to be inspired by your blueprints for your future: a step to explore new directions – a step to engage new diversions – and a step to enjoy new destinations,” Melone said. “And so, may each of you walk on your upward path with never a misstep. May each of you walk with your family and friends forever beside your footsteps. And may every one of you see your Commencement to be not solely your stepping stone, but to be your platform: your platform to step onto – your platform to speak from – and your platform to step closer to your dreams.”

Additional remarks were delivered by Helen Ullrich, chair of the SUNY Orange Board of Trustees; Orange County Director of Operations Harry Porr; and Derrik Wynkoop, chair of the SUNY Orange Foundation Board of Directors. SUNY Orange President Dr. Kristine Young hosted the event, and during her remarks related the influence that her professor and undergraduate faculty advisor, Dr. Donald Shive, had upon her to the relationship between SUNY Orange students and faculty.

“In my three years as president, I have spoken with countless SUNY Orange alumni who quite vividly recall one faculty or staff member who was their personal ‘influencer’ here. That person who motivated, nurtured, cajoled, pushed … and most importantly … encouraged them,” Young explained. “I’m confident that each of you today has a Dr. Shive. Each of you most likely can point to the left or the right of this very stage, and identify among our faculty and staff, that one person.

“That’s why I love community colleges. That’s why I love SUNY Orange. This thing we call higher education is a people business, a relationship business,” she added. “The great power of education is that it can change people’s lives. You, too, can be influencers. Many of you already are.”

Each year, SUNY Orange awards diplomas to students who earn Associate in Arts, Associate in Science and Associate in Applied Science degrees, while presenting graduation certificates to those who complete the College’s various certificate programs.

One student graduated with perfect 4.0 grade point average (Daniel P. Kall) … five graduates had their degrees presented to them by a parent or relative who works at the College: Emma Paradies (mother Dr. Michele Paradies, professor of biology), Brianna Worden (father William, adjunct professor of criminal justice), Andres Salgado (uncle Fred Watson, SUNY Orange Trustee), Rommel Sankhi (father Sonny, security guard), and Peter Jahn (father Walter, professor of biology) … 19 students graduated from the College’s Honors Program … three students earned the SUNY Chancellor’s Award for Student Excellence (Reuben Buck, Renita Johnson, Emma Paradies) … the breakdown of 901 graduates is August 2017 (146), December 2017 (227) and May 2018 (528) … 110 graduates completed their degree programs entirely at the Newburgh campus … 17 students comprised the first graduates from the Excelsior Academy (the collaborative P-TECH program at Newburgh North High School in partnership by SUNY Orange and IBM).

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