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February 16, 2024

Dear Parents and Families,

Commissioner Betty A. Rosa

Greetings! The month of February is designated as Black History Month, and is an opportunity to celebrate the achievements, pride, bravery, and perseverance that define the Black experience. We honor the trailblazers and innovators who paved the way for progress and inspired generations in the ongoing pursuit of a better tomorrow. As we take time to reflect on the relentless pursuit of freedom, justice, and equality by those who came before us, we must also continue to strive for a future where the principles of inclusivity and equity are universally embraced.

The New York State Board of Regents and the New York State Education Department (NYSED) are commemorating Black History Month by celebrating Black Americans’ innumerable and enduring contributions throughout our nation’s history. Through February, special exhibitions, educational resources, and compelling in-person and online programs will be available, highlighting the significance of Black history in New York State. The monthlong celebration underscores the value of fostering unity and solidarity among diverse cultural identities and highlights the role of education as a unifying force that bridges these varied experiences. A comprehensive list of in-person and virtual Black History Month programs happening across the state is available on the State Museum’s website.

The State Museum, in partnership with the State Library and State Archives, will feature the centerpiece of this year’s Black History Month observance with a special exhibition, The Moral Arc Toward Freedom: Lincoln, King, and the Emancipation Proclamation. This exhibition will be open through Sunday, March 3, and focuses on the bonds that connect President Abraham Lincoln, Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., and the Emancipation Proclamation. It includes two historic documents: President Lincoln’s 1862 Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation and select pages from a speech Dr. King delivered in New York City in September 1962 to commemorate the 100th anniversary of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation. This draft of the Preliminary Emancipation Proclamation is the only surviving version of the document in Lincoln’s handwriting.

In the spirit of promoting inclusivity and equity in New York’s schools and communities, I would like to share additional information and opportunities with you to help your children continue to learn and thrive. Our new booklet documenting the history of the My Brother's Keeper movement is now available, providing insights into the important work being done to support boys and young men of color. Additionally, we have opened applications for the New York State Summer School of the Arts program and scholarship, providing opportunities for young artists to develop and showcase their talents. We also recently posted a recorded webinar series that highlights how students are leading the charge in creating equitable and inclusive schools. Find more information about these resources below.

Board of Regents and NYSED Announce the Publication of On a Path to Educational Equity: The Story of MBK in New York State 

The New York State Board of Regents and NYSED are proud to announce the publication of On a Path to Educational Equity: The Story of MBK in New York State. The booklet documents the development of the My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) initiative, from its establishment at the national level to its adoption and steady growth in New York State. The book was presented at the February 2024 Board of Regents meeting.

To view the publication in its entirety, please visit NYSED’s My Brother’s Keeper website.

NYSED Announces Applications Now Open for the 2024 New York State Summer School of the Arts

Applications are currently being accepted for the 2024 New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA) program. New York State students in grades 8-12 are encouraged to apply on the NYSSSA website, where they can also learn more about the application process and the programs offered this year in visual arts, media arts, and theatre. Applications and related materials are due by Friday, March 8, 2024 (theatre) and Friday, March 15, 2024 (visual arts and media arts).

In addition to the in-residency programs for young artists, NYSSSA will once again offer the Empire State Arts Scholarship program, providing students with scholarships to attend summer arts programs in their own communities. Administered by NYSED's Office of Cultural Education, the funding will support the Empire State Summer Arts Scholarship Program’s goal of promoting access and equity to arts education by providing need-based grants to low-income students who want to pursue summer growth opportunities. This year, $180,000 is available for students who meet application requirements. The scholarship application review process will be evaluated based on financial need. Applications are due by Friday, April 19, 2024. More information can be found on the Arts Scholarship Program web page.

Recorded Webinar Series: Elevating Student Voice as Leaders to Advance Equity and Inclusion

NYSED, in partnership with the Region 2 Comprehensive Center, hosted a webinar series in Fall 2023 entitled “Elevating Student Voice as Leaders to Advance Equity and Inclusion.” The webinars highlighted a range of ways in which school districts across New York State are elevating students as authentic partners and leaders in creating equitable and inclusive schools.

The recorded videos and introduction videos from Board of Regents Chancellor Lester W. Young, Jr. and Executive Director of the Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion, Dr. Diane Wynne, are now available on NYSED’s Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website.

We appreciate the district leaders, educators, and students from the following school districts who participated in this webinar series:


  • Gates Chili Central School District
  • Ithaca City School District
  • Peekskill City School District
  • Salamanca City Central School District
  • Shenendehowa Central School District
  • Uniondale School District 

Thank you for all you do to support your children, schools, and communities.


Betty A. Rosa Commissioner

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