April 23, 2021
Dear Parents,
Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa
Last week, the Board of Regents launched an initiative to advance diversity, equity, and inclusion in schools across the state. As the first step in the initiative, the Board released a draft framework and call to action for all schools in New York State to develop policies that advance diversity, equity, and inclusion as a priority in their schools. The framework recognizes there is no single, isolated answer that will solve society's pervasive problems; rather, the approach must be holistic and inclusive – and the Board of Regents, the New York State Education Department (NYSED), and New York’s schools will be an integral part of the solution.

The pandemic has exposed and exacerbated long-standing problems - including inequity, racism, and bigotry - that exist throughout every facet of our society. Schools can take steps that will advance a greater understanding and respect for all people by creating learning communities that are more diverse, equitable, and inclusive. When it comes to creating a more equitable education system for all New Yorkers, I’m confident our educators and school leaders will answer the call to action and set the tone for sustainable change.

Also at its meeting last week, the Board of Regents recognized two outstanding New York State students receiving the Vice Chancellor Emerita Adelaide L. Sanford Scholarship. The scholarship is named for Dr. Adelaide L. Sanford, the first African American, as well as the first woman, to serve as Vice Chancellor of the Board of Regents. Through Dr. Sanford’s generosity, it is awarded annually to exceptional My Brother’s Keeper (MBK) Fellows and graduating high school seniors from a NYSED-recognized MBK community. This year’s recipients are Giovanni Almonte of Yonkers City School District and Kenedi Catoe of Greenburgh Central School District.

NYSED and the New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) recognized 60 New York State teachers last week for achieving national certification from the National Board of Professional Teaching Standards. The Department congratulated these exceptional teachers from across the state who have achieved the “gold standard” in the education profession at a virtual celebration. Through a process of introspection and enrichment, these passionate teachers elevate their efforts in the classroom and open a world of leadership and academic possibilities for themselves and their colleagues for whom they will serve as mentors.

If you are a parent of a special education student, NYSED’s Office of Special Education is sharing a series of parent videos, Supporting the Learning of Children with Significant Cognitive Disabilities at Home, which were recently published by two U.S. Department of Education, Office of Special Education funded centers, the TIES Center and the National Center on Educational Outcomes. The video series supports families in understanding the important role that they have in teaching their children and offers ideas for supporting the learning of children with significant cognitive disabilities at home.

In addition, if you have a high school or college student with a disability, Accredited Schools Online provides a guide to scholarships and financial aid for students with disabilities. The scholarships and financial aid opportunities are offered by private companies, organizations, schools, and more, and the guide provides explanations about how each type of aid works. Explore the list of scholarships and financial aid for students with disabilities here.

We would also like to share the following update for families regarding the American Rescue Plan and financial assistance for health insurance. The American Rescue Plan, which was signed into law on March 11, includes new and larger financial assistance for New Yorkers enrolling in health insurance through NY State of Health. Through the American Rescue Plan, eligible enrollees will soon be able to receive an increase in tax credits to lower their health insurance costs, and those who have higher incomes may be eligible for the first time. For more information, please refer to the resources below:

Finally, NYSED will host the 2021 New York State My Brother's Keeper (MBK) Virtual Symposium next Thursday, April 29 and Friday, April 30. The inspirational and informative gathering makes a triumphant virtual return after last year’s symposium was cancelled by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hundreds of students, parents, educational leaders, advocates, and experts from across the nation will come together virtually for the fourth symposium on MBK, the initiative to help boys and young men of color—and all students—realize their full potential.

In addition to providing resources and motivating and inspiring participants, we will also induct the 2021 class of the MBK Fellows. A webcast will be available on NYSED.gov at 10:00 a.m. on April 29 and 30. If you can, I encourage you to watch live and hear from MBK students and programs as they share their success stories, challenges, and strategies. For more information, check out our MBK website and subscribe to our MBK newsletter for regular updates.

Thank you for your continued support of education in New York State.


Betty A. Rosa