Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña Join Brooklyn Generation School for Family Night

September 30, 2015 -- The halls of Brooklyn Generation School were alive with energy as parents, students and teachers excitedly moved about the school-they were expecting special guests to join them for family night and their anticipation could be felt throughout the building.
Left to right: Chancellor Carmen Fariña, Mayor Bill de Blasio, Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud, and Principal Lydia Colón Bomani.
Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña, flanked by Assemblywoman Roxanne Persaud and Council Member Alan Maisel, arrived to the enthusiastic greetings of over 150 community members. The teachers, parents, students, and other community stakeholders teemed with passion and pride for the school that has served its East Flatbush and Canarsie community for close to a decade. 

Principal Lydia Colón Bomani - affectionately referred to by staff and students as 'LC' - delivered an inspiring introductory address, highlighting some of the amazing strides being made. The crowd cheered loudly as she rattled off impressive benchmarks. This year's four-year graduation rate rose to 68%, an improvement of more than 15% from the prior years. School attendance topped 90% for the first time in more than four years. The school used the Renewal Schools resources to provide more robust supports for students' mental health and counseling needs. Incredible opportunities were given to all students to explore an array of colleges and career paths, granting each student an unprecedented chance to visit four colleges by the end of their freshman year. In addition, the school is realizing a component of the original proposal first articulated in 2007 to create a school-based health center.

Mayor de Blasio and Chancellor Fariña voiced their support for the BGS community.  They recognized the school's growth and success, with Chancellor Farina telling parents "...what you have here is very special." The tandem also urged families to increase their level of engagement with their young people, as it, coupled with the renewal schools program resources, would help positively impact the schools in the Canarsie community. The Mayor even went as far as saying, "Families take that child the extra mile" and "I know parents are part of the solution."

During the Mayor's Q&A, the parents and students asked poignant questions and shared touching stories about the impact of BGS. One parent in particular, Ms. Greenaway, thanked the school not only for supporting her son in high school, but also for creating the opportunity for him to visit Daemon College-a school he later applied to and earned a full scholarship to attend. Mayor de Blasio joked that those words, "full scholarship," are a parent's dream. Tanya Odums, the Director of the Wellness and Preventive team, advocated for the kids' emotional needs (prompting the Mayor to point out how wonderful it is that the school has a Wellness and Preventive Team, and is committed to student's mental health needs).  And Kelli Dunham, the Community Schools Director, assisted in the communication process between the mayor and the crowd, translating for the parent who asked a question in Haitian-Creole, and then translating the Mayor's response back.  She was then invited to join the Mayor, Chancellor, Assemblywoman and Principal at the front of the room.

Generation Schools' board member, Sharon Wurtzel said the event "was incredibly impressive," and it was "gratifying to hear parents speak passionately and enthusiastically about their children's experiences at BGS.  Whatever work remains to get the school to where Lydia, Louis, staff and the rest of us want to see it, it was a great moment to applaud the amazing work that is happening and hear how meaningful it is to families. Not a bad thing for the Mayor and Chancellor to see."

Aimee Horowitz, Executive Superintendent of the Office of Renewal Schools, made a similar observation: "The warm, nurturing environment you and your CBO have collaborated to create is evident not only in the data on improved attendance and reduced chronic absenteeism, but in students' and their family members' comments about the school, its teachers, and the administration."

The Mayor's visit overall was indicative of the significant strides and improvements made by BGS and the powerful community supporting it. There is still more work to be done, and Jonathan Spear, Co-Founder and Chief Learning Officer at GSN has a positive outlook on the work being done at Brooklyn Generation. "We are proud of the work the staff is doing to implement GSN's model and make the most out of its structures - including the expanded learning time, College and Career Intensives, commitment to students' health and wellness, and opportunities for professionals to collaborate. We are also so gratified to see the ways the school is committed to their students' success through meaningful use of additional resources.  We are grateful that the students and families have benefited and that the school remains committed to providing opportunities to new students and families every year."
Generation Schools Network™
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