images of parents with their children
September 11, 2020
Dear Parents,

Together with our partners and colleagues at the New York State PTA, we mourn the tragic loss of PTA President Lorey Zaman. Lorey worked tirelessly on behalf of children, and she impacted the lives of so many. Her legacy of kindness, compassion, and dedication will live on. The Board of Regents and the State Education Department send thoughts and strength to Lorey's family and to the New York State PTA.

The Board of Regents and the State Education Department look forward to working with New York State PTA Acting President Jane Harsha. Jane previously served as NYS PTA 1st Vice President.

I know that the events of September 11, 2001 are on our minds today as we remember the victims of 9/11 and honor the first responders and heroes who serve every day to keep us safe. To commemorate the 19th anniversary, I invite you to join the New York State Museum for a virtual gallery tour of World Trade Center: Rescue, Recovery, Response. The exhibition details the history of the World Trade Center, the September 11 attacks, the rescue efforts, the evidence recovery operation at the Fresh Kills facility, and the public response to the September 11 events. The exhibition includes many objects, images, videos, and interactive stations documenting this tragic chapter in New York and America's history. I encourage you to take some time to view and learn more about this powerful State Museum exhibition.

As we approach the midpoint of September, I hope the transition into the new school year is as smooth as possible for you and your children. In case you missed it earlier this week, please take a moment to read my letter and watch my video message welcoming parents, students, and educators back to school.

As I've mentioned previously, the State Education Department is mindful of the many uncertainties that schools are facing statewide as they begin to reopen. We will continuously monitor the situation and provide updated guidance, policies, and regulatory changes as the circumstances require. This will be an unusual and unprecedented school year, and I wish you a positive start, whether your children will return to school in person, engage in remote learning, or participate in some combination of the two.

The COVID-19 pandemic revealed the inequities that run throughout our education system. The "digital divide" is real, and it is devastating. Students simply cannot participate in remote learning if they don't have access to a computer and to the internet. September is Digital Equity Outreach Month, and the New York State Library and State Education Department, in partnership with the METRO Library Council and the Northern New York Library Network, recently announced a series of webinars on Digital Equity.

The Digital Equity webinars are intended for educators, librarians, and other stakeholders with an interest in bringing about digital equity. This series will attempt to establish a shared understanding of the challenges to digital equity to begin to develop a shared vision of how we can work together to achieve digital equity for all New Yorkers. More information and webinar registration details are available on the State Library's Digital Equity web page.

Digital equity is the concept that every New Yorker has access to affordable broadband, adequate devices, necessary software, digital literacy skills, and a community of support. Persistent digital divides exist in communities -- urban, suburban, and rural -- across New York. In fact, according to a report by Common Sense Media, more than 25 percent of students in New York lack access to the Internet and/or appropriate devices to participate in remote online education. The challenges to student connectivity can't be considered in isolation, since they are part of larger systemic inequities disproportionately affecting people of color and people with lower incomes.

The Board of Regents and the State Education Department are working to bridge the digital divide through the development of various programs and resources including the Teaching in Blended/Remote Learning Environments (TRLE) program. New York's TRLE program addresses the immediate and urgent learning needs of New York's most vulnerable students and their parents during the COVID-19 pandemic by providing educators with the tools, resources, and training to facilitate blended/remote instruction when needed. Additionally, the State Education Department has issued guidance to schools and districts related to fiscal flexibilities for federal funding sources to assist Local Educational Agencies (LEAs) with unforeseen expenses during this unprecedented public health emergency.

Thank you again for all you do to strengthen our schools. The parent-school connection is a key component to school and student success. I encourage you to continue to be involved in your child's school, this year more than ever. Together, we will make this school year a success.


Betty A. Rosa
Interim Commissioner