images of parents with their children
August 14, 2020
Dear Parents,

I'm Dr. Betty A. Rosa, Interim Commissioner of Education. Shannon Tahoe's last day at the New York State Education Department (NYSED) was Thursday, August 13. When Ms. Tahoe took over the position, no one could have imagined that a global pandemic was on the horizon, and she capably led the Department through one of its most challenging times. She proved herself as a dedicated, personable leader who put her entire heart into serving the children and adults of New York State. I want to thank Ms. Tahoe for her leadership and steady hand, and I wish her well.

This week, the Board of Regents appointed me the next Interim Commissioner. This is a temporary appointment while the search for the next permanent Commissioner of Education and President of the University of the State of New York has been extended. To assume this position, I left my post as Chancellor of the Board of Regents in the extraordinarily capable hands of Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown. I'm looking forward to working with the Board in this new capacity and to working with parents, educators, school communities, and other stakeholders and we face the challenges of this school year together.

My decision to take the position of Interim Commissioner was an incredibly difficult one, as I have loved my work on the Board of Regents, but I'm confident that it was the right decision to ensure the stability that we need for our students during this unprecedented time. It is imperative that NYSED continues its important work without interruption, and I am dedicated to providing that constancy as Interim Commissioner. NYSED is well positioned to move forward with the Board's priorities and to ensure that our students and educators can resume teaching and learning safely and effectively.

Districts and schools are about to begin an instructional year like no other in our history. NYSED has provided guidance to P-12 schools on recovering, rebuilding, and renewing the spirit of New York State schools and will continue to provide technical assistance on that guidance to our districts and schools. Districts and schools are now putting their reopening procedures into action, planning for teaching and learning whether that will be in-person instruction, remote instruction, or a combination of both.

Schools at every level across our state face tremendous challenges as they address the crisis created by COVID-19. The U.S. Department of Education recently announced that New York was awarded nearly $20 million for the K-12 Rethink Grant to assist and support New York's schools. This funding will help our schools as they continue to deliver the education our students need and deserve while also making safety a top priority this fall.

The K-12 Rethink Grant will provide more than 190,000 teachers and educational leaders across New York State with a combined 450,000 hours of professional support to implement effective practices in remote/hybrid teaching and learning which, in turn, will reach an estimated two million students. Thirty-nine states applied for this funding and New York was one of eleven states to be awarded funds under this grant competition.

NYSED applied for the Rethink Education Models grant to support blended and remote learning. Our approach to continuity of learning is founded on two major pillars: a partnership with communities, schools, and educational leaders to close the digital divide, and steadfast support for New York's educators. We commend our dedicated educators who have adapted quickly to ensure continuity of learning so our students don't fall behind.

If you are a parent of a college student, you might also be interested to know that earlier this month, NYSED released guidance to assist institutions of higher education in planning for a safe and orderly return to educational operations-whether remote, in person, or a combination of the two. This guidance, which the Board of Regents and NYSED developed in consultation with the higher education community, will help ensure institutions have the information and regulatory flexibilities necessary to develop and implement creative solutions to their unique campus circumstances.

While it's still summer, you might be looking for some educational activities for the whole family. I have a few suggestions:
  • Participate in Summer Reading at New York Libraries
    Reading is a great way to keep kids engaged during the summer. Summer Reading at New York Libraries is a free, annual program that gives you and your children the opportunity to access the vast resources of New York's public libraries.

    This year's theme is "Imagine Your Story" and, due to COVID-19, local libraries across the state have reimagined summer reading this year in new and different virtual formats with exciting online activities, programs, and events. You and your children can visit your local public library's website to find activities.
  • Check out the New York State Museum's Virtual Summer Programs
    Visit the New York State Museum's online portal to enjoy a variety of engaging and educational activities, including virtual field trips, Women of Science, Summer Fun Fridays, digital collections, online resources, and fun activities for kids based on the Museum's research and collections.
  • Take a virtual tour of the New York State Education Building
    Virtual tours of the New York State Education Building are led by New York State Museum educator Carl Morrone and allow visitors to explore the Regents Room and the Rotunda adorned with murals by Albany native Will H. Low. You can also visit our website to learn more about the history of the New York State Education Building.
  • Need more ideas?
    We continue to post fun and educational summertime activities for kids and parents on our social media channels. As part of our #SummerLearning campaign, we have been sharing tips, resources, and activities, highlighting daily themes like "Math Monday," "Trivia Tuesday," "Where in NY Wednesday," "Thinker Thursday," and "Fitness Friday." If you're not already, be sure to follow us on Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn to get all our updates!
Finally, I want to remind you that free meals are available during the summer for children and teens across New York at more than 3,000 Summer Food Service Program sites. You can use the interactive USDA online map to find a service site that will provide free meals for your child. 

Thank you for reading. I look forward to providing you with updates on a regular basis.


Interim Commissioner Betty A. Rosa