This will be a week that Americans remember forever. From the historic U.S. Senate runoff elections in Georgia to the violence at the U.S. Capitol Building on Wednesday as some members of Congress challenged the results of the 2020 presidential election, the events of this week have left us all shaken. Vice Chancellor Brown, the Board of Regents, and I released a statement about the acts of violence that took place at the U.S. Capitol this week, and about how our schools can offer support for students as they process these events. New York’s teachers and counselors are there to remind students that they are loved and cared for, to provide resources that are available to help, and to remind students that we will never solve our problems through violence. As parents and educators, we must teach our children that America is a land of hope and opportunity, and that it cannot be taken for granted.
Earlier this week, the Board of Regents and New York State Education Department (NYSED) announced that we will convene three Digital Equity Summits to establish a shared understanding of digital inequity in the state and create a joint vision for achieving digital equity. The summits will bring together education, government, community, and business partners from across the state to develop recommended next steps in the short-term and long-term involving business, industry, community organizations, and all levels of government to benefit students and their families.
The coronavirus pandemic has made internet access more essential than ever as people work and learn from home. New York is home to many of the world’s premier technology companies and I look forward to hearing from them and our other stakeholders as we continue to work toward closing the digital divide for all.
In December, Vice Chancellor T. Andrew Brown, the Board of Regents, and I expressed our gratitude to the New York State Congressional delegation for including educational resources, including broadband availability that would help address digital inequity, in the federal economic stimulus package. In addition, we reiterated our call for ensuring level state funding over a two-year period as originally put forth in the Board of Regents 2021-22 State Aid Proposal. These funds would help meet the needs of school districts amidst the COVID-19 pandemic.
Finally, applications are now being accepted for the 2021 New York State Summer School of the Arts (NYSSSA). The four-week summer program will be held fully online to ensure safety during the unprecedented COVID-19 crisis. Tuition will be free for all students who qualify, fostering equity by allowing students who may not have been able to participate otherwise. Students will be able to experience intensive work and interaction with internationally acclaimed artists and performing arts companies.
Our NYSSSA staff have poured their passion into ensuring that their exceptional students can continue to grow artistically and personally by transforming the curricula for optimum online learning. Considerable distance and financial barriers have been eliminated in converting to an all-virtual format, and I hope that parents and students will seize this opportunity to experience world-class mentoring and interaction with our instructors and artists.
NYSSSA auditions begin this month, and students in grades 8-12 throughout New York State are encouraged to apply. Audition information and application materials are available on the NYSSSA website.
Thank you for all you do to support strong family and community involvement in our schools. I look forward to continuing to provide you with updates in this new year.
Betty A. Rosa