images of parents with their children
Dear Parents,

Many of us are still trying to come to terms with the unspeakably horrific traffic accident that took the lives of twenty people in Schoharie, New York last weekend. This week, Chancellor Rosa, the Board of Regents, and I sent a letter to educators expressing our sadness at the loss of all lives, including two members of our education community - Abby Jackson, a reading teacher at the Wilbur H. Lynch Literacy Academy in Amsterdam, New York, and Brian Hough, an associate professor of geology at SUNY Oswego.

We know that traumatic incidents can deeply impact the ability of people - especially children - to learn. There is no shame in seeking out mental health and emotional supports, and we encourage everyone who is hurting to do so. Emotional support is available through local school districts, BOCES, and SUNY Oswego as well as through the Red Cross.

In recognition of Mental Health Awareness Week this week, we announced that NYSED and the State Office of Mental Health will be awarded $1.8 million to increase mental health support in schools. The grant, funded by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA), is a 2018 Project Advancing Wellness and Resilience in Education (AWARE) award and is intended to expand the capacity of states to detect and respond to mental health issues in school-aged youth.

Building on our recent commitment to promote a positive school climate and assist schools with implementing social and emotional learning benchmarks, this grant will allow us to bolster our efforts and provide students with a healthy learning environment to help them succeed. When we provide school staff with the tools to identify and address mental health issues, we are giving the students the ability to get support early on and ultimately have a better learning experience.

Last week, we made another announcement related to the health and well-being of our students: No-cost eye exams and glasses will be provided to students at schools across New York again this year through a partnership with the New York State Optometric Association, VSP Global, and the New York State Society of Opticians. This marks the second year of this effort to raise awareness about providing accessible vision care and resources to those who are in need, as well as the critical role clear vision plays in children's physical, cognitive, and social development.

A child's eyes are constantly in use in the classroom: Reading, writing, smart board work, and using computers are all tasks that can be difficult for students with undiagnosed vision problems. A student who has trouble paying attention or looks at everything but the smart board may actually have a problem seeing it. It's so important that we focus on the crucial part a child's vision plays in his or her school career.

Research shows that one in four school-age children has a vision disorder which impacts his or her ability to properly learn. Learn more about our effort to raise awareness about student vision health and see the schedule of no-cost screenings.

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


MaryEllen Elia