I am eager to work with you and the excellent educators across New York in my new capacity as Interim State Education Commissioner as we begin this unusual school year.
Last spring, teachers seized the moment when they lost access to their classrooms and face-to-face time with students. Through creativity and caring, they have kept those crucial connections with students and families. It was inspiring to watch.
Similarly, this summer our educators, administrators, school board members and BOCES staff across the state have work intensely to address the challenges we face amid the ongoing COVID pandemic.
They have dedicated their hearts and minds to developing reopening plans that put the health and safety of students, families, teachers and staff first, while ensuring that teaching and learning can proceed uninterrupted, no matter what the coming year may bring.
I'm confident that great learning will happen this year, whether it's in a physical classroom or a virtual one, as we find innovative ways to reach our students. Change isn't easy and no one could have anticipated the historic adjustments we've made to ensure our children are healthy and safe.
But I'm also confident that with change comes opportunity.
At the State Education Department, we will take this opportunity to gather information about what's working well for students and families. The Department will share those lessons learned so that successes can be emulated in other schools. We will embrace this opportunity to broaden our horizons.
We - parents, educators and students - have become pioneers in adapting how we educate children within the confines that this pandemic has placed upon us. I know the rapid shift to online learning in the spring added stress for families who had to adjust work-life schedules, find childcare solutions and juggle working and teaching from home. While it certainly was not easy, you and your children showed strength and resiliency through it all as you acclimated to the new reality. For that, you are my heroes!
It is because of your continuing dedication that I know we can work together to ensure that this school year will be one of learning for adults and children alike. We must evolve what it means to learn post-pandemic by building on the valuable lessons learned during this time.
Another priority for this school year is addressing equity in access to technology needed for remote learning. The pandemic revealed that New York's children and families don't have equal access to devices and broadband. Our districts worked all summer to help bridge this digital divide. The State Education Department will continue to partner with districts to further ensure students and teachers have what they need to be successful.
One way we're going to do that is by turning increased use of technology to our students' advantage. Schools will be able to partner to expand their offerings, including Advanced Placement and high-level coursework, through use of remote learning. A teacher in one school may now be able to connect virtually with students in multiple schools and districts. This can help level the playing field and foster equity in education for our high-need schools.
I look forward to hearing about your successes and challenges as the year progresses. If adversity is the mother of invention, just think of how much we can accomplish together after everything we've been through these last six months and what we will encounter in the coming school year!
Thank you for your dedication and support. Have a great year!
Dr. Betty A. Rosa
Interim State Education Commissioner