State’s first Latina commissioner of education sees diversity, justice – POLITICO | Team Cansler

When Betty Rosa became acting commissioner of the state Department of Education, she thought the position would be temporary. But she was eventually appointed to the position on a permanent basis in February 2021, eventually earning the support of the Board of Regents, which she had previously served as Chancellor. She is the first Latina to hold the office of SED officer.

“I went over because I knew we had to settle with the idea that I was going to do this for seven months until we found a commissioner, and that didn’t happen,” Rosa said POLITICAL Katelyn Cordero in an interview. “So I’m sitting in this chair and … I think it’s very, very interesting to have been a board member and then chancellor. Now that I have to (make recommendations), I sometimes have to remind myself, ‘You’re not the Chancellor, you’re the Commissioner.’”

More than two years after taking office, 69-year-old Rosa, who is from Puerto Rico and moved to New York at the age of 9, is tasked with helping schools deal with the effects of the Covid-19 pandemic.

She says her priorities are rooted in tackling the learning loss from the pandemic: providing mental health resources, addressing staffing shortages, revising closure efforts and prioritizing diversity, equity and inclusion. Growing up in the Bronx, she said she did not fully understand the English language, which served as inspiration for her long career in education.

“My main focus is making sure parents send their children to school safely.” Rosa said during an event in Schenectady in September. “Second, the kids are having fun (being back in school) and learning and being creative and their natural curiosity is encouraged.”

And unlike her predecessors, she has cultivated positive relationships with unions, parents, school leaders and Regents members.

“We had some other commissioners that we didn’t work well with,” said Andy Pallotta, president of the New York State United Teachers Union. “The good cooperation with Dr. Rosa is a great example of what we can achieve together.”

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BLOCKS WERE FALLING FINAL YEAR — Chalkbeat’s Alex Zimmerman: “New York City issued significantly fewer suspensions this past school year than it did before the pandemic, according to figures released Thursday, even though many students have adjusted to in-person study for the first time since buildings closed in 2020. Educators handed out 25,117 suspensions over the past year, a 23% drop since the 2018-19 school year, the last year before the pandemic. Major suspensions, which last five days or less and are usually served at school, have fallen 18% over the past year. More serious suspensions of superintendents — lasting more than five days and imposed at outside suspension agencies — fell 37%. (Superintendent suspensions can technically last a full year, but as of 2019 they are limited to 20 days in most cases.)”

LOW MATHEMATICS TEST SCORES AMONG BLACK SCHOOL CHILDREN IN SCHENECTADY – Kathleen Moore of the Albany Times Union: “Of more than 40 high-need New York school districts, Schenectady had the worst math test scores for black students this year. Only 12 percent of third through eighth graders and 4 percent of black students passed the state test, which is offered in grades three through eight. This result was worse than other high-need, low-funding school districts and worse than districts that have made similar school closure decisions during the COVID-19 pandemic.”

HIGH RENT FOR DOMINICAN BILINGUAL TEACHERS – Susan Edelman and Georgia Worrell of the New York Post: “Bilingual teachers brought from the Dominican Republic to work in New York City public schools were treated like indentured servants by educators who acted as their slumlords, The Post has learned. Bronx Principal Emmanuel Polanco and a group of Department of Education administrators have housed nearly a dozen teachers recruited from the DR in what appears to be an illegal boarding house in the Bronx — and are charging instructors $1,450 a month for the privilege , say several sources. Polanco and his staff are threatening to say ‘adios’ to anyone who doesn’t participate, several teachers told the Post.”

SUNY BROOME REFLECTS ON FIRST VETERANS — Kayla Madison from WBNG: “SUNY Broome Community College honored all who served in the military with a ceremony Friday morning at the Calice Manufacturing Center on campus. SUNY Broome President Kevin Drumm officiated at the ceremony and said it’s important to say thank you to veterans every day, not just on Veteran’s Day. “Regardless of when you served, whether it was today, yesterday or decades ago, our campus community deeply appreciates your service,” Drumm said. “When we opened our doors to 215 students at the New York State Institute of Applied Arts & Sciences in Binghamton in 1946, 63 of those students were WWII veterans like my father,” Drumm said.

BROOKLYN TEACHERS SEEK BETTER CLIMATE EDUCATION FOR KIDS — Chalkbeat’s Alex Zimmerman: “Sarah Slack’s career as an award-winning eighth grade science teacher was sparked by a story about misinformation. A college student asked her friend, an elementary school teacher from New York City, how Pluto exploded. Her friend did some digging around, confused, and discovered that after hearing on the news that Pluto was no longer a planet, his school’s science teacher told her students it had exploded…[Slack’s] Member of the city’s Climate Education Leadership Team, which meets regularly with a group of peers from across the school system dedicated to improving climate change education.”

The janitor uses the school as his personal trash can – Susan Edelman and Rich Calder of the New York Post: “A school janitor who commutes to work from Pennsylvania uses his Washington Heights public school as his personal trash can — all to save a few dollars, a whistleblower told the Post. Juan Acosta – who lives 75 miles away in Stroudsburg – routinely arrives at PS 48 early Monday mornings with giant bags of trash that he dumps in front of his workplace and stunning videos filmed by the whistleblower show over the past four years.

CENTRAL NEW YORK CAMPUS AGAINST FOOD WASTE — Emily Kenny for Spectrum News: “As concerns mount about food waste’s contribution to climate change, students and officials on the Syracuse college campus say they are trying to tackle the problem head-on. Schools monitor the amount of food cooked, what goes in the bin and ways to be sustainable. At the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry, for example, that includes preparing meals that have the correct portion sizes for cooking to order.”

MEDICAL SCHOOLS WANT TO STRENGTHEN DIVERSITY — Sharon Waters of New Jersey Monthly: “As Dr. Robert L. Johnson graduated from medical school in 1972, the only black people in the audience were his family, his girlfriend and her family. Johnson was the only black student in his class at the College of Medicine and Dentistry in New Jersey. “That’s always been my experience,” Johnson says of being the only black student at his college and in the advanced classes he attended in high school. Johnson is now the Dean of Rutgers New Jersey Medical School in Newark and has a passion for enrolling a diverse student body.”

CHILDREN BLOW UP EXCESSIVE POLICE IN SCHOOLS — Eric Kiefer of Patch: “It’s a simple formula, they say: ‘Fund education, not incarceration.’ That was the rallying cry of nearly 300 students who led a march in North Jersey on Thursday to demand more resources in schools and an end to “over-policing”. Student organizers – youth leaders from the Make the Road New Jersey advocacy group – included residents of Elizabeth and Newark. Together they marched down Elizabeth Avenue, stopping at high schools, City Hall and police stations along the way.”

VOTERS SUPPORT EDUCATIONAL INITIATIVES — Mackenzie Wilkes of POLITICO: Voters in a handful of states have decided educational issues that will determine how and what students learn during this week’s midterm elections. Arizona, California, Colorado, Massachusetts, New Mexico and West Virginia have voted on funding for arts education, state tuition for immigrants and other educational issues. Many of the measures will mean increased funding for public schools, with initiatives in Massachusetts and Colorado raising taxes on wealthier residents to support education. Five of the seven proposed have passed so far.

STUDENT DEBT RELIEF APPLICATION SUSPENDED – POLITICO’s Michael Stratford: The Biden administration has halted acceptance of new applications for its student debt relief program after a federal judge ruled the policy illegal Thursday night. The Department of Education pulled the application for student debt relief from its website on Friday. “Courts have issued injunctions blocking our student debt relief program,” the department said in a statement. “For this reason we are currently not accepting any applications. We will endeavor to reverse these orders. If you have already applied, we will hold your application.”

HARVARD MUSEUM RETURN NATIVE AMERICAN HAIR SAMPLES — Christine Chung of The New York Times: The Peabody Museum at Harvard University said Thursday it would return a collection of hair samples taken from hundreds of Native American children who were forced to attend state boarding schools in the early 1930s. The museum apologized for its decade-long possession of the specimens, taken from about 700 students from about 300 tribal nations, and said it will attempt to return the cuttings to living relatives and the tribes to which the students belonged.”

HUNGRY CHILDREN MISS FREE MEALS — Richard Adams of the Guardian: “School leaders say they’ve never seen anything like it: a ‘perfect storm’ of rising poverty, higher prices and shrinking school budgets, resulting in more hungry children in the classroom but fewer resources to help them. While the proportion of children entitled to free school meals (FSM) has risen in England from 15% in 2019 to over 22% this year, school leaders say the number of ‘invisible hungry’ people – from families in poverty, however not poor enough to qualify – has also increased.”

dr Carmen Green, Dean of the CUNY School of Medicine at City College, was included in this year’s Forbes list of 50 Women Over 50 for Impact.

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