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A letter from the Interim State Education Commissioner

Dear Colleagues,

I am excited to work with you this new school year in my new capacity as Interim Commissioner of the State Education Department.

Last spring, you all seized the moment when you lost access to your classrooms and face-to-face time with students. Through creativity and caring, you kept those crucial connections with students and families. It was inspiring to watch.

Similarly, this summer, all of you - our educators, administrators, school board members and BOCES and school staff - have worked intensely to address the challenges we face amid the ongoing COVID pandemic. You have dedicated your 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.  

Because of your hard work and dedication, I am confident that no matter what form it takes, great learning will happen this year, as you find innovative ways to reach your students. I know that 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 with change comes opportunity.

At the State Education Department, we will use this opportunity to gather information on the most effective methods, what's working well for you and your students, and share your lessons learned so that your successes can be emulated in other schools across the state.

This school year will not be a lost year; you will not allow that. Rather, this will be a year of learning for adults and children alike. We are pioneers in adapting how we educate children within the confines this pandemic has placed upon us.

Another priority for this school year is addressing equity in access to technology needed for remote learning. It was Frederick Douglass who said, "If there is no struggle, there is no progress."

The pandemic revealed that New York's children and families face obstacles in obtaining equal access to devices and broadband. I know that districts worked all summer to help bridge this digital divide and have taken steps to strengthen infrastructure and outreach. The State Education Department will continue to partner with districts to further ensure that students and teachers have what they need to be successful.

In confronting some of these struggles, we now have the chance to move forward and broaden our horizons. With increased use of technology, schools will be able to partner to expand their offerings, including AP and high-level coursework. A teacher in one school may now be able to connect remotely with students in multiple schools and districts, helping to 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 the work you do every day. You are my heroes.

Have a great year!

Sincerely,

Dr. Betty A. Rosa
Interim State Education Commissioner
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