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Building stronger school communities

CARMEN FARINA, New York City Schools Chancellor | 9/10/2015, 2:24 p.m.
"As chancellor, I love talking to our students and parents at community meetings, forums, town halls and even in the ...
Carmen Farina

As chancellor, I love talking to our students and parents at community meetings, forums, town halls and even in the grocery store—and I hear the same message time and again: All parents want to see their children graduate ready to conquer the world, and all children want to follow their dreams and achieve. I took this job specifically to make success a reality for every child and every family across New York City.

This summer, superintendents, principals, teachers and central staff have been working tirelessly to ensure that students and families begin the school year with necessary supports and services so parents can help their children both inside and outside the classroom. I’m excited to enlist new leadership to bring my vision to fruition—a veteran Bronx educator, Yolanda Torres, who will serve as executive superintendent of the Division of Family and Community Engagement.

As superintendent, Torres hosted parent meetings, expanded training opportunities for parent leaders and got parents involved who hadn’t typically been involved. As a former public school parent, teacher and principal, she gets it. And we both agree: An engaged and informed parent community is necessary to improve student outcomes.

Torres will build on the family engagement work done so far to strengthen family–community ties through an emphasis on training and professional development, outreach and engagement and parent leadership. Regardless of the language parents speak at home, they can play a critical role in our school system and in their children’s education. In fact, celebrating your family heritage and language at home is a great family activity. We must create more welcoming environments for all families and develop stronger relations between schools and communities, and we will do this together.

I want to hear from you. What can we do to better serve you and your family? In response to parent feedback, some schools have started offering more English classes and providing GED classes. Other schools have cooking classes and Zumba to ensure our bodies and minds stay healthy.

Pencil in your September parent conference now: Sept. 17 (elementary schools), Sept. 16 (middle schools) and Sept. 30 (high schools). I urge all New York City school parents to participate and meet with teachers, learn about the curriculum and upcoming events and get involved in their children’s learning.

Together, we will achieve greatness. We will build stronger family–community ties and this bond will lead to improved student outcomes. When families feel welcomed and encouraged to play an active role in their children’s academic work, our students do better. We all do better. Together, we will make New York City the best urban school district in the nation.