Screen Shot 2015-06-29 at 3.52.54 PMDear Families, 

What an amazing school year! Your children have worked hard and accomplished a lot, and I want to thank you for the joy they have brought to our classrooms. I also want to thank you for being involved in your children’s education; you are essential partners in improving our schools and building stronger communities. As the academic year comes to a close, I want to highlight a few ways we have strengthened our partnerships with you: 

Improved Family Outreach. This spring, we announced plans to hire 40 Family Support Coordinators (FSCs), one in each district, to strengthen family engagement. The FSCs will become your single point of contact for issues that cannot be resolved at the school level—and keep you informed about programs and policies affecting your child’s education. We have also provided additional trainings for school staff who advocate for parents, including parent coordinators and District Family Advocates. 

40 Minutes for Parent Engagement. This school year, teachers had 40 minutes of weekly time to connect with families. In some schools, teachers engaged parents over breakfast or dinner. Others held parent forums on timely topics, such as high school admissions and coping with stress. 

Citywide and Community Education Councils. Through our multi-lingual “Raise Your Hand” campaign, the DOE encouraged parents to run for a seat on their Education Council this year. The effort paid off: 1,290 parents applied and 2,297 PTA parents voted, a 77 percent and 60 percent increase from 2013. Elected parents will be trained to use their positions to advocate for students. 

Chancellor’s Parent Conferences. Since spring 2014, I have hosted six parent conferences at Tweed Courthouse, attracting more than 1,500 parents. Family members attended workshops on a variety of topics, including reading to children and helping young people manage stress. I will host three more parent conferences in the fall and hope to see many of you there. 

We Speak Your Language. This year, the DOE’s Translation and Interpretation Unit provided training for hundreds of language access coordinators. These professionals work with school leaders to communicate with families who speak a language other than English. 

We Hear You. In response to your concerns, this year we lifted the cell phone ban, allowing you to contact your children and know they are safe before and after school. We have also designated Eid al-Adha, Eid al-Fitr and Lunar New Year as official school holidays. 

New Mobile App for Free Summer Meals. For the first time, parents and young people can download a free app, SchoolFood, to locate their nearest summer meals site. Eating healthy meals is critical to a child’s development and we’re delighted to help families take advantage of this important service. For more information, visit SchoolFood at www.schoolfoodnyc.org 

As your children head off for summer break, I encourage you to continue to support their learning. Doing enriching, educational activities during the summer is fun and enables kids to sharpen their academic skills, priming them for success in the next school year. Here are three simple ways to keep the learning going:

  • Reading . Have your children read at least 20 minutes each day over the summer and engage them in discussions about what they’ve read. Setting aside even 20 minutes a day for reading can preserve and build your child’s language skills. Visit your local library to get age-appropriate books and reading tips, or even join the New York Public Library’s Summer Reading Challenge.

  • Enjoying the City .Take your child to at least one museum, cultural institution, or live theater, dance, or music performance this summer. These experiences both inspire children and cultivate high-level learning. If you haven’t already done so, consider applying for an IDNYC. The free identification card gives New York City residents a free one-year membership at many of the City’s leading museums, zoos, concert halls, and botanical gardens. You can learn more here.

  • Giving Back.  Involve your children in community service. Giving back to the community is not only rewarding, it helps children become civic-minded citizens. To find ways to serve your fellow New Yorkers, visit NYC Service.

Finally, please give your children time and space to just hang out. As I tell my grandchildren, learning is important but it’s equally important to enjoy being a kid.

Have a wonderful summer. 

I look forward to welcoming you to an exciting new school year in my favorite month of the year, September! 

Warmly, 

Carmen