CSA Leadership Welcomes Students to the 2017-2018 School Year

The first day of school found CSA leadership welcoming students and staff at schools across the city to the new academic year.

President Mark Cannizzaro started the day at PS 277 in the Bronx, where he joined Mayor Bill de Blasio, First Lady Chirlane McCray, Chancellor Carmen Farina, State Board of Regents Chancellor Betty Rosa, Bronx Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr., City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, District 7 Superintendent Eliza Alvarez, United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew and other dignitaries in launching the Mayor's "3-K For All" initiative.

"Mark Cannizzaro has been an educator for a long time in this city, and is now leading the union that represents our administrators and our principals, the people who do great work to make our children's lives better," Mayor Bill de Blasio said in introducing Mr. Cannizzaro, who congratulated the Mayor, Chancellor, Council Speaker and Bronx Borough President on "a job well done here in the Bronx."

"The first day of school is extremely exciting," Mr. Cannizzaro said, before telling how his wife cried as they sent their son off to kindergarten sixteen years ago, then cried again when he went off to college.

"That feeling of nervousness and excitement is here today, but really, what that feeling really is, is hope. Hope that we're able to do better going forward. Hope that these three-year-olds, by the time they are in kindergarten, will be so much further ahead than our current kindergarten students. It's also hope, that we're able to continue to have this feeling of excitement and joy going forward."

Noting that education is a team effort, President Cannizzaro said "I am sure we're going to be successful because after 31 years in this business I still have tremendous hope."

It was also a remarkable day for PS 277 Principal Natasha Bracey, who hosted the assemblage on her first day running a school. Her proud mother, Bettye Bracey, was on hand to lend her support.

After the press conference Mr. Cannizzaro and Bronx Field Director Frank Patterson walked to nearby IS 584, the Lola Rodriguez de Tio Campus, to greet Principal Tannis Sertima, who was also starting her first school year at the helm. Mr. Cannizzaro wished her well and promised CSA would be there to support her.

The President then visited Community School 55, the Benjamin Franklin School, in the Claremont section of the Bronx. CS 55 Principal (and CSA Executive Board member) Luis Torres gave Mr. Cannizzaro a tour of the building, including the clinic, hydroponic garden, stationary bikes that produce electricity, a new $1 million playground that would be dedicated later that day, and the Betty Rosa Conference Room, which State Board of Regents Chancellor Rosa also dedicated that afternoon.

Meanwhile, CSA Executive Vice President Henry Rubio was in Jamaica, Queens visiting the August Martin High School campus, where he watched a "partner lesson" involving August Martin, a renewal school, and New Visions Charter High School students.

The students played a "College & Career" version of the popular television game show Jeopardy in front of an audience that included Mayor De Blasio, Deputy Mayor Richard Buery, August Martin Principal Rory Parnell and New Visions Charter High School for Advanced Math and Science IV Principal Sharon John.

The dignitaries took questions from students about making the transition from high school to college. Mr. De Blasio said that it had been a "big deal" when he went from a large public high school in Massachusetts to New York University as an undergraduate and then Columbia University for graduate school.

An even bigger deal, the mayor said, was his wife's experience as the only African-American in her Massachusetts public high school, where she was "getting the opposite message about succeeding" to the one Mr. De Blasio said he saw at the August Martin campus.

"There's a strong emphasis here on assuming you can go to the right college and succeed," he said.

Despite being discouraged by adults at her high school, McCray attended Wellesley College.

"College is like anything else in life, it's not mysterious. It's about hard work," said the Mayor, who added that "someone here is going to go on the real Jeopardy and get wealthy."

Mr. Buery told the students that he entered Harvard University feeling angry after being one of the few African-Americans at Stuyvesant High School, one of nine specialized high schools in NYC. His angry dissipated once he started volunteering as a tutor to underprivileged children, the deputy mayor said.

Mr. Rubio's second school visit was to PS/IS 323, in Crown Heights, Brooklyn., where he spoke with Principal Linda Harris and assistant principals Shona Miles and Al Bonds and helped a third grader open a plastic cartoon of eggs.

CSA First Vice President Rosie Sinclair's first stop was K 284, the Gregory Jackson School, in Brooklyn's Brownsville neighborhood.

The school, graced with large windows and a wide, welcoming courtyard, was designed and built in 1906 by CBJ Taylor, the legendary architect and superintendent of buildings for the then New York City Board of Education. Taylor believed that school buildings should embody the goal of building a better society, and K-284, while now surrounded by housing projects, helped project a warm and inspiring opening day to students and parents.

Ms. Sinclair met with Principal Keva Pitts, who led a rousing rally for the gathered students. The school's motto is that the school year will be "legendary."

Ms. Pitts said afterward that the school is doing well, an assessment borne out by the orderly and cordial first-day operation.

Ms. Sinclair has a history with the school. While she was a principal of Brooklyn's John M. Coleman school, she was also a grant manager and program manager for District 23. Grants she wrote won millions in dollars for schools in the District - 284 received money for dance, martial arts and cooking programs.

From there Ms. Sinclair visited Nuestros Niños Early Childhood Education Center in Williamsburg, where she was greeted by Executive Director Miriam L. Cruz. Nuestros Niños is a charming and well-appointed school, with up-to-date technology and a beautiful commercial kitchen that serves fresh farm to table food.

Ms. Cruz has been with the school since it was founded 43 years ago, starting as an assistant and working her way to assistant teacher, teacher, after-school program director and now school leader. She said one reason Nuestros Ninos has such modern equipment is that she is a ruthless negotiator with vendors.

"We all get the same money," she said of her school's budget. "It's how you use it that counts."

Ms. Sinclair final stop was at James P. Sinnott Magnet School for Health and Health Careers, where she met with Principal Lisa Ann Hermann, Assistant Principal Carla Meertens, and English language teacher Farzana Haque to discuss upcoming coursework and programs for English language learners with students and their parents.

Meanwhile, CSA Government Affairs Director Herman Merritt and Assistant Director Gabe Gallucci joined Principal Charles DeBerry at PS 76 in Harlem for #BackToSchoolNYC! They joined members of the Renaissance Church NYC to form a line outside the school where they greeted returning students with hi-fives and declarations that you will succeed in the year ahead!

Watch the video here.