The following letter was sent to Rye City School Superintendent Dr. Eric Byrne and the Board and forwarded to the paper for publication.
Providing Our Children with the Best Public School Education
We are PUBLIC (Parents United for the Best Learning in Covid), a group of parents who have come together to advocate for the needs of our students. To begin, we know that the School District has been working hard to prioritize the health and safety of teachers and students. This is our top priority as well. However, we assert that health and safety can be simultaneously achieved with our requests.
In short, PUBLIC requests that the District re-opening plan:
- Engages students in rigorous live, synchronous academic instruction with consistent teacher interaction.
- Creates multiple avenues for transparent communication to and from parents about the re-entry plan, as well as throughout the academic year.
- Increases parent inclusion on planning committees and task forces.
- Works diligently and collaboratively with parenting groups that need additional resources if/when distance learning is necessary.
Regretfully, we were disappointed in the quality of education our children received this spring. To be fair, we know that the District and its teachers have been working hard to expand their distance-learning knowledge and practices over the summer. While we know that everyone has been putting in best efforts, we still want to make sure our voices are heard as you meet to plan for Fall 2020.
Our concerns from this Spring fall into the following categories:
- Inadequate synchronous learning, with an overwhelming amount of teaching falling on parents. While some of this was unavoidable, parents witnessed other school districts within NY State create a more fluid video teaching model. Many parents are moving to independent tutoring, “teaching pods”, or are shifting to private schools in order to avoid further learning deficits. This is not possible for many Rye families, and, in addition, we want to support and have faith in our public schools.
- Lack of transparency: While many parents were patient with the lack of consistent communication in the early spring, we do not feel that communication has increased sufficiently now that we have all had time to learn new systems and grow from past errors. Very little information about the task force survey results has been shared. Additionally, parents were not made aware of whom to contact as their parent representatives on the task force.
- Lack of parent inclusion: Parents are the primary stakeholders in the District’s mandate to a free and appropriate public education (FAPE). However, of the 35+ stakeholder task force members, only three were parents. Many parents with specific and valuable skill sets (e.g., medical doctors, mental health professionals) offered to be part of the task force or provide consultation but were told there was no need.
- No assessment of specialized community needs during distance learning: Many families had unique challenges during distance learning. This includes, but is not limited to, parents of children with special needs, dual-working families, and single parents. There was no survey of child-care needs in dual-working homes, neither during the initial phase of the pandemic (which was understandable), nor during more organized efforts such as the task force survey (less understandable).
We understand that many decisions regarding school reopening will rely on Governor Cuomo’s decisions. We agree with the standards set forth by Governor Cuomo that with the current cases in Rye, coupled with adequate outdoor space and other resources, our schools seem more prepared than many in the state to have in-school instruction in the fall. We also recognize that attending school in person may not be feasible for all families given health concerns or personal preference. We hope that these requests account for the needs of all Rye parents:
- Provide live, synchronous learning for the required 5.5 hours per day, 180 days per year. This is mandated by law and is the only way we see to uphold the Equal Educational Opportunities Act of 1974.
- Reinstate parent/teacher conferences and meaningful feedback as-needed for student performance and progression throughout the year.
- For elementary schoolers in particular, we request that lesson plans and assignments be provided in advance to afford parents adequate time to print and acquaint themselves with course materials.
- Provide a series of virtual town hall meetings throughout the year where the administration and the Board share their plans in advance allowing for sufficient time for community input.
- Work closely with community programs such as Kids’ S.P.A.C.E. and the Rye Y to provide childcare during distance learning. Provide building space for these programs where needed.
- Work collaboratively with parents to create need-based pods when distance learning is in place. Teachers, parents, the PTO, and administrators working together on this effort will provide more meaningful educational experiences, and it will allow families with limited time and resources to have an equal opportunity for group learning. Similarly, release class rosters/teacher assignments earlier this year to afford parents adequate time to plan for childcare and remote learning arrangements.
We understand that the School District will be working diligently to uphold FAPE and meet state standards as put forth by Gov. Cuomo. However, families moved to Rye to have an educational experience that surpasses common educational standards. We ask that the administration take our concerns seriously and give our proposals due consideration as we all work together to provide Rye’s children the public education they deserve.
Rachel and Christopher Dunne
Rachel and Patrick Fleming
Alicia and Brian Glueckstein
Sarah Martin and William Jovanovich
Margot and Christian Sturz
Fraser and Wendy Woodford
Kelly and Scott Lawrence
Kristina and Jamie Bell
Amit Uppal, MD
Anjana Uppal, MD
Natalie and Ethan Auerbach
Shannon & James McGovern
Raina Mathur and Rafael Arias
Marissa and Eric Swann
Alison and Fran Rodilosso
Daniel and Joy Posner
Meera and Anupam Agarwal
The Davies Family
Erika and Michael Dimson
Meera and Anupam Agarwal
Josh Mattes and Trista Huang
Kim and Brian Higgins
Matt Lambert and Patricia Pomeroy Lambert
Emily and Paul Fontana
Steven and Heather Bremer
Deron J. Haley
Nik Velamoor and Shrujal Baxi
Heather Cabot Khemlani
David and Jessica Ulrich