Welcome Letter

July 29, 2020

Dear parents and students:

As the new academic year approaches I am left wondering about all the jubilant smiles that we left back in March.  In a way it seems like this time period has gone by so quickly, and yet, in other instances I feel that time has slowed, realizing how differently we conducted our life back then. I miss conversations where the words like COVID, Social Distancing, and Zooming were seldom spoken. I miss not having to think about wearing a mask and adjusting my ‘social distance.’ I simply miss the laughter and impromptu conversations with students and colleagues alike.  All in all, it has been a whirlwind of a year where we have found ourselves appreciating the smaller things in life.  --And yet, it is a reminder that these ‘smaller things’ have always been the most important things in life!

I begin this letter with these reflections that have been so close to my heart.  Most often our reflections create meaning because of the commonality that they foster.  What we agree on and what we share, ultimately binds us together.  In this time of social unrest, and a global pandemic, I feel it is paramount to discuss what makes us human, and what gives us hope.  Initially one may think that school is not the ideal place to lay bare such reflections.  Yet everything about the IB program and life-long learning depends on it: thinking, communicating, inquiring, reflecting, caring, and open-mindedness.  These are just some of the traits that make an IB Learner.  You see, by listening to divergent perspectives and developing meaning, we are gradually developing a dynamic community of international minded learners!  

Thankfully the IB Transdisciplinary Themes provide plenty of opportunity to develop our conceptual understanding and critical thinking skills.  Through Literacy, Math, Science and Social Studies we will explore questions on Who We Are, Where We Are in Place in Time, and How We Express Ourselves, (just to name a few.)  My Hope and Dream will be to continue to help our students take action, by striving to be transformational leaders.  I aspire for all of our educators to challenge the status quo, to enable equity and access, and to innovate, so we may reach all students.

As the Principal, I have to practice what I preach.  Learning  must be continuous!  Over the summer I have been reading Kendi Ibram’s book, How to be Antiracist. My colleagues, Sandra Carlton, Tressa Kinahan, and I, have been engaging in PBS virtual sessions on antiracist teaching tools.  We have come across inspirational educators and are taking a leadership role in this area.  We are looking at enhancing our school library and integrating literature that creates more inclusive learning experiences.  We have asked our staff to read along with us to improve our practice.  Ms. Carlton and I have presented to other administrators on social justice, race and identity.  We are fortunate to have Ms. Kinahan’s input, and background in equity and social justice, from Columbia Teachers College.  Whether it is amplifying student voices, or deepening our understanding of identity, we look forward to developing these components and establishing a nurturing environment that promotes learning and inclusivity.

So with that, it’s a rather long introduction to say WELCOME and BIENVENIDOS to all our new families, and current families that have been part of Strawberry Hill!  Although these are uncertain times, I take pride in what is very certain in our school community: a very caring, bright, and collaborative group of educators. 

As we embark on this journey, the challenges that we will face together will help us be better leaders.  We are excited to have these new members aboard and join our team:  

Elissa Cohen-SpEdSandy Errico - MusicChristina Hughes - SP.EDAlec Iogman- Gr.5
Lauren Jones - ArtJon Kolman  - Gr.5Hannah Pappas Gr. 5Elyssa Walker -Gr3

We are currently reviewing candidates for an additional Speech Pathologist and a leave replacement for Ms. Madeo, Social worker.

Parents, I’m sure many of you are wondering how the school year will play out in this unprecedented time. As you may know Stamford Public Schools has been working on a plan to reopen schools.  The state has given some flexibility on how districts may open.  The following is an overview provided by the Superintendent.  Please note that the status of our public health in Stamford will guide the Stamford Department of Health and state health professionals in determining which instructional model is appropriate.

1.        Full In-Person Learning with Heightened Health & Safety Protocols – if minimal rates of COVID-19 spread.  Please note that this model currently requires children to wear masks while in buildings and on buses with limited exceptions.  Also, please note that in this model, buses may operate at full capacity. As a result, we ask parents to consider the possibility of driving their children to school to reduce risk for those who do not have the option to drive.

2.        Hybrid Model of Distance Teaching and Learning and In-person Learning – if moderate rates of COVID-19 spread. Students will return to in-person school at least two days a week and will participate in distance teaching and learning for the rest of the week.

3.        Full Distance Teaching & Learning – if high rates of COVID-19 spread. Students will participate in distance teaching & learning from home and will not report to school buildings.

Once Stamford releases the Reopening Plan, we will provide further communication on school specific logistics and expectations, as soon as possible.  So far the district has communicated that they are planning a 1:1 model for chromebooks/tech devices for all Stamford Public School Students.  We are looking at safety protocols and determining the best ways to stage arrival/dismissal and simply conduct a classroom.  For example, schools are to develop cohort groups, and keep them together as much as possible. One tangible way to support this model is to minimize switching classrooms.  Another example of how we can support families, is to place siblings together in classrooms.  This ultimately makes the communication and day to day experience in Distance Learning more efficient for families.

Overall, we are in a situation that is constantly changing.  The information we may give one day changes based on the circumstances and local mandates.  We know that there are still many questions, yet I think we shouldn’t further delay welcoming you.

I anticipate in the next few weeks that the district will again survey families with a more defined path.  With this information we are better able to develop a classroom roster if we are going with a Hybrid model.  In the meantime I ask that you refer to our school website to find the necessary information to start your year.  For example, on our website I have made a video of our campus with a key of the primary areas for arrival and dismissal.  I encourage you to subscribe to the website news postings from the district and our school, so you get up to the minute notifications.  With your support we are ready to continue the work ahead in maintaining a dynamic, strong, school community!  

Thank you

Frank's Signature

Frank Rodriguez