Transcript: Mayor Adams Delivers Introductory Remarks at DOE Chancellor Banks’ State of Our Schools Address

Transcript: Mayor Adams Delivers Introductory Remarks at DOE Chancellor Banks’ State of Our Schools Address
Principal Grecian Harrison: Good morning. Well, I’ll try that one more time: good morning!

That sounds better. I feed off of energy. So, I want to say welcome to the Historic Boys & Girls High School Campus in the heart of Bedford‑Stuyvesant Brooklyn. It is indeed a pleasure to have each and every one of you here today. My name is Grecian Harrison, and I am the proud principal of Boys & Girls High School.

And we are extremely honored to have you here for this exciting event. I just want to say as a proud principal, once again, that I hope you enjoyed the music as you were walking in this morning from our fabulous music teachers. I wanted to give a special shoutout to them. And also another shoutout to Wagner High School and these amazing students…

It definitely gives us a small indication of all the talent that we have here with our students. And without further ado, I’d like to bring our first speaker to the podium, The Honorable Mayor Eric Adams.

Mayor Eric Adams: First of all, thank all of you for being here this morning. I was reflecting on Conrad, my oldest brother. I remember when he and I attended PS 140 in Queens, his teacher during the time, he was struggling, I still believe Conrad, just as I dealt with dyslexia, I think Conrad was dealing with a few learning disabilities.

And he had some struggles during the time. He navigated it through; and when he went to college in Alabama, he failed out. And when I drove down to Alabama to see him to pick him up to come back to New York, he was in his dorm room crying. And he says, you know, [Miss Gomorgi] told me I would never be anything.

That was his third grade teacher. Sometimes we don’t realize the seeds that are planted in us as children can put us on a trajectory of just believing that we will never produce any harvest that’s worthy of anything.

And then you contrast that to Ms. Pasternak, my third grade teacher. She told me over and over again no matter how much I struggled, Eric, there’s a future for you. She took me to see Hamlet on Broadway, the first theater performance I’ve ever witnessed, first time I left South Jamaica Queens in that capacity, to go to Manhattan.

She called me when I became a captain in the police department and congratulated me. She called me when I became a state senator. She called me when I became the first person of color to be a borough president. She planted a seed, then she nurtured, watered it and allowed it to grow and it’s part of the evolution of me becoming the mayor of the City of New York, because she believed in me. She believed in me.

And so to all of you educators that are in the room, right now there’s a Conrad and there’s an Eric. And there’s a Jane, and a Susan, and a Tamika. What you pour in them is going to make the determination of them saying either my third grade teacher told me I will always be something or my third grade teacher told me I would never be anything.

What a job, what a role, what a level of responsibility that’s placed on your shoulders. And I think about what this amazing friend and chancellor said to me, and I heard him say it, and it just resonates, and I say it over and over again and I heard him, we were at a Muslim event.

And he talked about that African tribe that when they greet each other, they don’t say, good morning, how are you? They say, how are the children? And that’s just resonated with me, because you don’t have to answer the question but you know that when we communicate it our own quiet moment, we’re honest with each other. We know when we’re doing right and when we’re doing wrong. We may lie to others, but you can’t lie to yourselves. How are the children? How are the children?

Social media has them riding on the top of the trains, killing themselves. We’re seeing suicidal thoughts, depression. A few blocks from here on their way to school we’re selling cannabis in the stores where they come in high every day.

Even when mothers and fathers drop their children off to daycare centers, we have adults having fentanyl that they’re sleeping on top of. [Inaudible bullies] are carving highways of death with 9‑millimeter bullets, taking the lives of other young people. How are the children? How are the children?

We’re watching all over the globe…not only in New York but all over the globe, we’re watching this migration crisis and babies are coming here trying to just pursue the American dream. How are the children?

There’s a level of optimism I have every time I walk into a New York City public school. I’m optimistic when I spoke with those principals, the chancellor and I, when they talked about what they were doing for those migrant children of doing clothing drives, and tools and knapsacks and food drives.

I’m optimistic when 18,000 children started not understanding English at the beginning of the school year; and then at the end of the school year, they understood English and they were actually helping their parents navigate the complexities of our city.\

I’m optimistic when I walk into the labs or I see the excitement in the eyes of our educators as they talk about the new initiatives that they’re doing. Teaching is a calling. It’s a calling.

And we need to lift up that calling and really lean into how much we appreciate our educators. And I can’t do everything, but one thing I wanted to do was to make sure when I sat down with [inaudible], with your president, Michael Mulgrew to say we’re going to give you a contract that respects your profession in a level that [it is].

And we’re going to make sure we do the same with the supervisors as well.

And then we’re going to make you safe, because the prerequisite to prosperity is public safety and justice. You have to have an environment that will create the safety that you need to do your job. But we’re in tough times, and I can’t lie to you. I’m not going to search through a thesaurus and find the proper political term to tell you that these are challenging moments for us. And I’m concerned. I want to be honest with you, I’m concerned.

We’ve been left alone as a city to solve a national problem, and we have to become very creative on how we do so we don’t destroy the product that we’ve been producing and how we’ve been moving this city forward. We have been so successful with this administration coming through Covid, and when people did not know if we were going to keep our schools open or not. And I know we were all afraid, but we leaned into it, we showed what we’re made of.

And we’re at that difficult moment right now. It’s my obligation and job as the mayor of this city to get us through it, and I am. But it’s going to be painful. It’s going to be extremely hard, New Yorkers, and I need us to get through this together. And how we get through it is not what we saw on Staten Island last night where people are banging and using derogatory terms to identify people based on their ethnicity. That is not who we are as a city. We’re 8.3 million people that are tolerant and accepting.

And our job, under the leadership of this chancellor, our job is to pour into these young scholars on how they’re going to move this globe in the right direction.

The winds of change have never been blown by adults, don’t kid ourselves. The winds of change have always been blown by young people. And the classrooms you were going to allow them to inhale and blow the globe in the direction that they want.

And we can do it. I know we can. An I’m so proud of this chancellor, I’m so proud of the men and women of the New York City public school, the teachers, the educators, those who clean the halls, those who serve the food, those who are in the libraries, those who are the nurses in the paraprofessionals, those who are the counselors, the career advisors. The whole ecosystem that allows us to produce leaders not only of tomorrow but leaders of today.

And no one does it better than the leader we have of the New York City Public School System, Chancellor David Banks.

Chancellor David Banks, Department of Education: Thank you, Mr. Mayor. I appreciate you, man, so much. Thank you. And before you go, Mr. Mayor, I have a question for you: what are you reading these days?

Because I know you read all the time, and you’re always telling our entire senior leadership team about the newest and latest book that you’re reading, and you’re learning. The Mayor is a perfect example of somebody who is a lifelong learner, which is what we want to encourage in all of our kids.

So, do you have a book or two that you might want to tell us a little bit about right now?

Mayor Adams: First I want to do with the foundational issue: Brother, that’s a sharp tie. Tryin’ to keep up with you!

I like to do… I’m like the type of person, I like to do two books at one time, and I am re‑reading Breathe, a powerful book. You know, I told the whole team about it. I know Ingrid, she read it after. But it’s just an amazing book.

And the second is David Goggins’ Can’t Hurt Me. Can’t Hurt Me. If you haven’t read that book, you have to read it, you know, amazing brother but it’s a great read. So, I like to do two books at one time.

Chancellor Banks: We appreciate that, Mr. Mayor. And we want everybody to begin to get into that habit of not only just saying how are you, how are the children, and what are you reading?

Thank you so much, Mr. Mayor. Appreciate you.

I appreciate the mayor so much for first of all, selecting me and having the confidence in me to be the chancellor for this school system. But there’s no other mayor that I would want to even serve under as chancellor then Eric Adams, who has been my friend for so many years.

I know his heart, I know his work ethic. And Mr. Mayor, you jut have my commitment, we’re going to do the best that we possibly can, all of the entire New York City Public School System. So, thank you so very much.

Before I get started, I want to pay homage to this man…

In the spirit of Black culture and African tradition, as the Mayor pointed out, when we say how are the children, before you even move forward in presentation, you give honor to those who came before you and you pay respect to the people who paved the way for you.

Dr. Frank Mickens paved the way for me and so many others. And those of us who know, he was the principal of this school for many, many years. And you want to talk about a person who believed deeply in the children, who believed deeply in community, who loved our people? This man spent countless hours in this school. And I lift up and I celebrate all the leaders that are here today. But as far as I’m concerned, this is Mick’s house. This is Mick’s house.

And I will never forget that. So, love you, Mick. Thank you so much for being a leader who inspired me. And as we think about the issues that we deal with even today, with young people coming out of school and finding themselves engaged in all kinds of nonsense, can’t even make it home safely. Nobody did it better than Frank Mickens, ensuring that the kids got to school safely and got home safely.

So, let me say it’s an honor to address all of you here today as our school system, which is the largest in the nation, enters a new school year. Earlier this week, we held a phenomenal celebration in honor of Hispanic Heritage Month. And now, we get to gather again as a community to celebrate the 2023/24 school year.

So, the start of the school year brings so much possibility across every borough and every classroom, our children are full of brilliance and potential. Mr. Mayor, I’ve got to tell you, I have the best job in the city. I really do, because whenever you have an opportunity on any given day to leave your office and step into a public school and just see the eyes, the spirit, the brilliance, the potential in all of our babies, it can’t help but lift you, and I appreciate the opportunity that I’ve been given to do that.

But I want us to begin with this simple but complex question. And that is, what is the purpose of school? Why do we send our kids to school, in the first place? I’ve been in education for almost four decades as a teacher, a school safety agent, founding principal, the leader of the Eagle Academy Foundation, and for the past 20 months as your chancellor, and still, this is a question that I ask myself on a daily basis. What is the purpose of school? Why are we here?

Our kids spend their entire childhoods in school. Our city spends billions of dollars on our schools. What should all of our kids know and be able to do? How do we help our kids realize their brilliance?

If we don’t have a clear answer to that question, then we really have no goal. And there can be no real growth. We are simply going through demotions, what I call the routinization of school, where you can stop into almost any classroom and ask the kids, What are you working on right now? What are you learning? And they simply tell you, I’m doing my work. Right? Doing my work is code for, I don’t know why I’m doing this. I’m just doing this because this is an assignment that the teacher gave us to do.

So, that’s why we are here today to ground ourselves and our mission, the reason that we do this work, to ensure that each student graduates on a pathway to a rewarding career and long‑term economic security equipped to be a positive force for change. That is our mission. That is certainly the mission of this administration.

We realize this mission through what I call Bright Starts and Bold Futures. And if you don’t remember anything I say today, remember, that Bright Starts and Bold Futures. We give our kids the foundational skills that they need, literacy, safety and emotional wellness for Bright Starts. And we prepare them and empower them to build bold futures. Futures that give them meaning, sustain them financially and propel them to be leaders in our communities.

So you may remember that I delivered a speech in early 2022 when I first started in this role to outline the goals that the mayor and I have for our system. And a lot has happened since then. It’s time for an update on our progress to take stock of where we are, what we’ve accomplished and the work that we still have left to do.

But first, a few acknowledgements. I want to thank you, first and foremost, to our families for choosing New York City public schools.

Our parents have choices, and we want them to choose us, and we’ve got to continue to give them an even better reason to choose us. I want to say thank you to our parent volunteers, our elected parent leaders, and the panel for educational policy. I want to say thank you to our superintendents, principals, assistant principals, teachers, counselors, secretaries, cafeteria workers, paraprofessionals, scholars, [inaudible] big round of applause to all of them.

To the folks in these critical roles, many of them who are often overlooked, please know, as someone who ran a school for 11 years here in New York City, this chancellor sees you, this chancellor appreciates you and this chancellor celebrates you. I’m going to give a particular note of thanks to the legendary boys and girls high school campus in the heart of Central Brooklyn. [Inaudible.]

And if you don’t, you might ask somebody. We chose this school for a reason because this campus, this historic campus, represents everything that we’re talking about, the great history, the great lineage, and in so many ways, how our system has gotten off track but how we are focused on getting back on the right track.

I want to say thank you so much to the principals who are supporting our students in this very building. There are actually three schools in this building with the three principals of the schools. Would you please stand? Our three school leaders. [Inaudible] let’s give them a big round of applause. Yes.

I want to also thank the facilities team that made today possible. The place is absolutely beautiful. Thank you so much. Last but not least, thank you to our fabulous student musicians from across the city who have performed here today.

So, I’m excited to share what Bright Starts and Bold Futures means for you, whether you welcome one of our schools, attend one of our schools, or send your child to one of our schools. At the core of any school, anywhere in the world, there are few essential functions. If a school does nothing else, it should teach kids to read and write and think critically, so they’re equipped to solve the issues of their time.

And yet, in 2022, 51 percent of our students, including mainly two thirds of our Black and Latino students, were not reading at grade level. Those results would not be acceptable in any business, in any industry, and they should not be acceptable here. So for two now, we have not taught our kids the proper way to read.

There is a third approach called balanced literacy, where we taught our kids to use pictures, for example, to get the words on the page instead of actually signing them up. I want you to take a look, for a moment, at this lesson where a child is supposedly learning to read by what they call killing. It’s a fancy term for guessing. Take a look at this.

[Video plays.]

Chancellor Banks: Do you understand what I’m talking about? That is [inaudible] the kids to read. It’s a [inaudible] way. And we’re fixing that playbook study right now.

We talk about this all the time, right? [Inaudible] children love to read, [inaudible] like building a house, starting on the second floor and completely skipping the foundation. We’re shifting to the science of reading, a research‑backed approach that prioritizes the foundational skills of strong leaders. We’ll teach our kids phonics. [Inaudible.]

We are too strong to get called complex letter combinations to stand up these words so that they don’t have to guess. They don’t have to just look at pictures. We’ll support their fluency and their comprehension. But I want to be very clear, it’s not just phonics.

It’s a time when we taught kids phonics and didn’t teach them much else. Just because you can say that way doesn’t mean that you know what the world means. So, I implement a content‑rich reading curriculum that builds background knowledge and vocabulary. It’s a very comprehensive approach.

When I think about all that [inaudible] the New York City school system, and the reason our school system has gotten such a bad reputation, it starts at this fundamental core. We get this right? We can completely change the trajectory of all of our kids. And this work has already begun our classroom studying with our youngest learners.

This past spring and summer, we trained thousands of educators in the science of reading. Over 90 percent of our early childhood programs are rolling out unified instructional materials that support reading and writing at the earliest ages, elementary schools and about half of our districts are adopting one of three different curricula, which are grounded in the science of reading. And all many early childhood education programs and elementary schools will implement NYC Reads beginning next school year.

We’re bringing the science of reading to all of our students as quickly as possible, but also strategically because we have to get this right and we will. There’s nothing more important to me in this administration, in the work we’re doing in education, than this work right here, right now. We must ensure that all of our kids are at grade level no later than the third grade.

New York City Reads is not only about curriculum, that’s not enough. We are putting literacy experts in our classroom side by side with our teachers and leaders to provide real‑time feedback and coaching at a scale that our school system has never seen before. This is not drive by professional development.

We are universally screening our students so we can identify far more comprehensively students at risk for dyslexia. And we are laser focused on the proven intensive interventions and the training and the training our staff need to deliver them to support students who are struggling.

So we know our educators have always been hardworking, caring and committed to their students. We know that. But for too long, we have been giving them that flawed playbook. So students enter their middle and high school classrooms already two or three grade levels behind, and then we tell the middle school principals and the high school principals, We are holding you accountable for results. That’s not even fair.

So when we get this right, it will empower both our students as well as our educators. It sets everyone up for success across the board. As Frederick Douglass once said, Once you learn to read, you will be forever free. So we are proud to be moving in this direction, and already we are seeing the impact of our leadership. For years, many of our teachers were trained through teachers college at Columbia University. And at long last, just a couple of weeks ago, teachers’ college finally disbanded its balanced literacy program.

So I want to thank our labor partners in this work. First of all, Michael Mulgrew from the UFT, who was the first to stand with me on this issue because as Michael said, It just makes sense. Michael Mulgrew, please stand. I want to just thank you, man for having [inaudible].

Thank you so much, Michael. I appreciate you being here and being a real partner with us.

I also want to thank Henry Rubio. I’m not sure, Henry, if he’s here in the room at all. Is Henry here? I’m not sure. But is the CSA here? And Henry is your new leader for the CSA, I want to thank him for working with us as well because we cannot, hear me clearly, we cannot do this well without the greatest administrators in the country. We need you.

And now is the time for you to lead like you’ve never had to lead before. [Inaudible] elected officials who [inaudible] as I entered this office. Bobby is here. Bobby, where are you?

Thank you so much for sounding the alarm for me personally to understand just how critical this issue is, not just for kids with dyslexia, but the broader notion of kids needing to learn to read the right way. Thank you assemblyman. I really appreciate that. And I really want to give a very, very, very special shout out and thanks to our City Council education chair, Rita Joseph, who’s here today.

She has been our partner on this and every other initiative that we have launched. Chair Joseph and the many other elected officials who came here today, please stand. We just want to acknowledge you for your leadership. All the elected officials who took time to be with us here on today.

John Liu, thank you. All the elected officials who came out today, want to just thank you so much for your leadership, and we’re just asking that as you go back into your districts, lean in, lean in with our superintendents, lean in with our school principals, making sure that whatever resources you have that can help to drive this literacy agenda that we do, that it is a critical first step for us in getting our system back to where it needs to be.

Now, it’s interesting. I’ve spoken a lot today and over the last 20 months about reading. And nearly every time I do, a parent or educator says to be chancellor, You keep talking about how our kids are and on grade level of reading, but what about our math results? They’re even worse. And they’re right. In 2022, 62 percent of all of our students, including nearly 80 percent of Black and Latino students were below grade level in math. I mean, you can’t make this stuff up. We believe that as our kids become stronger readers, their math proficiency will improve as well.

Because you can’t solve a law problem if you don’t even know how to read it. We also know there’s work to be done to improve our math playbook, and we’re already zooming in on Algebra One, a foundational course for higher level math by launching a single high quality curriculum in over 250 high schools along with intensive professional development.

But this is just a start. We have a long way to go to ensure that every student in every subject and grade level has access to challenging relevant content each day, and that our educators are fully supported to do their best teaching. So over the coming years, we’re going to announce new approaches to instruction across all core subject areas in all grade levels, just as we have for early literacy through NYC Reads.

And we’re going to do it in a way that is responsive to our students’ cultures. We’re going to do it in a way that encourages and empowers them civically. We’re going to do it in a way that upholds our vision that every family in New York City has an opportunity to give their child a bright start.

So what does that mean? That means in our over 8,000‑plus early childhood classrooms, we are ensuring quality learning environments for all children. This also means we’re adding more than a thousand seats to our incredibly effective specialized programs for students with disabilities.

So families can access a high quality education closer to where they live, rather than having to travel all across the city for a quality program.

In the same vein, we’ve opened 77 new bilingual programs and 36 gifted and talented programs since last fall. We are responding to family demand in every neighborhood across the city. I also want to note, and the mayor says this all the time, that our kids cannot learn if they’re not safe, healthy and engaged. So to ensure this, we are installing high‑tech door locking systems across our schools.

It’s interesting. I’ve heard that primarily from elected officials who came to me to say that, Let’s lock that front door to ensure that the bad guys can’t just walk into the building. It’s not designed to keep parents or community [inaudible], just an extra layer of security to ensure the safety of our kids while they’re in our building. We’ve also expanded my signature initiative, which is Project Pivot.

The expanded project to over 250 schools to mobilize the full community with of safety. You know, there’s old say that it takes a village to raise a child. When folks are involved in Project PIVOT, they’re that village. And not just the people [inaudible], but the community who represents these 250 organizations, these are folks of color who come from these same neighborhoods who are [inaudible] who know what’s going on in those neighborhoods. We got them off the same miles and got them in the game, gave folks contracts so that they can actually be working to solve one of these issues.

Those of you who are involved with Project PIVOT, would you please stand, whether you are working with us at Tweed or those of you who are project organizations. I see you.

I see you. The mayor sees you. We talked about this before the mayor even became mayor because he knew he was going to be elected mayor. He told us this years ago and he said that When I become the mayor, we need to invoke the village. If Tweed and New York City public schools officers could do it by themselves, they would have done it already.

We cannot do it by ourselves. We have to do it together with our community. But there little things that we’re doing well, we’re enhancing our cafeterias and serving our students nutritious food. We’re increasing our mental health supports with daily mindful breathing, additional school‑based health clinics and a new telehealth program with the city’s health department, which is coming in December. We’ve also expanded access to civics education and to the arts, and we’ve offered full‑day summer learning and fun two years in a row to 110,000 K‑8 students through our summarizing through program. Big time stuff.

And importantly, we are also welcoming every student who crosses our doorstep, including now over 26,000 students in temporary housing. The numbers are going up every single day.

Many of them are migrant students who have arrived in our city over the past year and a half. So in partnership with our mayor who has led and advocated in all of these areas, we are going to care for each and every one of our babies and give them that bright start.

Now, our equation for student success has two parts. It’s Bright Starts, which is just one half, but the other half is Bold Futures. So everything we’ve discussed so far is meant to be in service of Bold Futures. When I ask that question, why do our kids go to school in the first place? What is the purpose of school? What do we ultimately want them to be able to do?

Historically, too many talk graders leave our system with a diploma and not much else. They might have a dream of college or career, and they might even have an acceptance or offer letter to college, but they probably won’t know much about the world of work that they’re entering or the possibilities that they can even strive for and the skills that they’ll need to thrive in those fields.

So over the course of high school, there’s a good chance many of them even wondered, Why am I even sitting in this class? This pattern has repeated across our school system year after year. Let me show you how this actually plays out.

In 2011, we had over 74,000, 74,000 students enter the ninth grade in New York City. Think about this. Four years later, only 52,000 of those students graduated from high school. Think about it. We lost 22,000 in the course between ninth grade and 12th grade. Most kids don’t just disappear. They show up in other ways.

But keep your honest. By 2021, if I’m going to give you six years to even graduate from college, we want you to do it in four years. But if we give you six years, how many of them do you think even earned a four‑year degree? Only a little over 20,000 students graduate or got that four‑year degree. That’s just 27 percent of the original ninth grade cohort.

And what’s worse, of those 20,000 students, less than half are Black or Latino, despite them being nearly 70 percent of the original cohort. So we’d like to say across our schools that we’re preparing our kids for college and beyond. No, we are not. And we’ve not been doing that.

We do it for a few. And somebody pass on the back. That is not acceptable. It’s wholly unacceptable. Every single one of these kids, their lives matter.

You should never feel good because you got X percentage. Every single one of them matter, and we got to do better. So our pathways work is rewriting this script. By 2030, every single one of our students will leave us with a concrete plan for a rewarding life path. That plan will be more than an idea. It will be boasted by access to paid work experience, early college credit, career credentials, financial and digital literacy and significant mentorship and guidance.

We’re infusing our high schools with career connected learning. And to be clear, this is not your grandparents’ vocation. You know, there was a time we sat back and said, well, we said we want the all the black and brown kids to go do something with your hands.

What we are looking at today is something very, very different. These programs, including our FutureReady and Modern Youth apprenticeships lead our students to high tech, high demand jobs: cybersecurity, software development, diagnostic medicine and business management, just to name a few.

Already in its second year, FutureReady serves 100 schools with plans for significant growth next year.

These schools, including our CTE schools, are reimagining high school entirely. Partnered with some big names like Northwell Health, Google and Goldman Sachs, and they are [creating] college and career readiness into the very design of the student experience. Students gain sustained career exposure over four years, giving them a competitive edge when they enter the workforce and a stronger grasp of how their learning actually connects to the real world.

Kids have asked us for years, right? Why are we doing this?  We don’t have good answers. And it’s hard to dream of becoming an investment banker if you’ve never met one.

We’ll have to…. There are things that we’ll have to do to invoke the power of possibility, because when kids [inaudible] in their own mind about what they could potentially become, [inaudible] attendance to [inaudible] to get kids to come to school, they’ll run to school.

You won’t have to spend all day long with the discipline committee, because kids will see the light at the end of the tunnel, run toward the light. Kids who engage in negative behavior like the kids who decided to stab other kids yesterday right here in Brooklyn, kids who do that are kids who are mired in darkness. They don’t see beyond today. That’s our failure. It’s our failure!

It’s our failure. And you have to feel… [inaudible] …a lot of us like to take the easy way out and say, well, the parents, blah‑blah‑blah. No!  No. A lot of our parents have also been deeply damaged by a school system that has not done right by them as well.

We can do better and we’re going to do better. Our modern youth apprenticeship, which is the gold standard of career connected learning, offers paid, multi‑year placements in the private and public sectors. Ninth and tenth graders at these schools take courses in career readiness, and then the upperclassmen can apply to spend half a day four days a week at apprenticeships.

We had nearly 60 schools join our apprenticeship program last year; and in combination with FutureReady, we enrolled nearly 8,000 students in career readiness coursework just this past spring. We’re just getting started.

So, let me make it plan. So, one of these students is [Ambilika]. [Ambilika] was a senior last year at my alma mater, Hillcrest High School. Go Braves, that’s right. One of our FutureReady schools. And she interned at Northwell Health, and in her first week she learned CPR. By the end of the semester, she observed a delivery in the maternity ward and even assisted with an ultrasound. She is now a student at Stony Brook University studying biology.

The power of possibility, vision. Vision, vision you have to see where you could ultimately be, and then you order your steps.

Or, consider King, a young man who’s a graduate of the Lab School of Finance and Technology. He started his sophomore year with low attendance an a low chance of even graduating on time. But he apprenticed at JPMorgan Chase, and the experience unlocked his passion and his purpose, and today he’s enrolled at Boston University, studying business administration.

So, when you provide the exposure for kids, they will live up to that high level of expectation. We’re also breaking new ground with our public universities to streamline admissions and enrollment for our students. This fall, for the very first time, CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez and I will be sending a letter to all New York City public school seniors confirming that there’s a place for them at the City University of New York.

Now, [inaudible] couldn’t be here with us today, but I want to personally shout him out. This was his idea, to make this happen, and I’m so happy to just be in partnership with him on it. The simple fact of having an admissions letter with your name on it can be transformative for kids.

And the letter essentially says, you finish up your senior year strong, don’t get off track. We have a spot for you. That means so much to kids so that they’re not just going day to day, there’s a destination that they’re working towards.

We’ll also have news on our admissions work with SUNY in the coming months as well. In the meantime, SUNY is joining our FutureReady programming to provide early college credits. On top of all this, we just opened Bard Early College High School in the Bronx!

Thrilled about that. I just visited a couple of days ago, one of the most academically rigorous experiences that kids will get, and to be in that room in that school and talking to those kids, these kids are geniuses. I’m telling you, I’m amazed every time I go to visit one of these schools and engage with these kids. They are brilliant. They have all this talent. Jackie, I see you. It was wonderful. And over 90 percent of the kids who are going to go that school are going to be from the boogie down Bronx. Absolutely.

And we’re also going to be adding three P‑TECH schools and a Bronx teen center to our menu of Pathways programming. So, a lot of good stuff that’s happening, everybody.

So, as you can see, these college and career pathways are not some light touch experiences just to slap on your resume. These are meaningful, trajectory changing opportunities for our kids.

I want to thank our leaders in the business community, Jamie Dimon of JPMorgan Chase, and Michael Dowling at Northwell; and, thank you to CUNY Chancellor Félix Matos Rodriguez and SUNY Chancellor John King for their partnership in caring for our kids after they leave our New York City public schools.

So, we’re also building Bold Futures by addressing one of the most pressing issues of our time, climate change. As you all know, it’s Climate Week in New York City, and as an agency, we are doing our part. New York City Public Schools are the largest contributor to the city’s solar energy goals, with 81 solar installations across all schools to date. We are growing both our climate education efforts and our focus on green career paths, and we are launching Climate Action Days across our schools.

Bold Futures extend into the virtual world, too. We already have two remote options for our high schoolers: a fully virtual school and a hybrid option; and through a separate program, over 2,500 of our middle and high school students are enrolled right now in specialized courses offered virtually that aren’t available in their own schools, from AP classes to world languages to electives.

We are working toward a time where every high schooler and many middle schoolers can opt into high quality, online coursework — coursework that is more flexible and provides more opportunities than a standard brick and mortar classroom. Our kids should not be limited by the four walls of their classroom.

Think about that. With technology, the whole world should be their classroom. They should have access to the best teachers anywhere. And also, who says that it should take four years to graduate from high school?

With this technology, any student who’s prepared to put in the hard work should be able to enroll in class on Saturdays or in the evenings to accelerate their progress toward graduation. This technology is going afford them those opportunities.

And finally, Bold Futures is not only about our students. As an agency, we have the ability — and dare I say the responsibility — to invest in a Bold Future for our entire community. That’s why spending on Minority and Women‑Owned businesses is particularly important to both me and our mayor.

For far too long our folks of color have been left out of the game. In the 2021 fiscal year, before I even became chancellor, our agency spent about $224 million on MWBEs, which is less than three percent of our overall vendor spend. Just think about that. We promised to do better, and in the first full fiscal year of this administration we grew our MWBE spending by nearly 140 percent to over $535 million and continuing to grow.

Thank you, Karine. Where’s Karine?  Thank you, Karine, as New York City Public Schools Chief Diversity Officer. We are setting increasingly ambitious targets. We are following the lead and direction of our Mayor who has said this is critically important. And we’re making sure that we’re getting it done in our agency, including over 30 percent MWBE subcontracting goal and changing our procurement policies and procedures so our spending reflects the communities that we serve.

Folks from Black and brown communities with services that can help our kids deserve the chance to do business with us; we are, at long last, giving them that opportunity.

I also want to share some exciting news. Just last week, our schools received our 2023 state test scores…which y’all “ooming” about?

My goodness. It’s good, y’all!  It’s good! While it is preliminary ‑‑ we’ll have a more definitive analysis from the state hopefully in about a week ‑‑ the results are extremely encouraging. We’re seeing more of our students on grade level and meeting the state’s new learning standards with significant gains in math and increases in ELA as well.  You deserve a major round of applause for that.

In about a week when the state does its final set of analysis. we’ll be able to speak to this much more specifically. But we also saw a proficiency growth among the students we have historically let down, students of color, multilingual learners and students with disabilities. These results tell us that we’re on the right track. We’re making strides in our recovery from the pandemic, and we’re going to build on this success this year and beyond.

These results are the work of our entire city: students, schools, families and much more. And as we continue this journey, each one of us has a role to play. First of all, to our families, a bit of advice. Build a reading routine with your children. Make reading a daily habit ‑‑ 30 minutes each night right before bed.

When you’re sitting in the park or standing in the line at the store, don’t just pull out your phone, pull out a book. And throughout the school year, engage with your child’s school. Connect with the principal/parent coordinator. Get involved with the PTA. Meet families and parent leaders in your school and district. We need your engagement. We need your partnership. Stay involved in your school.

To our educators. Quite simply, you are the backbone of this school system, and none of the things that we’re talking about today can happen without you. You know, my dad used to say that there are three kinds of people in this world: there are people who make stuff happen; there are people who watch stuff happen and critique from the sidelines; and, there are people would just wake up every day and go, hey, what happened?

Our responsibility as educators is to make sure we’re developing our young people to be in that first group of folks who make stuff happen.

When you care for our kids, when you teach them to read and do math, when you empower them to solve real world problems like our High school of Art and Design in their recent campaign against subway surfing…

The young people from that school created the campaign that is now on display all across the city. Right, Mr. Mayor?  Because we have kids who are getting on the tops of subways and being kamikaze’s and killing themselves. And the Mayor and I and all the other old‑timers can tell them all day long until we’re blue in the face.

We need young people to deliver the message. And we went to the High School of Art and Design, they created the whole campaign through their voice that they’re speaking to their own peers and saying, hey, it’s not cool. We need you. Don’t get on top of the train. And when we teach our kids to do that, our kids will lift this entire city if we empower them in that way.

To our community based organizations who are here, help us keep the learning going throughout the year. Whether in our after school programs or our wildly popular Summer Rising program, you bring a critical layer of social, emotional support and enrichment to our communities, and we need you.

To our philanthropy and business leaders, help us build an scale our work around Bright Starts and Bold Futures. This is not just a moral imperative, it’s an economic one, too. Right now in this global economy, too many of our kids are sitting on the sidelines.

Get this: in 2021, women accounted for just 35 percent of our country’s STEM workforce despite being half of our population; and, that STEM workforce was only 15 percent Latino and nine percent Black. We need to get our kids in the game for the sake of our children and for the sake of the economic future of the city and this nation.

And ultimately, to our students. Please know this, that each one of you holds infinite potential. Remember that. This school year, you may be a kindergartner learning to read, you may be a 12th grader learning to code. Your job is to simply give it your all, because that’s what will lead to you ultimately achieving your dreams.

There will inevitably be ups and downs, but you have an entire village standing behind you, and we are ready to be your champions. Are we ready?

And I also just want to give a shout to my team. Leading this system is a group effort, and I’m endlessly grateful to my senior leadership team whose faces you see right there on the screen. They support the efforts of our superintendents, principals and all the educators and staff who are in our schools each day.

And speaking of all of our leaders, we have our superintendent…if you’re a superintendent, deputy superintendent, principal, educator, and you’re in the room today, please stand to your feet so we can all simply say, thank you for what you do every day. Yes. Yes.

Thank you. Now, let me get ready to wrap this up so you all can go back to work.

The purpose of school, first, our children will become confident readers by the third grade is a commitment; secondly, that our children will be engaged and challenged in new and exciting ways; and thirdly, that our children will graduate high school with the knowledge, skills and experiences to be financially literate and prepared to go to college or enter the workforce. Those are the commitments that we are making as an administration. So, on some of these promises we know we have a long way to go, but I know that the best is yet to come.

And I want to close with this final story. I was at a school in Harlem just the other day, PS 125.

And led by Principal Leopold, on the second day of school this year, the event was terrific. I got a chance to read with some of our brand‑new kindergartners. State Senator Cordell Cleare was with us at the event. And when it ended, we said goodbye and we left.

But 10 minutes later, Senator Cleare returned. And our Deputy Chancellor Carolyn Santana was still at the school, and she was a little confused, and said, did the senator forget something? It turns out she had forgotten something: a story.

On her way to the school earlier that morning, Senator Cleare and her Uber driver struck up a conversation. And as he was dropping her off ‑‑ his name was [Mr. Golbani], he was the driver. He said, do you work at PS 125?  Do you know Miss Henry?  Senator Cleare did not.

She said, what about Miss Henry?  And [Mr. Golbani] explained that he moved here with his family from Burkina Faso in West Africa. His daughter didn’t even speak any English, until she enrolled at PS 125 and Miss Henry became her English as a new language teacher. He felt like he had hit the jackpot. Miss Henry…hear this. He said, Miss Henry changed the trajectory of his entire family.

Senator Cleare was so moved by the conversation that when she realized that she had forgotten, in the rush of the event, that she forgot to speak with Miss Henry. She returned.

Miss Henry, I want you to stand again. Come here, Miss Henry. Come up on the stage here. We…we’re about to close out.

But it’s important to know. Miss Henry… How are you doing, Miss Henry? Miss Henry is the best of what New York City Public Schools is all about. Think about it, Michael, humble, right? Just… I was just doing my job: I’m supposed to teach them how to read. We don’t hear enough stories about the Miss Henry’s of our school system. We have to continue to lift them up, to celebrate them. Our teachers have been beat up for far too long.

Our system is not going to get better because you continue to tell people how bad they are. Right, Rita?  When we were teachers in that classroom and the kids would act up and you write their name on the board. And they act up some more, and you put a check next to their name. And the kids quickly realize, if you want their attention, act up! It doesn’t make them better. So, we have to have a very different approach. Today marks the beginning of a very different approach for New York City Public Schools. Thank you, everybody! God bless you. Let’s have a great year!

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