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09.03.21: Parent Orientations + More



Principal's Letter

Dear Parents, 

Thank you for joining us at the various events this week. I’ve enjoyed meeting and/or reconnecting with you. There is definitely excitement in the air on 108th Street. Many teachers returned this week to begin setting up for the coming year, and we had an orientation for our new faculty members.

I am excited to welcome the following staff members to our school:

Matthew Tiramani will be teaching chorus. He has a Masters from TC in Music Education and has been teaching music for the last year in Pennsylvania. He has been the Choral Director at Bucknell University since 2017. ("Finder's Fee" to Dan Fagen.)
Laura Gauthier will be teaching art. She is a graduate of Booker T. Washington — a student in my 7th grade math class in 2002! A graduate of Pratt and Hunter, she has been teaching art at The Chapin School, the 92nd Street Y, Wingspan Arts, and Febrer Arts. But —there's no place like home/BTW!  ("Finder's Fee" to Susan Kricorian.)
Nicole Miller will be our new social worker. Nicole has been working at the South Bronx Community Charter High School and the Fannie Lou Hamer Middle School since 2015. She has a lot of experience working with students and families in crisis. She is a graduate of NYU's School of Social Work.
Daniel Clark will be teaching special education/math. He is a NY Teaching Fellow. Daniel majored in math, then pursued a professional career playing the bassoon, and then practiced law. He brings a range of skills and interests to Booker T. Daniel has been teaching our students this summer in summer school. 
Cherisse Cruz will be teaching special education/ELA. She is a NY Teaching Fellow. She was also teaching our students this summer in summer school. She has worked in Television Production for the last 11 years. She is a graduate of a District 3 middle school and has stayed involved in their school community since graduating.  
Dan O'Sullivan will be teaching special education science. He has been working in physical therapy for a number of years and is a NY Teaching Fellow. He is currently teaching summer school in the city, but is from New City, New York.   
Solomon Shim will be teaching special education math. He has been teaching special education students in a District 75 school for the last two years. He is currently working at a Nature As a Classroom Camp, where he has worked for many summers, but lives not far from Booker T.  
Kathleen Comber will be our new librarian. She is currently the librarian at the K-8 school in Sag Harbor, where she also worked in the public library. A diverse and avid reader, middle school literature is a favorite of hers.  
Melissa (Bergman) Spitalny will be returning to Booker T. to teach ELA. She spent her "hiatus" on a child-care leave and then teaching at MS 297 in lower Manhattan. She has her vast collection of Booker T. Track hoodies ready for the fall! She was the creator of our Track Program many years ago. ("Finder's Fee" to Sara Lichtman and Jen Misthal.) 
Timothy Tobaison joins Booker T. after filling in in several positions at NEST+M over the last few years and before that at PS 84. He will be teaching several special education and ICT classes in the sixth grade.

See the Directory page on the MS54 website for the contact information for every member of the faculty and staff, as well as their primary area of responsibility.   
Please mark your calendars for the two Booker T. PARENT Orientations. One is on September 9th and the other on September 13th. On September 9th, I will provide you with an overview of the educational program, the flow of the day, and discuss procedures and policies. On September 13th, I will discuss how to support your middle schooler as they transition to middle school (or whatever grade they are beginning). We will talk about some strategies for ensuring that they succeed academically, socially, and emotionally. Both are designed for parents. The students will participate in orientation activities during the regular school day. 

Please be on the lookout for an email about the Jupiter System. This is our online grade book and communication system. The email will provide directions for signing into your account, updating your contact information, and uploading a picture of your child. We will discuss Jupiter in more detail at the orientations.

Below is a summary of the information I shared with parents on Tuesday evening. This information is also posted on the Return to Buildings page on the MS54 website.

Health Screeners:  All students must complete the health screener daily. As part of this, the student is attesting that they do not have a temperature. This means that you must take your child’s temperature at home before they leave each day. This will make entry into the building much faster and our school environment much safer. 

Masks: Required (all day).

Positive Case: Please refer to the DOE guidance for the procedures around the various configurations and consequences. Only students who are unvaccinated and/or show symptoms will be required to quarantine.  

Remote Learning: A teacher will teach remotely ONLY if the entire class is quarantined. This is a remote possibility in grades seven and eight as many students will be vaccinated.

Eating: Students will eat their lunch outside (weather permitting.) In the event of inclement weather, half of the grade will eat in the cafeteria and half in the auditorium. We are working on a plan on how the students might be able to have a snack in the classroom. 

Traveling Between Classes: Students will be permitted to travel to their classes and will not have to remain in one classroom all day. 

Vaccinations: Students who are 12 and older will be able to get their vaccination at school (with parent consent). Please fill out the Ryan Health Center consent. During the first week of school, Booker T. will be a city vaccination site. Vaccine vendors assigned by the NYC Vaccine Command Center will be available to administer the COVID-19 vaccine to eligible students, families, and staff at our school on the following dates:  

  • Monday, September 13, 2021 
  • Tuesday, September 14, 2021 
  • Wednesday, September 15, 2021
  • Friday, September 17, 2021 

Sites will not operate on Thursday, September 16th in observance of Yom Kippur.  For more details, please refer to the DOE's letter to parents on the program.

Students will need a device to use at home. For the first part of the year, they will not be bringing them to school. The students have spent an excessive amount of time on them in the last year and a half, and we would like to get them back to using notebooks and planners. Please fill out this form to let us know your technology needs. 

There are residual issues that the DOE has not corrected from last year. I have been assured that this is in progress. I know that your NYC Schools Account may not be showing current or your child’s report card from last year, but this will get resolved.  
Elana Elster 

We're off to a great start—19 backpacks have been purchased so far, filled with the supplies needed. Forty families have told us that they need a backpack and school supplies for their children. Please support an MS54 student! Here's how to participate:
1) Please let Anne McIntosh Pejovich at know if you are interested in purchasing a backpack for a student in need.
2) Go to this link to purchase a backpack filled with supplies for one of our students, Please purchase all of the items  on the list and have them sent to your home.  You can also share the cost of a backpack and supplies with another family!
3) Fill up the backpack with the supplies and bring it to school on September 9th and 10th, 8am to 3pm. Use the West 108th Street entrance. The Security Team will greet you.
Please help us spread the word to have families fill out the New Student Form. This way, folks won't miss out on MS54 news.  
If you like connecting with others and helping to make our school run, then join us on the PTA team! Open positions include: Co-Treasurer, Co-Assistant Treasurer, Co-VP of Fundraising, Co-Recording Secretary, 6th Grade Rep, and 7th Grade Rep. Our School Leadership Team is also seeking parent nominees to help develop school-based educational policies in collaboration with the administration and teacher SLT members. If you have any questions:
If you, or someone you know, get a vaccination shot from an NYC-run site and mention "MS54 Booker T. PTA," the city will donate $100 to the PTA. This is a low-effort way to help the PTA at no extra cost to you. Applicable for scheduled or walk-in appointments. To find a site, visit:
September 3 - October 3, 2021
The Yankees are offering free backpacks, hot dogs, and drinks with these tickets, starting at $40. You can select from several games (September 3rd to October 3rd). The offer expires September 30th. We do not receive any proceeds from this, but when the Fundraising Team found out about it, we just had to share it.
September 9, 2021 @ 7:30pm
Dr. Elster will provide an overview of the educational program, the flow of the day, and discuss procedures and policies.

September 10, 2021 @ 8:45-9:30am
This is the next availability to pick up your school spirit gear before school starts. Go to the West 108th Street entrance. MS54's Officers Henry, Dickerson, and Schmid are ready to welcome in the new school year in their 54 zip hoodies. We are working on having students pick-up their swag after dismissal. Questions:
September 12, 2021 @ 4:30pm
Let's take over Central Park and ride for bubble tea! Helmets are required. All grades are welcome — as are siblings! Questions: Details will be sent once you RSVP.
September 13, 2021 @ 7:30pm
Dr. Elster will discuss how to support your middle schooler as they transition to middle school (or whatever grade they are beginning), including strategies for ensuring that they succeed academically, socially, and emotionally.
September 14, 2021 @ 3:15-5:00pm
Please complete permission form to give your child permission to attend soccer tryouts in the Booker T. yard. Masks must be worn throughout the duration of the tryout.
September 15, 2021 @ 3:15-5:00pm
Please complete permission form to give your child permission to attend soccer tryouts in the Booker T. yard. Masks must be worn throughout the duration of the tryout.
September 21, 2021 @ 7pm
Please join us as we host the first PTA general meeting of the year. We'll have time after the official end time to linger and socialize, so please tell a fellow family to come, too!
September 22, 2021 @ 8pm
Please join us for the first Wellness Committee meeting of the year! Tell us what's on your mind for the coming school year. Please write with any thoughts or questions you may have. 
September 23, 2021 @ 8am
Bring your coffee — and get your questions answered at the first Coffee with Dr. Elster of the year!

DOE Info & Community Updates

New items are listed below. To see previously listed but still active notices, please see the DOE Info and Community Updates page on the MS54 website.

NYC September 2021 Family Volunteer Opportunities
See the family volunteer list compiled by Doing Good Together.™ You are encouraged to ask any questions you may have of the sponsoring organization before committing to a project.

10%-Off Discount for Soccer Gear for MS54 Booker T. Families
Upper 90 agreed to give us a discount on gear at their new location on West 86th Street/Broadway. (This discount is usually reserved only for soccer clubs.)
Copyright © 2021 MS54 PTA, All rights reserved.

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