122320 - Wrapping Up 2020
In this issue:

Principal's Letter

Dear Parents, 
December! Winter Vacation! It’s been quite a Fall, but your children have risen to the occasion. They’ve come along with us, weathered the unexpected, and continued to do their work, ask questions, and remind their teachers why they love middle schoolers. I am so glad they (and you) chose Booker T.! They make it a very special place to work. And, like them, I am excited to have time off.  

The DOE has released information about the high school application process. Eighth grade parents, please read the letters that you received. Ms. Mansell will be holding meetings for both parents and students in early January and will guide you through the application process. In my meeting with the 8th graders today, I focused on the Specialized High Schools, because the first deadline in the process (January 15, 2020) is for registering for the SHSAT Exam and for LaGuardia auditions. Know, however, there are hundreds of other high schools in New York City too. Since we have more time to discuss those, we will do so after the break.   

The SHSAT will be given at Booker T. on Wednesday, January 27, 2020. I do not know yet what the plan will be for students who are 100% remote. 

For parents of seventh graders, if we are completely back in the building on January 27th,  seventh graders in Cohort C will not be coming into school on that day. We will need the use of all the classrooms and staff to administer the exam. 

In light of the news about the middle school admissions process, we have scheduled another open house for prospective families. That will take place virtually, on Thursday, January 28, 2020 at 6:30PM. Families need to register to attend. You are our best recruiters. Please spread the word! 
There is still no information about when Middle Schools will go back into their buildings. In the meantime, please complete the consent for testing form (which you can do on your NYC Schools Account) that will be required when we do go back. 
There’s no homework over break, but I hope your children will find time each day to read for pleasure. Enjoy your time with them.  
Happy Holidays and Happy New Year. 

Elana Elster 

PS: Enjoy The Nutcracker Overture - Woodwind Trio from our band teacher, Mr. Fagen!
PPS: See holiday message from the NYC DOE.

Last Chance to Donate to the Annual Appeal in 2020!

Our goal is to raise $250,000.00 through the Annual Appeal this year. We just crossed the halfway point this week. THANK YOU to the 130 families who have contributed so far.

Every fundraising event other than the Annual Appeal involves significant effort, volunteers, coordination, and often expense. The Annual Appeal is by far the simplest, easiest and least expensive way to raise the funds our school needs. Simply put, a dollar raised through the Annual Appeal is a dollar we don't have to struggle to raise in some other way.

To ensure that your tax-deductible Annual Appeal contribution counts in 2020, please donate online here before December 31!

We are very grateful for your support!


A BIG Holiday Thank You to All!

Thank you to everyone who participated in and/or donated to the many holiday giving events this season. From the Staff + Teacher appreciation gift, to the Family-to-Family drives for gifts and food, the generosity of this community has been overwhelming. Your kindnesses have made this season so much brighter!


Winter After School Registration Continues

We're thrilled to announce that after school programming will begin in the new year! There's a terrific assortment of art, STEM, fitness, music, crafting and other options! Check out the winter brochure HERE.

All classes will be remote for this session regardless of whether in-person school starts again or not, so feel free to choose whatever day of the week is best for your child. Classes will be filled on a first-come, first-served basis.

Registration runs through December 31.*
*Please note that Art with the Jewish Museum is now FULL.

Programs will begin the week of January 11 and run through the week of March 22. 

Payment for the winter session is a pay-what-you-wish donation. If you are able, please help offset the cost of teachers' time by donating HERE.

Students may choose up to three programs; register your child ranking the sessions in order of preference. Confirmation emails will be sent by Anne Pejovich the week of January 4, followed by a Zoom link from the teacher. Register HERE.

December 31: Last day to register for winter session
Week of January 4: Confirmation details sent to families
Week of January 11: First week of after school sessions
Week of March 22: Last week of sessions

Note that parents are responsible for legal supervision of their child since the teacher cannot have eyes on the children at all times.

Please reach out to Anne Pejovich with any questions at:


Thank a Teacher with an Award Nomination 

Please take some time over the holidays to thank one of our incredible teachers with a nomination for one (or both) of the teacher excellence awards below.

Nominate a Teacher for a FLAG Award for Teacher Excellence by January 3!
The FLAG Award recognizes and celebrates extraordinary public-school teachers who inspire learning through creativity, passion, and commitment. One grand-prize winner from each of NYC’s five boroughs will receive a $25,000 cash prize and finalists will each receive $10,000. The winning teachers’ schools will each receive $10,000 and each finalist’s school will receive $2,000 for arts-based initiatives designed by the award recipient. This nomination requires answering some very detailed questions. If there is a specific MS 54 teacher that you want to nominate and you want some help doing this, please contact Marni Aarlev, PTA Co-VP of Communications.

Nominate a Teacher for the Big Apple Awards by January 10
The Big Apple Awards is New York City’s educator recognition program that honors and celebrates educators who go above and beyond for their students and school communities. Nominating a teacher for the Big Apple Awards is a great way for students and families to show their appreciation for the City educators who have gone above and beyond for their students throughout the COVID-19 pandemic. To nominate any MS 54 teacher, please work with your kids to complete this form. You can complete this form for as many MS 54 teachers as you want to nominate. Members of the MS 54 PTA will review the nominations and will coordinate submissions. Since final nominations are due by January 10, please submit your nominations by Monday, January 7 so there's time to review and submit them.

Thank You, School Store Shoppers!


The MS 54 School Store is an important part of our overall fundraising efforts! Every school store item purchased helps raise money for the things our school needs.

Need a last-minute gift? MS54 E-gift cards are perfect if you're short of time or don't know what they want. Buy online and have them delivered instantly by email for immediate redemption!

School store pick ups will resume after the holiday recess on January 4. Questions? contact us at

Please note: the Classic School Store is run separately from the Holiday Specialty Store.



HS Admissions Updates


Please refer to the email from Ms. Mansell sent via Jupiter last Friday (December 18) for more information about your child's MySchool account and how to register for the SHSAT and LaGuardia Auditions. Info sessions and more will be coming in January!


The PTA is helping eighth grade families by compiling HS open house + virtual tour dates, times, and links into a calendar on the HS Information page of

Please contribute any information you hear of. Thank you and we hope this helps!

Wellness Update

Donate to the MS54 "Family to Family" Food Drive! Your generosity has brightened the holidays of families in need!  THANK YOU! No deliveries over winter break, but... starting January 1, ring in the New Year by choosing winter items we’ve added to the MS54 PTA Food Drive Wish List! If you need food, please contact Anne McIntosh Pejovich at

Last MS54 Wellness Walk of 2020! Sunday 12/27 @ 10 am. YOU CAN DO IT! Meet at the Community Garden inside Riverside Park on the Promenade at 91st Street. Children optional. Masks required. Sign up HERE. Questions? Text Alison Gardy at 917-696-2370.

DOE Info & Community Updates

Holiday Meals Available for All Starting This Week
On Thursday, December 24th and Monday–Thursday, December 28th–31st school food service will be available at only the 250+ Community Meal sites from 12pm to 3pm. These sites will also offer holiday meal kits on those days. All meal sites will be closed on December 25th and January 1st. Families can find a nearby site by texting 'NYC Food' or 'NYC Comida' to 877-877. More information about meals this school year can be found here.

3rd Annual NYC Public School Film Festival
The Festival will open for submissions from NYC Dept. of Education students January 5 through March 16, 2021. Films will be selected for the Festival by a panel of educators and media professionals. Films will be screened virtually on May 6, 2021. Following the May 6th virtual screening, student filmmakers will be invited to virtual discussions with industry professionals. Submitted films must be 5 minutes or less, and in .mp4 or .mov format. Films must use only original or public domain music. No nudity, profanity or violent acts are permitted. Youth filmmakers must play the major creative role on the production of the submitted works — as directors, writers, and/or editors. For full rules and regulation information, please go to:

Find Help at
If you or your family need assistance of any kind, please try this new resource: It was created by Aunt Bertha, a non-profit that connects people and programs — making it easy for people to find social services in their communities. Simply type in your Zip Code, and this site will connect you to a lot of different resources from food, housing, jobs, money, legal, and so much more.

Jazz Power Youth Program
Classes meet virtually once a week outside of school hours on Thursday from 4:30-6:30 pm (starting in March). They are looking for students who are interested in learning more about music, dance, blues, theater etc. The program is geared towards middle schoolers and high schoolers and completely free. There are open classes for more info for parents and students on January 7, February 11, and March 11 through zoom. Visit for more info.  

Events Calendar

December 24 – Jan 1: Winter recess

December 31: Last day to register for winter after-school programming

Week of January 4: After-school confirmation details sent to families

D3 Cafe with Superintendent Christine Loughlin

January 4 @ 4:00-5:30pm
Zoom Meeting:
Meeting ID: 377 751 6647   Passcode: 063260

MS54 PTA's Friday Coffee with Dr. Elster
January 8 @ 8am
Meeting ID: 973 1405 1863   Passcode: 941455

Week of January 11: First week of after-school sessions

MS54 PTA's January General Meeting
January 12 @ 7pm


January SLT Meeting
January 15 @ 7:20am

Any member of the MS54 community who wishes to observe the meeting may email in advance for the Zoom link. 

January Wellness Meeting
January 22 @ 7:30am

Meeting ID: 982 4315 8571, Passcode: 082911

Amazon Smile

When you're doing your holiday shopping, please be sure to activate Amazon Smile by going to and selecting MS54 as the charity recipient. Do this once and you're set forever! And while you're getting your holiday shopping done, please consider making a donation to the MS54 Holiday Food Drive for families in the MS54 community.

Parent Resources

While we endeavor to keep you well informed through this newsletter, inevitably topics and conversations come up throughout the week. Here are additional ways to stay in the loop:

The website is where you'll find calendars, directories, meeting minutes, forms, and information on topics including equity and wellness.

The MS54 PTA Facebook group is a private group of parents, teachers, and staff where information is shared and issues are discussed. Members can post and share articles and messages with our school community. 

The btwms54pta Instagram is where to get visual inspiration and motivation from images, recipes, quotes and more.

The Well at 54 is our Facebook group devoted to sharing timely wellness tips, articles and solutions.
Copyright © 2020 MS54 PTA, All rights reserved.

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