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03.05.21 - Fundraising is in the air!




Principal's Letter

Dear families – current and past, 
I am so appreciative of your outpouring of kindness this week. It has given me great comfort. Over the years, you have learned bits and pieces about my mother, but she heard much more about you and your children. She loved to hear my school stories and to talk about teachers and students. Although I can only remember her visiting the building once — her presence looms over me and the school on a daily basis. 
My mother devoted her life to education — specifically Jewish education, first and primarily in the Washington, DC community, but then across the United States and North America, but she always felt that as a NYC public school teacher — at JHS136 on 136th and Edgecombe, she got her most foundational educational experience.  When I called her in tears on my first day at Joan of Arc JHS,  because after an hour I was ready to quit, she let me know, in her own way, that that was not going to happen — that I had what it took.   
She grew and led a premiere Jewish school, together with my father, founded another one, and then went on to become what people nicknamed her “the Dean of Jewish Education,” serving as a consultant and mentor for HUNDREDS of principals over the years.  Her final paid job was running a “Principal Hotline,” where school leaders could make an appointment to discuss their challenges and could get her plentiful advice. I thought that was the ultimate and perfect job for my mother, as she was already confined to a wheelchair because of her Parkinson’s, but that she could actually get paid for the advice she gave people! She often said to me, you know, you can call the hotline too! But, I didn’t need to; I had a direct line. 
I had the greatest education anyone could ask for — I did my apprenticeship, my teacher training, my leadership internship with her. This was the woman who bought me my first blackboard as a Hanukah present when I was in third grade. And, if for me that wasn’t already the greatest gift, she added a roll book too! The first school she founded was mine — in our basement, set up with her collection of antique school desks and school things. Schooling, leadership was in her blood — as my brothers and I grew up, she wove lessons into our everyday actions, she was sometimes subtle, but more often very direct. I’ve written before about the spelling lists on the bathroom door, the chart paper on the wall of the kitchen, the lessons on how to write thank you notes, how to show appreciation — the list however is truly endless. Listening to her as she drove, made dinner, did just about anything, I learned how to approach so many situations — challenging and joyful ones. As I watched her unabashedly approach prospective donors to fund projects that she thought were vital for educational institutions, I too learned to fundraise and to advocate for what I believed in. As I grew up in the incubator of what she called her “wild ideas,” I had the ultimate gift of learning from a master. I saw her connect with students — especially the most challenging ones, prioritize, make decisions, and reach out to people. I hope I have internalized those leadership lessons and will use them. 
Over the course of the week, I heard so, so many wonderful stories from those whom she mentored, taught, supported, rescued. My mother did not like “cutesy things.”  When we were kids, the condition she put on us getting a cat was that it had to have a distinguished name. We discussed various names — historical figures, scientists, scholars, and then my mother devised a plan. She put the cat in the middle of the room and had us each call out names. When the cat responded, she said, that would be the name. Our cat was named Freud!  But, this week I think of a plaque I often see where they sell teacher things — “A teacher affects eternity, he/she never knows where her influence will stop.”  My mother had a wide orbit and a far reach.  My mother was a force — she could mobilize teachers, students, parents, the community — she made things happen sometimes so everyone could see, and often very quietly. 
During our last conversation late last Wednesday night, she asked about the students returning to school, reminded me to be (COVID) careful, and asked about Booker T. Day.  In the box of Valentine “treats” I sent her last week, was a Booker T. shirt, because she was a fan!   
Rabbi Heschel wrote, "Everything depends on the one who stands at the head of the classroom." She was my teacher and is so much a part of Booker T. — my leadership, my “wild ideas”,  my commitment — I attribute all the good to her and will forever feel proud and blessed to be one of her most important students. 

 Student Coordinator's Letter

Dear Parents: 
While Dr. Elster is away, mourning the passing of her mother, I’m honored to write from her desk.  Our hearts are with her and with her family.   
This week, we welcomed our blended learners for our first full week since November.  For some students, it marked their first time back at school since last March.  Each day began with nervous excitement and the inevitable acknowledgement of how strange school is in the time of COVID, but as the week wore on, the old sounds and familiar feel of Booker T.  began to seep back in to the building.   
In the halls of Booker T., I saw students carrying hand made construction paper DNA models.  I saw a teacher speed shuffling from one room to another with Santana’s Smooth playing loudly from his laptop.  ("Mood music," he called it.) I saw hallway dancing from a very flexible sixth grader, unrelated to the Santana.  I watched a Humanities lesson being taught on the floor outside of the COVID testing room, socially distant of course, while students waited patiently to be swabbed.  I saw our cafeteria cooks bring snacks and lunches for students to scan for cookies and chocolate milk, of course. And I heard a certain Latin teacher bellow from way down the hall, his students matching his volume soon thereafter.   
It’s good to be back. 
Parent Teacher Conferences will be held this week over Zoom on Wednesday, March 10th from 5:30-8:00 and Thursday, March 11th from 2:00 to 4:00.  If you haven’t already, please visit to book your conferences. Don’t miss this opportunity to check in with your child’s teachers!  
Erica Williams 
Student Coordinator 

Spring is in the air! Welcome to fundraising season, folks! From the Teacher Talent Show on March 21 to the exciting new 54 for 54 Challenge event,  we've got something for everyone. Check out what's happening below and join in the FUNdraising with family and friends!
Parents and community members with wellness expertise are invited to speak to our students on March 16. Speakers will talk to students over Zoom for two sessions starting at 9:15 am. If you're interested in speaking, please register here by Monday, March 8. Reach out to Alison Gardy with any questions at
Many thanks to the Booker T. students who have been bringing in boxes or cans of food! Please continue to encourage your kids to make this an in-person-day habit. Our food supplies need replenishing in all categories except pasta! Everything can be ordered on our MS54 Amazon Wish List. Please also feel free to support your local grocers.

Run, scoot, or cook your way to 54 for 54! We're launching our first-annual 54 for 54 Challenge to raise money for the school. Whether scooting or dog-walking your way to 54 miles, or reading your way through 54 chapters as part of a team, log 54 of something meaningful to you between April 1 and May 31 and encourage friends and family to do the same!

Tell us what your challenge is and sign up to raise money for our school!

Register today and start or join a team. Adults are $30 (+ registration fee) or you can pay what you wish. Children under 18 are FREE!

And what would an event be without fun SWAG? Place your orders now through March 21 to get your gear in time for the challenge! Items will ship the week of April 9.
Choose Your Challenge!

Teacher Talent Night is March 21!
You've never seen anything like this!
Booker T. teachers + staff have teamed up to put on the Talent Show we all need right now! Join hosts Ms. Weinreb and Mr. D for this once in a lifetime spectacular! A donation of any size gets you in.

DATE: Sunday, March 21
TIME: 6:30 pm
PLACE: Your Living Room!
DONATE: Any amount to get the Zoom link
Join Us On March 21!
Hey, eighth grade parents! This is your ONLY chance to order limited edition Class of 2021 graduation sweatshirts! There are six awesome colors to choose from. Order through March 21 — orders will ship the week of April 9.  Shop now before you forget!

For questions, email Eve Epstein at
Shop 2021 Grad Gear
School Meetings + Events

Sunday Wellness Walk
March 7, 2021 @ 10:00 am
Riverside Park Community Garden at 91st Street

Join Wellness Chair Alison Gardy and other parents for a walk through Riverside Park. Masks required, water suggested, children optional. Questions? Email Alison at

March PTA Meeting
March 9, 2021 @ 7:00 pm
Register for the meeting

In addition to the latest school news and all your favorite PTA updates, we'll have special guest Dr. Lara Pence, Psychologist + Parenting Expert, who will give us the skinny on catching Zs with her talk, Getting Better Sleep in the Age of Distraction. Presentation starts at 7:30 p.m.
March Agenda, March Budget Report, February Minutes

Parent Teacher Conferences
March 10, 2021 from 5:30-8:00 pm & March 11, 2021 from 2:00-4:00 pm
Sign up for five-minute conference slots (at Families can book only THREE conferences total. If the teacher you wish to see is fully-booked, reach out to them via email for an alternative time to speak. School Bookings will send a confirmation email with your appointments. FLAG or STAR this email for easy access, as it will contain the Zoom code link for each teacher you’re booked to see. If you have trouble booking appointments, contact Anne Pejovich (212-678-2861, ext 1441). 

March SLT Meeting
March 12, 2021 @ 7:20 am
Any member of the MS54 community who wishes to observe the meeting may email in advance for the Zoom link.     

Sunday Wellness Walk

March 14, 2021 @ 10:00 am
Riverside Park Community Garden at 91st Street

CEC3 High School Admissions Meeting
March 15 @ 7:00 pm

Register for the meeting 
Tune in for the latest insights into this year's HS process and learn what's in store for next year.

Wellness Day
March 16, 2021 @ 9:15 am
Professionals from a wide variety of wellness backgrounds will meet with our students to share information, insights, and support from their areas of expertise. If you're interested in presenting, please register here! Deadline to register is Mon, March 8. 

Class Parent Meeting
March 16, 2021 @ 7:30 PM
Only for Class Parents; Join the Zoom Meeting 

Equity Team Meeting
March 17, 2021 @ 7:00 pm
Register for the Zoom Meeting
Learn more about MS54's Equity Team, or contact

Wellness Meeting
March 19, 2021 @ 7:30 am
Join the Zoom meeting

Everyone is invited to join the monthly Wellness Meeting. Help us plan for wellness activities and events for our community.

Sunday Wellness Walk
March 21, 2021 @ 10:00 am
Riverside Park at 91st Street;

Last day to order 54 for 54 Challenge Gear and 2021 Graduate Hoodies
March 21, 2021 @ 11:59 pm

March 29 - April 2, 2021

For more details, please consult the MS54 Calendar!

DOE Info & Community Updates

P-EBT Food Benefit
As of February 10, 2021, the $420 food benefit for spring 2020 has been distributed to all NYC public school students. If you haven't received the spring 2020 benefit, contact the State, and send an email to It is anticipated that P-EBT food benefits for the 2020-2021 school year will be issued to eligible children starting in March 2021. For more information, visit You can also find additional information on what the Pandemic EBT food benefit is and who is eligible here.

The Hero’s Journey
For interested teens that are searching for a fun and creative adventure. They will learn leadership skills, mental health care tips, encounter weekly creative challenges, and level up their own character. Spaces are limited. Application is open through March 12th! The program will run from April 12th to May 21st (meeting Tuesday afternoons). Open only to teens in NYC.

Brooklyn Public Library Teen Wring Contest (March 1-31, 2021)
Writers in grades 6 to 12 in New York City are invited to submit poetry and prose to be judged by a panel of BPL’s expert young adult librarians for creativity, style, and voice. Separate prizes for middle school (grades6-8) and high school (grades 9-12) writers. Entries are accepted in two categories: Poetry (up to 500 words) and Prose (up to 2,500 words). Top winners in poetry and prose will receive the Ned Vizzini Teen Wring Prize with cash awards ($500 and $250 for first and second place), and have their pieces published in the Teen Wring Journal distributed by the Brooklyn Public Library. See full rules and entry form.

Summer Arts Institute
SAI is a free, virtual, four-week arts program in July for New York City Department of Education public school students entering grades 8 through 12 in Fall 2021 (students currently in grades 7through 11). For 2021, this intensive program will be held virtually, Monday-Friday from 9 am-12 pm. Students participate in one of the following studios: Dance, Instrumental Music, Moving Image, Strings Orchestra, Theater, Visual Arts, or Vocal Music. The program is designed for students at an intermediate or advanced level of study in their discipline. Admission is by application (due by March 22) and audition (submitted virtually by March 29); students may apply and audition (see tips) for only ONE studio.

State Pre-College Enrichment Program Summer Session
S-PREP is a free high school and college preparatory program for 7th - 12th grade students, who are interested in a career in medicine or related STEM professions. The long-range objective is to increase the number of historically underrepresented and economically disadvantaged students prepared to enter college, and improve their participation rate in healthcare and STEM. Summer Program offerings include: academic enrichment in math & science, PSAT prep, academic/career counseling, career development, college preparatory workshops, and virtual college tours. Program dates will be July 2nd – July 31st from 10am – 3pm. See program overview. Due to COVID-19 the summer program will be held virtually. Application deadline is April 19. Register for an admissions webinar.

Young Writers Awards Competition
The New York Society Library is holding its 19th Annual Young Writers Awards Competition and Booker T students are eligible to participate. Find entry guidelines and information at Competition deadline is Tuesday, April 6, 2021.

Riley's Way Call for Kindness
Teens who want to change the world can Answer the Call for Kindness and win up to $3,000 to fund their project idea. Applications close on April 7, 2021.

Jeter’s Leaders Program
Jeter's Leaders is a leadership development program created to empower, recognize, and enhance the skills of high school students who promote healthy lifestyles, achieve academically, are committed to improving their community, and serve as role models to younger students and deliver positive messages to their peers. To be eligible, applicants must be high school freshman in the fall. Application deadline is April 9,2021. For more info, see:

Hudson Guild SHSAT

This is a free tutoring program in partnership with Tutorverse for students in the 7th grade that are looking to take the SHSAT test in the 8th grade or need additional academic support. Families can apply by clicking the link here. If you have any additional questions, please contact the Middle School Program Director, Ashley Bermudez at or call/text (646) 883-4015. If SHSAT isn't for you, we also have free afterschool and a Learning Lab Program.

Tutoring Buddies

Tutoring Buddies is a program that pairs high school students (tutors) with elementary/middle school students who need help with school (tutees). Once the pairs are made, the students decide when they would like to meet and what subjects they would like help with (the pairs are made based off available times and subjects of interest). Sign up to receive free tutoring help.

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