NOTES FROM DR. ELSTER

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View the Newsletter Archive here, or read Dr. Elster’s messages below.

2023-24

MS54 PTA Newsletter | September 8, 2023

Dear Parents, 

I hope your children had a good start and that the picture we are seeing and hearing aligns with yours. Each teacher will be sending home a syllabus/letter that outlines the course of study, expectations and policies. Please take a look at the documents. Many have asked you to sign them. Your child should have an orange folder with the papers they need to carry to and from school on a daily basis. Back-to-School Night is in person, at Booker T. on September 20, 2023 from 5:30-7:30. Mark your calendars. It’s your chance to meet the teachers and hear about the year. 

One of the changes that we made and have implemented schoolwide is a consistent grading rubric and system.  Our grading rubric is 70% assessments and graded work and 30% homework completion and classwork. The only exception to this is physical education, where it is reversed.  Every assignment students complete will be graded on a numeric basis. There will be no checks, check minus, or letter grades on assignments. I will be discussing these changes at the next PTA meeting and orientations. We are hoping that this gives students a better understanding of the quality and accuracy of their work and the relative weight of various assignments. 


Reminders: 

-Please return the Blue Emergency Contact Cards as soon as possible, as well as the Ryan Center form. 

-Mark your calendars for next week’s New Parent/Sixth Grade Orientations (for parents only.) 

-If children bring home textbooks, those are to be left at home. We have sets in the classroom. 

-Both breakfast and lunch are available to all students every day.  

 

Elana Elster 

 

MS54 PTA Newsletter | September 1, 2023

Dear Parents:

The building is getting busy. Many members of the faculty have been in this week setting up and planning for the coming year.  We look forward to seeing your children on Thursday, September 7, 2023.

There is a lot of information on the school website. Please check the calendar for upcoming events, and the various tabs for the answers to your questions. The school handbook . It contains a lot of information and the answers to many of your questions. If you are new to Booker T., it is especially important that you read it. 

SCHEDULES AND CLASS ASSIGNMENTS

Class assignments and schedules will be posted on your NYCSA on Tuesday, September 5, 2023.  We have given a lot of thought to placements, and will not be making an immediate changes. PLEASE do not tell your child you will ask us to make changes. Instead, do your “parent thing.” Assure them that they will make friends and see their other friends at lunch and other times, encourage them to go in with an open mind, to give it a chance, and top it off with a hug (and maybe an outing or ice-cream cone.)

THE FIRST DAY OF SCHOOL

  • School starts at 8:40AM. Students should arrive a few minutes before that time. 
  • Students line up and enter through the flagpole courtyard on 107th Street. 
  • On the first few days of school, students will be lining up with their class. The teachers will be holding signs with the class numbers. Instruct your child to find their class number. (Next week, once the students know where to go, they will line up by grade.)  SPECIAL NOTE FOR 8th GRADERS: 8th graders will line up on Columbus Avenue on the first few days of school, to allow more space in the courtyard for the sixth and seventh graders.
  • The entire faculty will be outside on the first days, and will be available to help direct
  • your child. 
  • The teachers will escort the students to their classroom.
  • All 6th graders will be dismissed through the flagpole courtyard at 3:00. 
  • 7th and 8th graders will dismiss from various locations.  If you are planning to pick up a 7th or 8th grader, plan a meeting spot ahead of time. The administration and safety agents supervise dismissal and are outside until all students are on their way. Please make a dismissal/end-of-the-day plan with your child.
  • Parents will not be able to escort children to their classroom. 
  • The day will start with an extended homeroom, where students will have a chance to meet their teacher, classmates, go over their schedule, planners, and hear about the coming year. During the first days, the sixth graders will also get a tour of the building. 
  • Students will probably not get their metrocards on the first day. Please be sure they have a way and means to get home.

Registration and Document Drop Off

If you need to register your child, you may come on Wednesday, September 6, from 1-3PM or on Thursday, September 7, at 9AM. If you would like the paperwork sent to you ahead of time, email jbennett12@schools.nyc.gov, and she can email it to you. This will save you time. 

Class Assignments

We have spent a great deal of time on the class assignments. 

Please help support your child and our work by reassuring your child that they will meet others in their class. Please do not tell your child that you will ask us to make a change. 

Supplies

Students should bring the following to school on the first day:

  1. 2 pens and 2 pencils
  2. 4 spiral notebooks – see the supply lists for the specific colors
  3. Completed summer assignments (including the index cards)
  4. Other class supplies (paper towels, etc.) may be brought to school over the course of the first weeks.

THE BLUE CARD

Please fill out the BLUE CARD and return it to school on Friday. We need this in case of an emergency.  There is a place on the card for you to indicate who may pick your child up from school. This is important, because students may not self-dismiss. We check the card if someone has to leave early. 

CLASS LETTER

Each of your child’s teachers will be sending home a syllabus/letter on the first day of school. Please look for it and review it. This letter includes information about the class and the teacher’s contact information. 

CONTACTING SCHOOL

Welcome to middle school, where we teach and encourage students to learn to take initiative and problem solve on their own. Help us reinforce this, by reminding your child that they get the help, answers, and information they need from their teachers and the school staff. They can ask questions about their metrocard or their schedule. They can locate the lost and found,and look for their lost items. If you need to contact us for other reasons, however, there is a directory of email addresses and numbers on the website. Understand that the day is busy, and we cannot give you an immediate response. If you have an emergency, please CALL the school. 

ORIENTATIONS

There will be two parent orientations. These are geared to families who are new to the school, but anyone is welcome to attend. The first one, on Tuesday, September 12th is an overview of the school. The second is on Thursday, September 14th. It will focus on academics, executive functioning skills, and the social/emotional middle schooler. Both sessions will start PROMPTLY at 8AM and will conclude at 8:40AM. These sessions are for parents only. If your child is traveling with you, they can hang out in the courtyard. 

BACK-TO-SCHOOL NIGHT

Back-to-School Night will take place on Wednesday, September 20, 2023 at the school. You will have an opportunity to meet your child’s teachers, hear about the year and the curriculum, and visit the classrooms. The evening starts at 5:30PM with homeroom. Any teacher who cannot be present on that evening, will address the parents on Zoom on Thursday evening, September 21, 2023. More information on this will be coming.

JUPITER ED

At Booker T. we use Jupiter Grades as an online gradebook and school-wide messaging system.  

Parents

Watch your email for a message from JupiterEd on Thursday afternoon.  The message will say, “Click the link above to view grades, homework, and other important information. If you are new to Jupiter, it will ask you to choose a password. If you are a parent with multiple children at the school, choose the same password for each child, so you don’t need to login separately for each child.”  

Click the link to go to JupiterEd.  Once you have logged in, click the four lines on the upper left corner of the screen to access the menu.  Go to SETTINGS and double check that your contact information is correct. If you wish to add another parent or guardian to your child’s Jupiter account, you may do so by going all the way to the bottom of the settings and click “Add Contact.” 

Check that you receive notifications in the method that you choose but note that important information is sent frequently via Jupiter.  If you turn off email notification, you may miss out on these messages.  

Please also upload a recent picture of your child. 

Moving forward, to log into Jupiter, go to https://login.jupitered.com/login/?27652 or www.jupitered.com.  Choose parent login, enter your child’s first (space) last name OR their OSIS ID number, and then enter the password you selected at first login.  

Students:

This year, students will need to access their JupiterGrades link email using their DOE issued email address. JupiterGrades messages will no longer be sent to ms54.org addresses. If your child does not know their email address, parents can find this information and reset their child’s password on the NYCSA.

FORMS

Between now and the start of the year, please complete the items below.

If you are a new family, complete the New Family Survey (Many of you did this in June before the New Family Welcome Breakfast)

Log into your NYC Schools Account Portal (NYCSA) https://schoolsaccount.nyc/. It is important that you know how to access this portal, because it has important information about your child, including their test data, report cards, schedule (forthcoming), and class assignment (forthcoming.)

Complete the following digital forms through your NYC Schools Account Portal (NYCSA) https://schoolsaccount.nyc/.

You will find these on the Forms Page

  1. Parent-Guardian Student Ethnic and Race Identification
  2. Housing Questionnaire
  3. Children of Active-Duty Military Personnel
  4. Digital Equity Family Questionnaire Survey
  5. Media Consent

 Complete the Family Income Inquiry Form (previously known as the lunch form) https://www.myschoolapps.com/

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | July 31, 2023

Dear Families, 

Hello from Booker T! I hope your children are enjoying their summer.

For me, summers are busy. When the faculty and students return to school in September, everything has to be in place – staffing, class assignments, schedules, the building, curriculum, materials, policies and so much more. We also have 40 students attending Summer School. That’s what I have been busy with since school ended.

The 2023-2024 Schedule for the School Day

In June, the teachers ratified a new contract. That contract changed the way teachers’ time can be utilized and scheduled. That means that we can only have Early Academy one day next year. Early Academy will be on Wednesday morning from 8am-8:40am. On all other days, school will begin at 8:40am and end at 3:00pm. Please note that there is no “early drop off.” Teachers now have professional development on Monday afternoons, so after-school activities will only be on Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday afternoons. Those run from 3:15pm to 5:00pm. Some teachers will be scheduling clubs and sports before school on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday. Kyle Wilson, the Activities and Athletic Coordinator, and Anne Pejovich, the Parent Coordinator and Coordinator of the After-School Program, have already met to begin to map these programs out. 

Class Assignments and Schedules

We will email your child’s class assignment in the days immediately before school starts. We have been working on preliminary lists, but we want to wait until the assessment data from the spring is available so we can use that as another data point in forming classes. Students get their actual schedule of classes, elective assignment and language selection on the first day of school.

Faculty Updates

Rachel Pinsen, our ELA and reading teacher, retired at the end of the year after 30 years at Booker T! Deirdre McEvoy will be assuming the reading position, and I have hired a new sixth grade science teacher. Randee Johnson decided to make a career change, and I have hired a new seventh grade math teacher, who was a student teacher at Booker T. this past year. Dan O’Sullivan took a new position much closer to home, and Ilyce Siegel and Timothy Tobiason have also moved to other positions. I am interviewing and hope to fill our special education vacancy by early next week.

The Building

We have a new custodial engineer, Eric Olivencia, who began at the very end of the school year. The summer-building cleaning is moving along very efficiently. We also have three large construction projects in progress. We are getting a new boiler. That project started well before the pandemic. You cannot miss the construction equipment and temporary boiler out in front of the school! The second project, air-conditioning the gym, is moving along and is scheduled to be completed in two weeks. The most pressing project for me is the renovation of the band room. That project (originally scheduled to be completed last January) has had multiple setbacks, but just this week, two hurdles/inspections were navigated successfully, and I am hoping we can now pick up speed. The contractors are tired of my daily emails and nagging. The custodial team has also been able to clean out some bookrooms, repaint some spaces, and help with multiple personnel moves.

Curricular Changes

We will be transitioning from separate ELA and social studies classes to one integrated humanities class. With the change back to this model, which we had for many years, the teachers have updated the curriculum maps and planned for new units, books and assignments. In addition, with the implementation of the Next Generation Science Standards, New York State has updated the science curriculum, instituted four new required investigations for middle schoolers, and changed the assessment at the end of eighth grade. At the start of the year, you will hear about this and how it will affect your child.

Summer Assignments

Please check in with your child to see how they are progressing with their summer reading and writing assignment and math skills. Summer Assignments will be collected during the first week of school. In addition, students will be assessed on the math skills.

Elana Elster

2022-23

MS54 PTA Newsletter | June 23rd, 2023

Dear Parents:

Congratulations to our eighth graders and their families!

Report cards were distributed this afternoon. PLEASE look at them. If there are any issues, please be in touch with the teachers BY MONDAY MORNING. Mistakes need to be corrected before the teachers leave for the summer, which is at 3:01 pm on Tuesday. Once they leave, I will not be able to make corrections until September. And, if your child is moving on to high school, I will no longer have access to their records.

Detailed attendance data and assessment data (when released) can be found on your on NYC Student Account.

Please look around your house and send back to school any library or textbooks. We need those back.

Summer assignments and supply lists for September can be found at www.ms54.org under the Student tab. We are counting on you to ensure that these get done. This summer, we have also added math resources for grades six and seven. We will be assessing the students at the start of the year.

For students getting additional summer work, you will get more details via email.

It’s been a busy year – but a year in which we have returned to school as we know it. Your children have learned a great deal – not just in the classroom, but through experiences and their interactions with their peers and teachers. Thank you for your support.

I hope your children have a good summer.

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | June 9th, 2023

Dear Parents:

Thank you to the eighth grade parents for your understanding as we found ourselves trying to support some very disappointed students after their class trip was postponed. I am grateful that Jill Bennett was able to work wonders to secure buses so we could reschedule the trip around all the testing and end-of-year events. The students will receive another permission slip on Monday. Please sign and return that immediately. Please also read the separate Jupiter email about the schedule for June 15th and 16th.

Honor and High Honor Roll Assemblies

This year, we will be recognizing students who earned Honor Roll and High Honor Roll for the entire year. The eighth-grade assembly will be on Tuesday, June 20th (new date) and the sixth and seventh grade assembly will be on Wednesday, June 21st. Both begin PROMPTLY at 8:00 am and will end by 8:40 am.

Only parents are invited, but be prepared because we are going to be very tight on space on June 21st. How do you know if your child earned this? We will send an email invitation to you. Because it is based on grades and those are not yet finalized, you will not get the invitation until the day before the event. I know that is last minute – but not really. Look at your child’s last report card. If the average of all their grades EVERY marking period is 90 or higher, save the date. If not, then you know this is not for you.

Summer Assignments will be up on the school website on Wednesday, June 14th. The books on the reading list are available from the school and public library. Please encourage your child to try something new.

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | June 2nd, 2023

Dear Parents,

Last week, the sixth graders heard presentations from all of the elective and language teachers. Please discuss the choices with them and submit the preference sheet by Tuesday.

Our Spring Music Concerts will take place on Monday, June 5 (8th grade) and Tuesday, June 6 (7th grade.) Come hear our musicians. Sixth grade families are welcome. It is a great preview for what is in store.

Eighth graders will be taking the Earth Science Practical Exam on Monday, June 5 and Tuesday, June 6.

The Eighth Grade Trip is next week! More details will follow in a separate email.

Sixth grade recitals are on June 20 (601, 602, 603), June 21 (604, 605, 606), and June 22 (607, 608, 609).

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | May 26th, 2023

Dear Parents,

Thank you very much for coming to the Open Feedback sessions last week and this week. It’s really important for me to hear from you and to factor that into decisions that we make for the coming year. I appreciate your time and suggestions. If you were not able to come but have something that you would like to pass on, please feel free to email me.

June is a super busy month for both students and for other events at the school. Please take a few moments to check the calendar on the MS54 website. I hope that you will join us at some of the end-of-the-year events. In addition to concerts, recitals, a jazz night and Shakespeare productions, there will be multiple trips, field days, and also final exams and projects. We will also have multiple opportunities to recognize student achievement before the year ends.

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | May 12th, 2023

Dear Parents:

Thank you for all the treats for the faculty this week –for the breakfast, lunch, notes, cookies, emails. The faculty appreciated them all.

I hope the students enjoyed Booker T. Day! There were so many fun activities. I know the students had a good time. I hope they made connections with new teachers and with other students. I am grateful to the parents who chaperoned the trips.

May 30th is the last day for Early Academy. Regents prep will continue in the mornings for eighth graders. Please consult the schedule the teachers sent.

A reminder that at this point in the year, health lessons cover puberty and grade-appropriate sex education lessons and Justine Fonte, health educator, will be coming next week to speak to the seventh graders.

There is a lot of buzz in school around the Student Talent Show. The show is from 5:30PM-8:00PM on Thursday, May 18th. Tickets are on sale in the mornings during homeroom. They are $1 each. The show has sold out before, so encourage your child to get their tickets.

I am interested in hearing any feedback you have as we start planning for the coming year. I will hold two sessions over Zoom. Please join me and share your suggestions. The first will take place on Tuesday, May 16, 2023 from 8:30 to 9:15 and the second on Monday, May 22, 2023, from 8:00PM -8:45PM. I will share the feedback for those who cannot attend.

Elana Elster

MS54 PTA Newsletter | May 5th, 2023

Dear Parents:

I hope you got to see Damn Yankees last week. It was really wonderful. Congratulations to the Booker T. Model United Nations Delegation. They were awarded BEST DELEGATION in the conference last week. Many of our students also received awards and recognition. Many thanks to Mr. Donivan Barton who is the faculty advisor and who puts in so many extra hours each year with the students.

Next Thursday, May 11th are the third Parent-Teacher Conferences. These conferences are for families of students who are not meeting academic standards and/or are failing a subject. You will be contact by one of your child’s teachers by Monday, if a conference is needed. These conferences will take place on Zoom in the evening.

The make-up period for the NYS Math Exam will extend through May 11th.

Next week is also Staff Appreciation Week. Booker T. is fortunate to have a cadre of smart, dedicated, and creative faculty who care about students and who want to work with middle schoolers. Please encourage your children to write a card or note to their teachers and bring it in on TUESDAY. It will be most appreciated. Moreover, it is a wonderful opportunity to reinforce the importance of saying thank you and to get your child to actually write a (non-email) thank you note.

Elana Elster

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