March Principal Newsletter

Dear Ralph Bunche School Families,

 Women's History Month is an annual declared month that highlights the contributions of women to events in history and contemporary society. The United States has observed it annually throughout the month of March since 1987.  

 On August 26, 1920, the 19th Amendment to the Constitution was ratified providing women the right to vote. And on November 2 of that year, more than 8 million women across the United States voted in elections for the first time. This seems quite remarkable as we are living through a time when the 2016 Democratic candidate (Hillary Rodham Clinton) for President of the United States won the popular vote and Elizabeth Warren, Kristen Gillibrand, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard and Kamala Harris pick up the mantle to finally crack the “glass ceiling.”  All kids (especially our girls) must learn about the hard battles that have been waged in the name of equality and to remind ourselves that the struggle continues today.

 Please share with our children famous women that they may not recognize as icons in American and world history like  Nefertiti, Cleopatra, Nzingha, Loaiza Aldea, Elizabeth I, Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Lucretia Mott, Susan B. Anthony, Sojourner Truth, Shirley Chisholm, Geraldine Ferraro, Sarah Palin, Sandra Day O’Conner, Mae Jemison, Sally Ride, Sonia Sotomayor, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, Elena Kagan, Nancy Pelosi, Mary McLeod Bethune, Hillary Rodham Clinton, Kamala Harris, Elizabeth Warren, Amy Klobuchar, Tulsi Gabbard, Shirley Chisholm, Maldeleine Albright, Michelle Obama, Eleanor Roosevelt, Theresa May, Margaret Thatcher, Oprah Winfrey,  Emma Lazarus, Gabby Douglass, Gabrielle Giffords, Marian Anderson, Simone Biles, Surya Bonaly, Angela Merkel, Indira Gandhi, Madame C.J. Walker, C. Virginia Fields, Betsy Ross, Molly Pritchard, Ruby Dee, Maya Angelou, Harriet Tubman, Toni Morrison, Nikki Giovanni, Sandra Cisneros, Julia Alavarez, Celia Cruz, Antonia Novella,  Dolores Huerta, Marie Curie, Emily Howell Warner, Winnie Mandela,  Elizabeth Blackwell, Florence Nightengale,  Misty Copeland and the Mirabel Sisters.

 Thank you to Deicy Solis for taking so much of her valuable time to organize an amazing fundraiser on behalf of the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society’s Pennies for Patients Program. By participating, kids learned how to make a positive impact in their community through leadership, teamwork, philanthropy and what “doing good” for others really means.

 It is my privilege to announce that the Big Apple Awards Review Committee selected Deicy Solis as a 2019 Big Apple Awards finalist.  Out of more than 7,000 nominated teachers, fewer than 250 teachers citywide are advanced to the Finalist round—roughly five per district.  This is a great accomplishment for Ms. Deicy and the entire Ralph Bunche School community.

 Many times parents (and guardians) are asked by faculty, "What can they do at home to help their child be successful at school?"  My answer is quite simple, "Get involved in what is taking place in your child’s classroom and school community.”  You must share a passion for thinking, learning and being curious about the world we live in.  Allow your child to see this infectious spirit to learn and question more about our world.  Read with your child every day.  Before, during, and after the reading, praise your child, direct a discussion about the story, ask questions, visualize the story, offer information, share personal reactions, and relate the story to life experiences.  Most of all enjoy the story together and let your child see that reading is fun.  Cherish this special time together!

 Coach Alex Faba, Physical Education Teacher has taken on the role of chairperson of the School Wellness Council. A School Wellness Council (SWC) is an advisory group concerned with the health and well-being of scholars, staff, and the school community. This group typically has 6-12 members and should be representative of the school community, including a variety of staff roles, community view points, and student voices. School Wellness Councils develop practical and innovative ways to address various components of wellness for students and the school community

The School Wellness Council (SWC) is instrumental in strengthening Physical and Health Education programs within the school, as well as other health and wellness initiatives (e.g., Physical Activity, Food, School Environment, Community Wellness, etc.).

School Wellness Council:

  • Assess current school wellness policies, practices, and programming

  • Highlight areas of strength and concern

  • Create an action plan and budget for addressing identified areas of concern

  • Develop and implement policies and projects to improve the overall health and wellness practices in the school

 The School Wellness Council (SWC) provides a way to influence and inform teachers, staff, scholars, and families about the work the school is doing to improve the health and wellness to ensure the academic success of its students. The SWC is also a way to ensure that New York City school wellness policies and wellness priorities of the school are implemented and refined. In addition, these councils represent the unique perspective of the community within a school. This enables the health priorities and activities put in place to truly reflect the needs and interests of the community. Interested parents/caregivers should contact Coach Fab at (212) 666-6400 or email at AFaba@ralphbuncheschool.org.

 The School Wellness Council recommended removing chocolate milk as an option during the breakfast, lunch and snack period for students. 

 What are some hard facts about the 8oz chocolate milk served at P.S. 125—The Ralph Bunche School? An 8oz serving of chocolate milk has 4 teaspoons of added sugar (and each teaspoon has 15 calories.)  If a RBS scholar drinks the chocolate milk for breakfast and lunch then they have 8 teaspoons of added sugar (that’s 120 extra calories a day.) The equivalent is that a child would have consumed nearly 2 gallons of extra sugar each year.

 Forty-eight percent of the children that live in Harlem are considered overweight and/or obese.  Sugar is a major contributor to the health issues that are harming our kids – like the growing rates of diabetes and hypertension. There’s strong evidence that sugary drinks are a major risk factor for developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Chocolate milk has the same total sugar as a soft drink (that’s the added sugar plus the natural sugar contained in all milk), so with every serving, you’re adding the equivalent of another soda to their daily calorie count. A leading obesity organization, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, surveyed parents and found that the majority agree that their child’s school should limit access to unhealthy snacks and sugar sweetened beverages.

 Sugary flavored milk has a bunch of ingredients you won’t find in plain milk, like colors, flavors (vanillin, aka. artificial vanilla), thickeners and stabilizers (guar gum, corn starch, carrageenan), added natural sweeteners (sugar, fructose, high fructose corn syrup, sucrose) and artificial sweeteners (sucralose, maltotame, acesulfame K). The food industry calls these “non-nutritive” because they don’t make the milk more nutritious for our kids.

 It is vital for us to protect our children’s interests.  We have put forth a plan that will eliminate sugary snacks as options for our scholars too. As a school community we use our words to communicate this policy and hope that we have the support of our families.  However, there are many times that kids comes to school with sugary snacks and beverages as their breakfast and/or lunch.  I am asking that you join us on this journey towards a healthier RBS.

I know many of you have inquired about your school surveys and they will be distributed during OPEN SCHOOL NIGHT/PARENT TEACHER CONFERENCE (March 14th.) Please be sure to include that the school has provided multiple opportunities for you to get involved and/or see how your child learns.  I urge you to remember the myriad of enrichment programs/residencies offered to our scholars this year:

Ø  Doing Art Together

Ø  Arts Horizons

Ø  Artistic Dreams International (Coding/Graphic Arts Design)

Ø  Harlem School for the Arts

Ø  Building Blocks

Ø  Little Orchestra Society

Ø  Education Through Music

Ø  S’Cool Sounds

Ø  Gospel for Pre-Teens

Ø  Vocals and Movement

Ø  Harlem Grown

Ø  Nutrition/Live Healthy

Ø  Dig In

Ø  Sprout Up

Ø  Grow NYC/Zero Waste

Ø  Beet Box

Ø  Powerful Initiatives Basketball Program

Ø  NYJTL (Tennis)

Ø  America Scores (Soccer)

Ø  Jr. America Scores (Soccer)

Ø  Chelsea FC Clinic

Ø  Wendy Hilliard (Gymnastics)

Ø  Asphalt Green Swim for Life

Ø  Asphalt Green Recess Enhancement Program

Ø  Dance Theater of Harlem

Ø  New York City Ballet

Ø  Mali Charitable Association (West African Dance & French Class)

Ø  Ballet Hispanico

Ø  FLEX (Breakdancing)

Ø  Behind the Book

Ø  America Reads

Ø  Read Ahead

Ø  Young Storytellers

Ø  YM&YWHA Kindergarten Literacy

Ø  Power Brain

Ø  Emotionally Responsive Practice

Ø  Cool Culture

Ø  Peace X PEACE

Ø  Boy Scouts

Ø  Boys and Girls Club of Harlem

 Last week I participated in a meeting with the superintendent and the district office staff regarding our school’s chronic absenteeism problems.  We received the lowest rating (level 1) in all categories due to our kids’ chronic absenteeism.  Chronic absenteeism is any student with less than 90% rating. Too many families are taking advantage of this policy.  I refuse to reprimand kids for their absence because many of them are not present due to a decision made by an adult caregiver/parent.

 Encouraging regular school attendance is one of the most powerful ways you can prepare your kid for success—both in school and in life. When you make school attendance a priority, you help your kid get better grades, develop healthy life habits, avoid dangerous behavior and have a better chance of enrolling in college.

 When kids are absent for fewer days, their grades and reading and math skills often improve—even among those kids who are struggling in school.  Kids who attend school regularly also feel more connected to their community, develop important social skills and friendships, and are significantly more likely to graduate from high school, setting them up for a strong future.

 But when kids are absent for an average of just two days of school per month—even when the absences are excused– it can have a negative impact. These absences can affect kids as early as pre-kindergarten.

 For example, young elementary school kids who miss an average of just two school days per month often have difficulty keeping up with their peers academically and tend to fall behind in reading.  However, when kids are able to read on grade level by the end of third grade, which is when kids transition from learning to read to reading to learn, they are three to four times more likely to graduate high school and attend college, post-graduate, or professional development classes than their peers who struggle with reading.

 As a parent/caregiver, you can prepare your kid for a lifetime of success by making regular school attendance a priority. Reflect and think about the myriad of reasons for your child’s absences—whether they’re social, emotional, physical —and taking advantage of support services.

 I would like to use this letter to tell you why I am so pleased to be part of the Ralph Bunche School.  Progressive schools are considered to be the best learning environments for all children.  They are routinely recognized for educational excellence.  Such recognition doesn’t occur by chance.  It is the result of three things:  motivated scholars, engaged parents/caregivers and dedicated staff members. I believe that the real strength of the RBS lies in the collective talents of an exceptionally well-trained and dedicated teaching staff.

 The work of children is play. Our goal is to provide all students with the opportunity to excel in academics, athletics, and fine arts so that they may become positive, contributing members of our school and community. I look forward to expanding our progressive philosophy into grades 3 – 5.  Let’s make this middle of the school year a positive experience and create the best progressive school in Harlem.

 Educationally yours,

Reggie Higgins, Principal

 

Reginald Higgins