November Principal Newsletter

Dear Ralph Bunche School Families,

Even though the weather keeps changing on us and the leaves are falling with brilliant colors of orange, red and yellow to decorate our school grounds the academic process here at the RBS is staying constant.  The teachers and scholars have established their routines and procedures for class lessons.  November is an important time for us all to reflect on the many blessings bestowed upon us.  I am certainly thankful for the many blessings in my life, including working with the amazing scholars, parents/caregivers, teachers, and support staff at the Ralph Bunche School.  This being our third year as a progressive school is exciting because I am thankful that I have 100% support from the educators that I lead.  When you take on an endeavor like this you need to know that you have the support of your staff and they have taken a leap of faith with me that this is the right approach for our school and the community.

Thomas Jefferson said, “Education is the foundation of democracy.”  The importance of participating in the democratic process was instilled in me at a very early age. Every election year, my house was filled with lively political discourse as my parents debated the important issues of the day like Civil Rights, the Vietnam War, or free breakfast in schools. They conveyed to their children the serious implications of political action.

My mother had the responsibility of insuring that voting in our home was the priority on Election Day. She would leave home with me and my twin sister along for the journey.  My mother would remind us of the sacrifices made and instilled in us this responsibility of honoring our civic duty.  We would sit in awe as we learned about a time when people of color or women were denied this right.  Then she would remind us that when we grew older, we would have the opportunity to exercise our rights and responsibilities as a citizen of this great country.

I still take those rights and responsibilities very seriously--especially as a principal.  One of the jobs of educators is to ensure that our students graduate and enter college with the ability to think critically.  The classroom is a training ground where children learn how to participate in the democratic process. Through critical thinking, problem solving, respectful debate, and exposure to diverse opinions, children become informed citizens who learn how to ask pertinent questions, formulate defensible opinions to complex issues, and understand the responsibilities and limitations of power. Opportunities like turn and talk, Socratic seminar, and other group interactions teach our students that active participation is the most effective means for change. We want our students to begin to think about themselves as stewards of this amazing democracy.

An African proverb goes, “It takes a village to raise a child.”  Whether you can give an hour, time once a week or once a month, we need you here.  If it works to participate as a classroom representative, Parent Association meeting, or SLT meeting, we will make sure that your time is well spent.  You just need to get involved.  Contact our Parent Coordinator, Griselda Hernandez, and she will assist in providing you the details about the meetings.  Aliya Thomas and Tomoi Zeimer, Parent Association Co-Presidents have done a superb job working hard to strengthen the bond between home and school and they are always seeking additional support for the school community.  Democracy is not only something that we talk about it is alive in our actions.  We believe in all children having access to a quality education that allows them the opportunity to fully participate in a global society.

The RBS Parent Association and Office of the Parent Coordinator were extremely generous during the Book-A-Ween Parade on October 31st. Thank you for donating treats and toys.  The parade was such a success because families created a safe, warm environment for our scholars to show off their favorite storybook characters.  It was great to see scholars discuss why they selected their character based on the character’s strengths.  Thank you also to the parents/caregivers who volunteered to supervise Book-A-Ween parties in the classrooms. 

During the October 24th assembly, scholars participated in an assembly focusing on United Nations Day.  The performers at our assembly were Samba New York. Kudos to the scholars that showed off their new samba moves in front of the audience.  When scholars value diversity, they become responsible world citizens.   

I am grateful to work with a committed group educators that are always striving to improve their practices. We are fortunate to have many great academic institutions supporting us in this work.  BMCC has always had a relationship with the RBS. They have placed their student teachers here to gain the experience of what it is like to be an educator in a West Harlem public school. Many thanks to Rebecca and her associate Cara for always believing in what the RBS could be!!!

Parent/Caregiver-Teacher Conference is scheduled for Thursday, November 16th from 12:20pm – 2:20pm and 5:00pm – 8:00pm.  Please note that all kids will be dismissed at 11:30am. It is very important that you take part in this conversation with your child’s teacher because the work we do together is a partnership.  Kids must see us both as stewards of their learning.  I found some questions on edutopia that I want to share:

v  What academic standards do you use, and what do I need to know about them?

v  How is my child doing socially?

v  What are my child’s strengths… challenges?

v  What can I do at home to support what you’re doing in the class?

v   How will you respond if or when my child struggles in class?

v  What are the most important and complex (content-related) ideas my child needs to understand by the end of the year?

v  Do you focus on strengths or weaknesses?

v  How are creativity and innovative thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?

v  How is critical thinking used on a daily basis in your classroom?

v  How are assessments designed to promote learning rather than simple measurement?

v  What can I do to support literacy in my home?

v  What kinds of questions do you suggest that I ask my children on a daily basis about your class?

v  How exactly is learning personalized in your classroom? In the school?

v  How do you measure academic progress?

v  What are the most common instructional or literacy strategies you will use this year?

v  What learning models do you use (e.g., project-based learning, mobile learning, game-based learning, etc.), and what do you see as the primary benefits of that approach?

v   What are the best school or district resources that we should consider using as a family to support our child in the classroom?

v  Is there technology you'd recommend that can help support my child in self-directed learning?

v  What are the most common barriers you see to academic progress in your classroom?

v  How is education changing?

v   How do you see the role of the teacher in the learning process?

v  What am I not asking but should be?

Thank you to all of the families that have shared their information to join our Bloomz community. All of us believe in effective communication and we have found Bloomz to be a useful tool for sharing anecdotes about the school day, posting announcements, or organizing field trip volunteers.  I know that many of you value transparency and so we ask you to sign up for Bloomz with your child’s teacher.


Recent research has found that regular attendance and arriving to school on time is crucial to a child’s success, and that even a minimal number of absences or lateness during the school year can have a serious impact on a scholar’s ability to achieve.  If you have any questions or need any assistance please contact our attendance coordinator (Benjy Blatman) at 212-666-6400. You may also speak with Ms. Hernandez, Parent Coordinator.

Yours in Education,

Reginald Higgins


Things to Remember

· No school for kids on Tuesday, November 7th.

· Parent/Caregiver-Teacher Conference is November 16th (12:20pm – 2:20pm and 5:00pm – 8:00pm.) All kids will be dismissed at 11:30am.

· School is closed on Thursday, November 23rd and Friday, November 24th for Thanksgiving.

· There is no Boys and Girls Club After-School on November 7th, 16th and 22nd.



Reginald Higgins