If you have been to one of our Learning Leadership Symposiums, you know there is something very special about the Guest Administrator Panel Discussions. On these panels are some of the top minds in education, but what makes these discussions really special is the panelists don’t pull any punches. In the recent symposium for New York and New Jersey, the panel consisted of Kimberly Ramones, Executive Director of Student Support and Operations for New York City Geographic District #4, Abdul Saleem Hasan, Ed.S., Superintendent of the East Orange School District, and Dicxiana Carbonell, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction for the Essex County Schools of Technology.

According to Ramones, “This is the first year of our new chancellor's administration, and we are very focused on getting kids back to school and having an experience that resembles stability. We did not come into this school year saying we are post pandemic and we are getting rid of everything we used to know. Chancellor banks has established four pillars that are important for all New York City Public Schools, scaling and sustaining what works. We would like to scale those in New York City, reimagining the student experience, with a focus on social emotional learning, as very critical to bringing students back. Also, engaging parents is a huge priority for New York City Public Schools.”

“I was lucky during the pandemic that I was the former assistant commissioner for the state of New Jersey,” said Dr. Hasan. “It was a big task because we wrote the manual on reopening schools. But then, during that transition, I was fortunate to be hired to become a superintendent to implement what I had written. So, I apologize to any of my peers in the room, but the beautiful thing is I was in the hot seat with you all trying to open the schools.

“It was definitely challenging,” said Hasan.  “That was new to us to deal with a medical pandemic. Different school districts and different communities had very different needs. So, you have some school districts that say we are ready to open. We don't care about everything. We can figure it out. And you had some districts that said, ‘we can't open.’ The digital vibe was a huge impact to the urban school districts, which was an impact to our school districts, like trying to get the computers from overseas over here. During that time, our government had a freeze on stuff coming in, so we were very impacted by that. It was definitely challenging, as was trying to bring the staff back to school to even give out the computers to the students. There were challenges, like people saying they were sick with COVID and then on Facebook saying Aruba was wonderful, but that is a whole nother discussion.”    

According to Carbonell, “These past three years have been extremely challenging, not only for us, but everyone in education. One thing that it did show was how resilient we are in the educational arena. And as we move forward and continue to transition into an in-person, kind of model, we do realize that we must always be prepared for a hybrid style of instruction. But in addition to that, address the social and emotional needs of not only our staff, but also our students, and begin to use what we learn in terms of technology and adapt to take learning to the next level. So, it is not only about robotics programs anymore, but it's also about cybersecurity and cyber safety. It is about data analytics. It is about AI. It is about the metaverse.

“One of the things that I think we're going to see in the near future,” said Carbomell, “is probably that real estate that everybody's buying in the metaverse being used to create some virtual schools. I think that that's where we're headed, but once again, my dream would be that it is run and created by real life educators. Because I do believe the important role that educators play in the development of our children, COVID did solidify that. It was a tumultuous time where there was a lot of casualties, but at the same time, we realized many things about our humanity, about our society and about the value that certain individuals such as civil servants, healthcare workers and educators bring. I cannot forget those individuals in IT and computer engineering, because they really created the platform for us to be able to do what we do. So thank you.”

And these are only a glimpse of the remarks from our panelists. In addition to recognizing the challenges, our panelists offered innovative solutions that are not only brilliant, but many can be used universally to solve the top challenges you are experiencing in your own district. Have you ever wished that the top brass would peel back the veneer and show you the inside workings? If so, watch this video and you will get your wish. This discussion covers the good and the bad, and delivers the solutions you have been searching for. Don’t miss a single minute!


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