Cooke ALL Staff Newsletter: In the Mix!

Feb 9, 2021


  • Staff COVID-19 Vaccination Policy
  • Cooke Travel Advisory
  • Tuition Reimbursement
  • Payroll Update


  • Book Club Reminder!


  • Action Alert: Support Parent Rights to Remote Impartial Hearing Testimony

Did You Receive Your Second COVID-19 Vaccine?

Important: Reminder Regarding Cooke COVID-19 Vaccination Policy (Voluntary)

If you have received your second vaccine, we ask that you adhere to our vaccination policy and upload a photo of your immunization card to: SmartVault

In accordance with Cooke School and Institute’s duty to provide and maintain a workplace that is free of known hazards, we are adopting this policy to safeguard the health of our employees, our students and their families, visitors, and the community at large, from infectious diseases such as COVID-19 or influenza, that may be reduced by vaccinations. This policy will comply with all applicable laws and is based on guidance from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and local health authorities, as applicable.


All employees are encouraged to receive vaccinations as determined by Cooke policy.


Cooke School and Institute has provided a link to locations to assist employees in receiving vaccines on their own:

For offsite vaccinations, employees are to work with their supervisors to schedule an appropriate time to comply with this policy.

Employees should provide proof of vaccination by uploading a screenshot of their 2nd dose to Cooke’s SmartVault portal.  Cooke recognizes those, who by doctor’s orders, may not receive the vaccine; if this applies to you, we ask that you provide a doctor’s note. The information you upload in our SmartVault is safe and secure and is approved to be HIPAA compliant. Please note that all your information is strictly confidential.

We continue to mandate the use of masks, social distancing, and proper hand-washing to all staff during working hours and encourage it outside the workplace to help lessen the spread.

Please direct any questions regarding this policy to the Human Resources department:

Winter Break: Cooke’s Travel Advisory

  • If you decide to travel outside of NYC, then please follow the CDC’s recommendations of mask-wearing, social distancing, and remaining outdoors as much as possible.  We know these sacrifices are heartbreaking during such a challenging year, but it is the only way we can continue to remain open for business throughout this winter.

    If you travel, we ask that you follow the New York State Health guidelines of quarantining, and receive a negative COVID test before returning to work. For the safety of all staff and clients, please follow these restrictions carefully.

    For travelers who were out-of-state for more than 24 hours:

    • Travelers must obtain a test within three days of departure, prior to arrival in New York.
    • The traveler must, upon arrival in New York, quarantine for three days.
    • On day 4 of their quarantine, the traveler must obtain another COVID test. If both tests come back negative, the traveler may exit quarantine early upon receipt of the second negative diagnostic test.
    • If you have traveled internationally or returned from any US state (other than PA, NJ, CT, MA, VT) then you must follow these guidelines and follow the next step listed below:
    • If you travel to a state listed on the travel advisory (other than just driving through) you must fill out the following form provided by the state:

Tuition Reimbursement for Spring 2021

A Friendly Reminder: if you are submitting a request for tuition reimbursement for the Spring 2021 semester, the submission due date has been extended to Monday, February 22. 

Please be advised, when requesting tuition reimbursement, the following items must be submitted:

  • A completed NEW Tuition Reimbursement Request Form, which can be downloaded here 
  • Please ensure that employee and supervisor signatures are included on the form before sending to HR.
    Please note: The maximum tuition assistance is $500 per course, 2 courses a semester for 3 semesters, not to exceed a total of $3000 per year.

Proof of Tuition Payment:

  • Official course number and description from your school’s online catalog
  • Proof of your grades to obtain your reimbursement (this should be submitted at the end of the semester)

Note: your application must be completed in its entirety in order for it to be processed (once we receive your final grades at the end of your semester).

If there are any questions and/or concerns, please contact, Wintana Haile-Massiah at:

Payroll Update

Due to the President’s Day holiday (Monday, February 15), our next scheduled semi-monthly payroll check date is Friday, February 12, 2021.

Join the Cooke Wellness Team’s Book Club!

The Wellness Team will be hosting its first meeting on Monday, February 22 at 4:30pm. All are welcome! Book club members will be reading The Four Agreements by Don Miguel Ruiz. Please read the first agreement before the meeting if you can, or just come to listen and be heard.

Ways to Read The Four Agreements (select from the links below and double click):

Learn more about Cooke’s Wellness Committee here

ACTION ALERT from Cooke’s General Counsel, Debbie Cooper

 Re: Support Parent Rights to Remote Impartial Hearing Testimony

Greetings!  The NYS Education Department (NYSED) is proposing a rule to allow special education impartial hearings to be conducted remotely—

as they have been during the COVID crisis.  The new rule does not go far enough to protect the interest of parents and their witnesses—

including private school staff.  It allows hearing officers to conduct hearings remotely with the parent’s consent.  But, it does not give parents the right to present testimony remotely without the IHO’s permission

This means that parents and their witnesses can still be forced by hearing officers to take extra time away from work or other responsibilities to attend hearings in person.  This also increases the cost of hearings for parents who must pay experts for their time spent testifying at hearings.  

As many of you know and have experienced, in addition to the time required to travel to and from the hearing office in downtown Brooklyn, parents and their witnesses frequently endure long waits before hearings commence.  Worse, it is not uncommon for hearings to be adjourned or continued at the last minute, even after witnesses have assembled in person. 

In order to bring more attention to this issue, NYSED needs to hear from more interested parties, such as educators and parents.  The link below will enable you to send a letter and be heard. Please follow the instructions to add text to the beginning of the letter indicating your interest (e.g., parent of student with disability, educator, and school staff).  Also, I encourage you to add details of any personal difficulties you have faced with in-person hearings.  For more information about this issue, please contact:


Send email to:

Christopher Suriano, Office of Special Education, NYS Education Department, 89 Washington Avenue, 301M EB, Albany, NY 11234

I write to provide comments to the New York State Education Department’s (NYSED) proposed special education regulations published in the January 6, 2021 issue of the New York State Register regarding Special Education Impartial Hearing Officers and the Special Education Due Process System Procedures

I am a [INSERT POSITION HERE]. The new rule to allow hearing officers to conduct hearings remotely, with the parent’s consent, does not go far enough to protect the interest of parents and their witnesses.  Prior to the conversion to remote hearings due to the pandemic, certain hearing officers categorically refused to permit remote testimony under any circumstances.  To prevent the return to that practice once the pandemic restrictions are relaxed, the rule should be amended to give parents the unilateral right to present testimony remotely for reasons of convenience.  

It is well documented that in-person hearings are fraught with delays due to the inadequate facilities or scheduling difficulties.  It is not uncommon for parents and their witnesses to wait for hours at the hearing office until a conference room or hearing officer is available or to be told that they must return another day.  Educators and clinicians who usually only testify for 30-45 minutes must typically leave their students and patients for an entire morning or afternoon. The additional time required to testify in person also increases the cost of paying an outside expert to testify (such as doctors or clinicians who evaluate or treat their child) – disproportionally impacting low-income parents.  

Given the positive experience with remote hearings reported by participants in hearings, it should be evident that affording parents the flexibility to present remote testimony for reasons of convenience will prejudice no one and instead lead to greater efficiency for all.

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