Head of School Newsletter – September ’22

Sep 22, 2022


Summer at 1713 Madison was a dream realized as we finally moved grades Kindergarten through 5th from Stanton Street to Madison Avenue. While this was always our intention, COVID delayed the move for a few years.

It was thrilling to watch our youngest students walk through the doors of 1713 Madison Ave. This summer we also had the highest number of students to date ever attending summer school. Jessie Gardner, Omni Hornedo, and Ana Holly led the program and pioneered a new era in Cooke history. It was the first time Kindergarten through 12th grade were together under one roof. The MacDougal Street campus also had great success this summer.

Transitions saw a record number of students. Led by Jen Dinney and Melissa Chan, the program really focused on community partnerships. Kayaking, Boot Camp, and other activities were front and center. Of course, the culminating Staten Island FerryHawks baseball game was finally in play! For several years, COVID stood in the way of these community activities. It is great to be (almost) back to normal.

Many students also took advantage of sleepaway camps, and there are some wonderful places that serve our students’ needs with great expertise. Take a look at some of the more popular camps our students attend:

Camp Ramapo

Summit Camp

Camp Lee Mar

The Autism Science Foundation

The Autism Science Foundation is an organization dedicated to Autism research. The studies are wide ranging and the topics are always interesting, leading to new and exciting treatments and programs.

Because there are so many studies, families are always invited to participate. Some of these studies will provide financial incentives, others will provide services or treatment for a period of time.  Some studies can provide in-depth evaluations.

The Foundation has created a database of research studies that your family might find interesting. After filling out a survey, you are matched to the databases’ relative studies. Take a look here: Autism Science Foundation

After being matched to studies, families can reach out directly to the study personnel listed in the contact information to learn more. In addition, take a look at the website to learn about the many studies they have already conducted. It’s a great resource for families. 

Over the past three years, Cooke has invested resources to ensure the development of our DEIB policies. For two years, we have worked with Bank Street College’s Center on Culture, Race & Equity (CCRE). Their mission:

Through research, professional development, and community partnership, we collaboratively shift adult belief and practices to be culturally responsive and strength-based. This leads to equitable environments and policies, so that children of all backgrounds can thrive and realize their full potential.

For the past two years, around 30 of our staff members have participated in foundational workshops and communities of practice to cover topics to deepen practitioners’ understandings of culturally responsive, progressive, and sustainable practices.

During our second year, building leaders received one-to-one DEIB coaching throughout the year with CCRE. This was a most valuable experience as leadership training could be individualized for our staff. This will continue for the upcoming year with a goal to have all supervisors receive such training. 

This year, we have also joined the CCRE Collective, which will provide leadership with workshops and coaching. This will give Cooke the opportunity to partner with other schools around this important work. 

Another avenue in our DEIB work was the partnership with Untangled Resolutions and Bathabile Mthombeni. Here the goal is, through workshops and communities of practice, to develop a steering committee to ensure non-racist policies are adopted by Cooke, ensuring equity and fair practices. Through surveys and weekly meetings, data has been collected to provide targeted responses and set up spaces to talk about DEIB issues as well as ensure all staff members have their voices heard. 

Finally, Cooke has partnered with NYSAIS’ Justice, Equity, & Diversity Institute (JEDI), which works with schools without a Director of Diversity who wish to strengthen their efforts by seeking this training for a faculty or staff member who may or may not fill this formal role. JEDI “has particular appeal to classroom teachers looking to apply a firmer equity lens to curriculum and pedagogy, and to faculty and staff members interested in part- or full-time director of diversity roles (whether or not they are given the title of Director of Diversity.”

Topics for this work include: 

  • Common Challenges and Trends in Justice, Equity, and Diversity
  • Leading Change: Developing a Personal Vision for Institutional Justice, Equity, and Diversity
  • Best Practices for Engaging School Leadership and Varied Constituent Groups
  • Justice, Equity, and Diversity in the Curriculum, and Various Identity-Based Topics
  • Crisis Management and Conflict Resolution
  • Data Gathering, Conducting Research and Evidence-Based Decision-Making

As we engage in these opportunities, we are developing formalized approaches to the DEIB work. It has been a valuable experience, and having the opportunity to work with so many of the best providers in the field has really elevated Cooke’s approach to DEIB. I am looking forward to expanding the work. 



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