And…we’re back!

Sep 22, 2023

Welcome Back!

Every year, staff returns  a few weeks early to prepare for the school year, participate in professional development, and make sure classes are set up for opening day. Despite looming challenges (possible bus strikes, and an uptick in COVID cases) we were not  deterred. School is open and things are off to a great start!

This year, we’re pleased to welcome new staff members and new leadership at both 1713 Madison Avenue and 60 MacDougal Street. Nefertari Mckenzie-Davy is the new Associate Head of school at Transitions. She has had a lifetime career of teaching and has been our Academic Chair at the Transitions program. Nefertari is supported by our new Assistant Head of School, Francesca Rab. She has been our transition coordinator for many years and has a world of experience in the field.  

Mary Clancy (Associate Head of School at 1713 Madison Ave.) has added two assistant heads to the staff. Jessie Gardner (Assistant Head of School), and Omni Hornedo (Director of Student Support Services) They, along with current Assistant Heads Cassie Manzo and Shari Honig, have created  and implemented exciting new programs and curriculum. We are very fortunate to have such strong, innovative leadership here at Cooke.

Families, be sure to visit the Cooke parent portal for calendar information, and be on the lookout for theAssociate Head newsletters, which contain important information and updates. We look forward to your participation!

Multi-age classrooms

At Cooke, we have mixed-age or multi-grade classrooms, which typically group children of different ages and grade levels together, often spanning two years. The many advantages of multi-age classrooms are as follows. 

  • Teachers can better tailor instruction to individual student needs. Since students vary in their abilities and development, a multi-age setting allows for more personalized learning plans. 
  • Teachers can provide advanced material to students who are ready for it and offer additional support to those who need it. 
  • Students in multi-age classrooms have the opportunity to progress at their own pace. This can help avoid the feeling of being held back or rushed, which can occur in single-grade classrooms. 
  • Students can master skills and concepts thoroughly before moving ahead.
  • Teachers can be more flexible when it comes to classroom organization, as they can group students based on their abilities or interests, allowing for more varied and engaging learning experiences.
  • Students have the opportunity to develop holistically through the emphasis on the growth of social, emotional, and academic skills together. 
  • Students can develop their skills  on multiple levels, and not just academically.

Older students in multi-age classrooms can serve as mentors and role models for younger students. This peer tutoring dynamic can enhance learning as older students reinforce their own knowledge by teaching, and younger students benefit from the support and guidance of their peers. This dynamic has enormous benefits for young learners. Interacting with peers of different ages can improve a child’s social skills. They learn to communicate, collaborate, and resolve conflicts with a diverse group of classmates, which can be valuable in real-world situations. 

Class placements are an art as well as a science. Groups are created that will provide the best social and academic opportunities, in small group settings. This enables teachers to spend a longer period of time with students and often have students for more than one year. Our population benefits from this consistency, so we try as much as possible to provide those opportunities.


All Smiles for a New School Year


(Photo Gallery of the first day of school for our 2023-24 school year)

Nothing’s better than kicking off the school year with smiles!The first day of school is always filled with joy and excitement. 

For our students, the first day is a chance to reconnect with familiar faces, both among their peers and the dedicated educators who support them. The smiles on their faces reflect the happiness they feel at being back in a familiar and supportive environment.

The first day of school is not just about academics; it’s also about creating a welcoming and inclusive atmosphere where students feel valued and accepted. Teachers and staff play a crucial role in setting the tone for the school year by ensuring that every student feels safe, loved, and excited to learn.

As the school year unfolds, these students will continue to experience the joy of learning, make new friends, and achieve personal milestones. The first day serves as a beautiful reminder of the potential and promise that each new school year brings for students with special needs.

Celebrating Cooke’s Founders Day

Why do we have a Founder’s Celebration?

Our Founders Celebration shines a light on Cooke’s principles of community and inclusion, the ideals that shape everything we do. Before we had a board, staff or even a first classroom, there was a group of parents who had a vision and made it their mission to realize that vision. We look back at Cooke’s community milestones through the lens of our guiding principles to celebrate the hopes, dreams and achievements of our founding parents and this amazing community they helped to build.

Unable to find appropriate schools for their children, the seven founding parents decided to take matters into their own hands and create their own school, one that would embrace their children’s strengths, nurture their curiosity, and help them learn to live as independently as possible. Cooke School was founded in 1987 in a small make-shift classroom at Sacred Heart of Jesus School.

Among these founding parents, Karen Robards, Ken Wirfel, and Roger Miller have contributed to Cooke’s legacy as board members ever since. After 37 years of leadership, Ken Wirfel and Roger Miller have stepped down from the board. How can we ever thank them? By celebrating as a community at this year’s Founders Day Celebration and by continuing to nurture and grow Cooke’s programming for new generations of students. Come and raise a glass to salute the legacy of the Robards, Wirfel and Miller families at this year’s event!

Cooke’s board of directors recently added 4 new board members. We are excited for the way they will move Cooke toward a new era of goals and strategic plans to ensure Cooke’s legacy continues to evolve. Our community is stronger than ever, with a new K-12 school building and the excitement and energy of new leaders in several school divisions.

Join your fellow parents for a night out as we look back to honor the work of the founding families (and thank them for all they built) while looking forward to a new era of leadership and growth. What never changes: a passion for quality special education and the rich community of support that envelops our students and families. Our programming evolves, our community diversifies, and our students thrive. As we like to say, “The magic is in the mix.”

SAVE THE DATE: November 29, 2023 | 6:00 P.M. |  Location TBD

It’s Hispanic Heritage Month!

From Sept 15 through October, we’re excited to celebrate Hispanic Heritage! 

As one way to honor the histories and contributions of people with ancestry in Mexico, the Caribbean, Spain, and Central and South America, we will ensure that our students engage with books, histories, and stories that celebrate these cultures and identities. We have created a virtual library of publications that will help our students to have a better understanding of Hispanic culture. 

In addition to our virtual library, an informative and engaging bulletin board was created in our school, by teachers and students in Social Studies class, as a back-to-school activity. It has been a helpful and interactive tool that has helped us to jump right back into the new school year!


Check out some of the books that we have selected for our virtual library:

Dates to Remember

October 6: Staff Professional Development | NOON DISMISSAL

October 9: Indigenous People’s Day | SCHOOL CLOSED

October 19: Transitions Workshop | 9th GRADE FAMILIES (Only)


Follow Us:  @CookeSchoolNYC

Copyright © *2023* Cooke School and Institute*, All rights reserved. 

Planning Giving

Legacy giving is very important to Cooke’s sustainability.  Please contact Michael Eaton at for more information.

Through the Affinity Membership Program, TD Bank will make an annual contribution to Cooke School based on the activity of all participating members’ TD Bank accounts.

Eligible accounts include:

  • Checking – Business & Consumer

  • Savings

  • Money Market

  • Certificate of Deposit

  • Retirement

If you are already a TD Bank customer, please visit any one of their locations and ask to have your balances included as part of the Cooke’s Affinity Membership Program (code: A1923).

Please see the Affinity Membership Program flyer for more information.