December 2023

Dec 18, 2023

Year End Update

It has been a long year. We spent so much of the last five years dealing with COVID, only to come out of it to a world that sometimes seems chaotic. Given who we are and what our work entails, we must still find strength and resilience within ourselves. The events of the world complicate our daily lives, but amidst all the challenges, it’s important to take a step back, check in with ourselves, and find the motivation to keep moving forward with renewed energy and purpose. Refocusing on the positive and the opportunities ahead can be a powerful tool for navigating these times with a sense of hope and positivity.

There are no easy answers or perfect messages we can offer for every development in current events. However, we seize these moments to reaffirm the following values:

We are unwavering in our commitment to inclusion. While the dignity and respect for people of all identities in our workplace remains non-negotiable, we recognize that we don’t have to share the same worldview on all topics to have a productive experience. Similarly, we respect that we do not all share the same perspective on topics nor bring the same level of intensity to every issue on which we may fundamentally agree. In moments of crisis, we recommit to seeking out the good in the world and in people and invite others to do the same.

We constructively embrace difficulty. We believe that feelings are valid and have a place in our workplace because our organization is composed of humans. We acknowledge that it is challenging to detach our personal feelings from our work experiences, but the safety, stability, and well-being of our students and effectively educating them every day remain our top priorities. Let’s strive to express our feelings in a respectful, constructive, productive manner, and in the appropriate forum.

We assume responsible public positions. We recognize the importance of acknowledging events outside our workplace that adversely impact those within it. Beyond that, our organization will take public stances on current events where subject-matter expertise and experience most empower us to do so: specifically on topics related to the education and empowerment of people with special needs and primary education overall.

Here’s to a happy and peaceful new year.

Francis Tabone, Head of School
Cooke School and Institute



 Celebrating our Partner: Café Joyeux


Café Joyeux, a coffee shop that employs adults with disabilities, is proving that wealth creation can go beyond just big money. The idea behind the café is to create an inclusive environment where everyone is valued and respected, regardless of their abilities. Not only does this provide employment opportunities for people who may otherwise be overlooked, but it also helps to challenge stereotypes and assumptions about disability. Cafe Joyeux is a shining example of how businesses can make a positive impact on society while also being successful. Started in Paris, they now have over a dozen shops in France as well as Portugal and Brussels.

This month, Cafe Joyeux opened its first doors in the United States here in New York City. The new cafe is located at 599 Lexington Avenue, off 53rd Street. Cooke was fortunate to consult with Cafe Joyeux a few years ago. Keeping our students in mind, we hope to partner with them to host internship sites and perhaps even offer employment upon graduation. There are plans to replicate the model in other sites throughout the boroughs.

Our Vocational Chairs (Dana Pelerin and Jennifer Dinney) and Dr. Tabone attended a soft opening, and we were able to order food and drinks. The Cafe is outstanding and something that will easily find great success. They have amassed a great reputation for their blend of coffees and food in France. If you are in the neighborhood, please support this magnificent business.

Disability Pride @ Cooke

Every month, Cooke spotlights different aspects of identity, including the nationally recognized heritage months. For December, Cooke students, families, and faculty in grades K-12 are celebrating the largest minority in the world: people with disabilities. Over 1 billion people in the world identify as having a disability. The United States officially honors the histories, achievements, and experiences of the disabled community in July, as July marks the anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act. During the month of December, Cooke takes a unique step to extend the festivities and advocacy. This “bonus” month allows us to continue our year-long efforts in promoting inclusion and belonging for those with disabilities.

Access to disability culture and community plays a major role in one’s journey through disability identity development and pride. 

Here are some of the highlights of Disability Pride Month at Cooke: 

  • Teachers added books to their classroom libraries that respectfully and accurately portray the disabled experience. Teachers have ongoing access to stories celebrating and spotlighting self-love, the disabled experience, and disability pride. These texts were carefully selected to be #actuallydisabled and #ownvoices texts which are books written by, illustrated by, and/or about a character with a disability. 

  • After launching Disability Pride month at our three Community Meetings, ELA teachers taught their students about Sophia Sanchez, a young model and activist with Down Syndrome, and they read the book inspired by her, You Are Enough by Margaret O’Hair. An accompanying craft activity inspired lower school students to share how they are good friends, middle school students to share how they have courage, and upper school students to share what makes them unique. 
  • Math teachers taught students about Edmund Harriss, a mathematician with a disability, and were introduced to his work, including the Harriss Spiral. They created their own patterns and colored patterns from Patterns of the Universe by Alex Bellos and Edmund Harriss. 

These examples capture only a sliver of the care and attention Cooke faculty give towards helping students connect with others who share similar experiences to develop a sense of pride in their identities.

A workshop called “Talking With Your Child About Their Disability” brought parents and guardians from across K-12 together for coffee and connection earlier this month. Cooke teachers and therapists shared models of disability identity development, explored medical vs. social models of disability, and provided examples of how we currently teach and support identity growth across K-12 programming. Disability identity development is complex and individualized, and these opportunities for building community around raising children with disabilities can be incredibly beneficial for parents and caregivers. The workshop ended with families spending time connecting, discussing experiences, and sharing resources for navigating the joys and challenges of parenting a child with a disability. By coming together, parents and caregivers shared their stories, learned from one another, and worked towards a more inclusive and equitable society for individuals with disabilities.

Parent Connections @Transitions

Parents are the best resources for each other. Having an intimate knowledge of special education services makes them experts on the system, so who better to learn from than each other? Transitions hosted its first parent connections night, where families got together for food, drink and discussion. Please join us for our next get-together (the proposed date is January 11, but keep an eye out for the newsletter). 

On December 11, Transitions hosted its open house night for 11th and 12th grade students. Parents were able to meet the leadership team and tour the building. There was plenty of time for Q & A addressing individual questions and giving parents a chance to share their stories and experience. In the new year, our 12th grade students will spend several days at Transitions to get a better understanding of the program. It is always a great event as 12th graders get to spend time with their friends who now attend Cooke Transitions. Our program keeps getting bigger with expanded services and a continued emphasis on innovative programming for young adults.

January is a big month for our advanced math students. They will sit for the Algebra 1 Regents exam. Students have been working hard on their preparation for the exam. We are excited for the opportunity to see them shine.

Parents often tell us that their child wakes up eager to come to school each morning. They can’t wait to get back to their friends, teachers, and the community of learners at Cooke. Our unique community is our special brand of magic, and our school’s diversity and inclusion create a vibrant mix.

Your gift adds to that magic.
We hope you’ll donate before December 31 to support our Annual Giving Campaign.

Check out these options


P.S. If your year-end gift is already in the mail, we thank you! All gifts received by December 31, qualify as a tax-deductible contribution on your 2023 taxes.

Ring Day

Ring Day is a rite of passage as seniors receive a cherished symbol of their years of hard work and community-building at Cooke. Students and family members alike were beaming with pride. It’s a celebration that highlights Cooke’s special magic in the mix!

Dates to Remember

December 22: Noon Dismissal

December 25 – January 1: Winter Recess (School Closed)

December 31: #SupportCooke (Last day to make a year-end gift to Cooke for 2023)

January 2: School Resumes

January 8 – 9: School Picture Days

January 15: Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Day (School Closed)



Cooke’s Founders Celebration | February 8, 2024 | The Campbell @ Grand Central


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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.