March 2024

Mar 19, 2024

A Remarkable Staff

We sometimes neglect to highlight our staff’s accomplishments in academic research, presentations, and as educational leaders in their field. Many of our staff are presenters in the country’s most influential organizations regarding special education. Their contributions are exceptional and often on the cutting edge of research.

Mary Clancy and Jessie Gardner returned from San Antonio, Texas, where they were key presenters at The Council for Exceptional Children 2024 convention. The Council for Exceptional Children (CEC) is the largest professional organization dedicated to helping children and youth with disabilities and/or gifts and talents succeed. CEC supports special educators by promoting professional standards, advocating for governmental policies, providing resources, and facilitating professional development.

Their focus was on Universal Design for Learning (UDL), an educational framework that tries to create inclusive and accessible learning environments for all students, regardless of their needs or abilities. Specifically, they focused on UDL and the integration of technology and technology instruction.

Every learner is unique, and a one-size-fits-all approach to education may not be the best way. That’s where the UDL framework comes in. UDL provides a set of principles and guidelines to help create teaching methods that are adaptable, engaging, and accessible to all learners. By including different ways of representing information, allowing for various forms of expression, and promoting different means of engagement, UDL removes barriers to learning and ensures that all students have an equal chance to succeed. The main goal of UDL is to create inclusive and effective educational experiences that cater to the diverse needs and abilities of all learners, regardless of their background or learning style. This is a primary tenet of Cooke’s methodology.

Andy Gael is our mathematics curriculum director for K through 12. He provides professional development and support to teachers to ensure that they have the knowledge and skills needed to effectively deliver the curriculum and promote student learning. He also ensures our curriculum is aligned with the latest research and best practices in education. Andy recently spoke at Rutgers University for the Association of Mathematics Teachers of New Jersey. He was billed as a key presenter on the topic of planning and instructional strategies for creating access to mathematics with appropriately high expectations and cognitive demands. His work with the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics (NCTM) makes him a sought-after speaker.

Molly Brownstein (a gifted Cooke math teacher) and Andy also presented on procedural fluency development at this year’s NCTM conference. Their focus was on helping participants develop classroom routines that feature literacy and problem-solving techniques for students with disabilities (areas often left out of special education lessons).

Our staff’s talents are impressive. Internally, we have several Ph.D. candidates working on projects, analyzing data, and thinking about teaching and learning in groundbreaking ways. I applaud the work and knowledge Cooke has generated to become a true leader in the field of special education.


Francis Tabone, Head of School
Cooke School and Institute



Seeking Internship Partners

Internships provide Cooke students with hands-on experience in their field of interest, allowing them to apply what they’ve learned in the classroom to real-world situations.

They help students develop critical soft skills, such as communication, teamwork, and problem-solving, that are essential for success in any career. What’s unique about Cooke’s internship program is that each student has a one-to-one job coach who accompanies and helps train the student on the job site.

Procuring work sites for our students is no small task. Our incredible vocational chairs (Dana Pelerin and Jen Dinney) work hard to secure appropriate internships for our students. Next year, due to the increase in student body, we have the daunting task of adding another 20 internships to our Transitions program. We are asking that if you or anyone you know can host an intern to please reach out. Hosting an internship is a very rewarding experience and would be an added benefit to anyone. In addition, our job coaches (called Community Inclusion Assistants, CIAs for short) help the host set things up for success. In addition to supporting the student, the CIA can work with internship sites and manage expectations and duties.

New Foundation Partner:

Cooke Institute Embarks on New Executive Functioning Skills for Literacy Project


The Cooke Institute, Cooke’s teacher training and coaching division, received matching grants from two foundations recently: The Staten Island Foundation and the Morris and Alma Schapiro Fund. The foundations each gave $50,000 toward a new approach to fostering teacher best practices in executive functioning skills to support literacy.


The funding will support teacher coaching in two partner parochial schools on Staten Island as well as the development of a draft outline of an Executive Functioning literacy teaching framework that would help teachers prepare students to strengthen the underlying mental processes and metacognitive strategies to improve reading. 


We are grateful to both foundations for their generous support for this important literacy initiative. The Staten Island Foundation, a new foundation partner, was instrumental in facilitating this innovative approach. Together, we will work to improve students’ cognitive and literacy skills.


You are Invited!

So many of you reached out to say how much you enjoyed February’s Founders Celebration. We hope to continue that momentum and community spirit with our festive Food for Thought gala. Everyone is invited to enjoy a fabulous night of delicious food and specialty cocktails.

You’ll mingle with all types of Cooke supporters, from parents and alumni to corporate and community partners. Let’s not forget the renowned chefs who generously give their time and talents to make this evening special.

Watch for the invite coming soon. Registration is open now. Our largest event, Food for Thought, benefits all the students and families we serve by raising money to support our quality programming and needs-blind admission policy.

Dates to Remember


March 29: School Closed – Good Friday

April 1: School Closed – Easter Monday

April 2: School Resumes

April 5: Noon Dismissal – Staff Development

April 10: School Closed – Eid al Fitr

April 22- April 30: School Closed – Spring Recess

May 1: School Resumes



May 22: Cooke’s Food For Thought Gala


Follow Us:  @CookeSchoolNYC

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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.