Highlights From the Field

DRAFT - Q&A with Aaron Schwartz | Acting Director of Continuous Improvement @ ACCESS BCO & REC Site Supervisor

posted Aug 14, 2020, 7:07 AM by lpankowski@strongschools.nyc   [ updated Aug 14, 2020, 7:31 AM ]

Welcome to the first interview in this new series from OFDC - The Connective Tissue: Stories from OFDC - where we talk with educators and administrators across our vertical to learn more about their service to our 1,600 schools, 1.1 million students and their families across the City.

Name: Aaron Schwartz
Role: Acting Director of Continuous Improvement
Communities Served: ACCESS Schools TKTKTKTK
Years in Education:

OFDC:  Hi Aaron, thank you for participating in this interview series! Before we get started, how has your day been? How is the summer going at your REC site?
Aaron: This has been transformative for me, and I have reconsidered my entire rest of career - I have fallen in love with being a school leader again. [As REC Site Supervisor] I have had the ability to work with five city agencies this year. Our site has over kids and we have designed a project-based learning curriculum for the summer. We have an amazing group of teachers - aides and paraprofessionals - who have never taught before. One long-term project has been, "Our Life as a Quilt.' It is aligned to literacy standards and starts with students writing an essay and then making a quilt based on the essay. Everyone at our REC joined in, even the adults.

OFDC: How long have you been an educator? What was your first role?
Aaron: I've been doing this for over 20 years. I started teaching as a mid-year replacement. 

OFDC: What inspired you to become an educator?
Aaron: When I was young, I loved school. I loved high school and middle school and I knew I would go to college and be a diplomat. But I wasn't prepared. I worked as a chef, in the military, in trucking. Then I went back to school and at 30, I was an associate professor at Brooklyn College and going to Yale University for to study philosophy. I had friends teaching in East New York and South Brooklyn. I started to feel self-indulgent to leading this life. So I changed course, and started teaching math. I fell in love with teaching. I felt that if you can do a difficult job you have a moral obligation to do that job. 

OFDC: Which neighborhoods do you primarily serve? What do you love about them?
Aaron: support the Superintendent of of Transfer High Schools. Our schools are for over-age and under-credited students who don't fit in in other situations and are really looking to complete their education. Yuet, Tim and Paul - we do super important work. Our principals are top notch - they are designing targeted solutions for individual children

OFDC: How has your experiences supporting transfer schools and at the ACCESS BCO influenced your work supervising a REC site?
Aaron: I had senior leadership support to volunteer to also supervise and support a REC site. We take care of the kids of first responders. [TKTKTKTKTK] Because of COVID-19, it has been reported that children will lose 7 months of education, but children of color - black and brown children - will lose 10 months. I'm working to ensure that won't happen at our REC. Our teachers, both remote and in-classrooms, are interactive and hands on. It's what we love.


I have been trying to achieve the same experiences for HS students in the south Bronx and east NY - alt experiences, getting them to college that will allow them to go wherever they want - I didn't know such an organization existed, I just wonder - we service people from 2 months to 92 years - LYFE centers and oldest adult graduate is 92 and we have fabulous #s for increasing the educational outcomes for kids - measurable and there - there are negative trends all across the DOE - 

OFDC: What is the best piece of advice or lesson you have learned from a colleague, mentor, student, or parent?
Aaron: Tony Wagner wrote about the workplace - work-life isn’t' going to be linear - the tracks of linear projections - from the time of 14 to retire and might have worked 2 or 3 places - the average person now high 20s or 30s jobs - go to school and certification, may need to go back to school, open business, etc. - access is creative to individual desires and needs of our children 

Parents Work on the Front Lines. Where Do Their Children Go All Day? | The New York Times

Greeting International Visitors

posted Nov 10, 2017, 7:01 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc   [ updated Nov 10, 2017, 7:02 AM ]

On November 9, 2017, Cheryl Watson-Harris, joined by Marlene Wilks, Executive Director of Queens South FSC, represented the DOE  to share an overview with a delegation from Hainan, China. The group was interested in the supports the DOE provided for schools and teachers. During the presentation, the Chancellor also made a surprise visit and greeted the visitors. 

PS Alumni Renewal Day

posted Nov 1, 2017, 10:59 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc   [ updated Nov 1, 2017, 11:00 AM ]

On Saturday, October 28, 2017, OFS's own Katiana St. Jean led a team of New York City public school alumni to renew the library of Brooklyn Collegiate Preparatory School. The team reorganized books, painted walls, cleaned the bookshelves in order for the students of Brooklyn Collegiate Preparatory School to have a refreshed library to utilize. Thank you to the school staff, students, teachers, and volunteers who made Alumni Renewal Day a success!

Bronx Education All-Star Day

posted Sep 27, 2017, 6:38 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc   [ updated Sep 27, 2017, 6:39 AM ]

Congratulations Bronx FSC for planning a wonderful and exciting event on Monday, September 25, 2017 for Bronx students. Over 8,000 Bronx students were present to be recognized for their dedication to achieving excellence in attendance, citizenship and/or academics! We could not be any more proud of the collaborative work between the Bronx FSC, Superintendents’ Teams, and the New York Yankees as it not only contributed to the success of the event, but it demonstrated the commitment to ensuring our students have access to an equitable and excellent education! We are excited to continue these partnerships and look forward to another event in the spring. 
In addition, the students got to see a historic game…Aaron Judge became the first rookie to hit 50 home runs in a season.  

Bronx students at Yankee Stadium
bronx students at yankee stadium

Spotlight on Lawrence Pendergast in September 2017- Principal's Notes

posted Sep 5, 2017, 9:46 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

Check out the Chancellor's spotlight on our Queens North Field Support Center Executive Director Lawrence Pendergast: 

pnotes September 2017 header
image clip of spotlight on larry

Mindfulness in Education: Call to Inventory

posted May 11, 2017, 2:02 PM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

On May 10th, 2017 the Office of Field Support hosted its first Mindfulness in Education: Call to Inventory event.  The focus of this gathering was focused around two main areas:

  • Strategies to support all members of the professional learning community in managing stress to improve the quality of professional performance.
  • Strategies to learn and teach to students to support their social, emotional and academic learning.

Participants included a diverse continuum of stakeholders and schools receiving services from our Field Support Centers.  Pedagogues, principals, assistant principals, FSC and Central offices came together and began a professional conversation and group sharing around the needs of supporting mindfulness programs in schools. Additionally, creating a professional learning community of educators and administrators with a common interest in mindfulness in education.

Dream Big for Young Men of Color

posted May 11, 2017, 1:57 PM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

On May 2, 2017, FSC Executive Directors and Superintendents created this mosaic of their dreams for young men of color. Dr. Omekongo Dibinga introduced three essential questions to consider around race and culture. 

1. How do awareness, knowledge, and understanding of one’s own racial and cultural identity promote effective learning and teaching?

2. How do awareness, knowledge, and understanding of the racial and cultural identity of students promote effective learning and teaching?

3. How can educators establish learning environments that are conscious of race and culture to ensure implementation of culturally relevant instruction?

Sharing and Learning with CASEL and Chicago Public Schools

posted Apr 25, 2017, 1:44 PM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

On April 19, a contingent from NYC DOE comprised of Superintendents, FSC Executive Directors, Central Office staff and CBOs led by Community School Executive Director Chris Caruso visited Chicago Public Schools to learn more about their efforts around Social and Emotional Learning [SEL]. This visit was a part of a Wallace Grant that NYC DOE [Community Schools] was awarded and part of larger efforts to secure a 3 year grant. The group got a chance to sit in on SEL coordinator training, visit schools and speak with experts from Collaborative for Academic, Social, and Emotional Learning [CASEL] around the work in Chicago. The experiences and learnings from this trip will no doubt inform and influence the current work related to the Wallace Grant and future efforts related to SEL. 

Girl Rising Film Screening

posted Feb 21, 2017, 11:51 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

On February 15, 2017, the Office of Field Support in conjunction with the Girls Empowerment Movement Steering Committee hosted a film screening for students from various high schools. The film Girl Rising introduced a host of issues that bar girls from other countries from being able to receive an education. The film led students to asking poignant questions about the issues the girls in the film faced. 


Early Childhood & Field Support Meet and Greet

posted Feb 2, 2017, 11:53 AM by hkwong@strongschools.nyc

On November 28, 2016, in an effort to foster collaboration with Central offices, (Chancellor's Priority #1 for Field Support) and to begin to align Pre-K  to Kindergarten, we worked with the Division of Early Childhood Education to organize a meet and greet for our field staff. We found out that we had a lot in common and look forward to continuing to work together to support our schools. 

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