Summer Letter 2019

Dear PS154 Families,

We are hitting the middle point of the summer break and I imagine that many of you are itching for school to start again. Remember, the days are long (and they can feel really long over the summer) but the years are short. As parents and educators, we have a responsibility to ensure that the little time we have with our children is filled with wonder, joy and meaningful learning opportunities.

The 2019-2020 school year will be an exciting one filled with incredible experiences, initiatives and new faces at PS154.   As many of you know, Mr. Gioia (Theater), Ms. Weitzman (class teacher), Ms. Lawton (ENL) and Ms. Gabel (Music) have moved on to start down different paths. We spent the summer searching for passionate and dedicated educators who will enhance our teaching community. I’m excited to introduce the newest members of our teaching and support teams: 

Kwok Wong (STEM), is an experienced educator both in the classroom and as a STEM teacher. He will be covering the STEM framework which will integrate science, technology, engineering and math concepts into hands-on activities and design challenges.  

Kristopher Casey (Theater), has extensive experience as a performer and teacher in various settings. His primary focus has been in acting but he is adept and interested in developing a program that incorporates movement and song.  

Soumeya Karunagaran (2nd grade teacher), has been working in an ICT classroom at her prior school in Harlem. She is passionate about teaching and believes that cross-disciplinary, hands-on learning experiences are a priority for all students.  

Nicole Woelfel (ENL), has experience in various educational settings and classrooms. She is an enthusiastic teacher who has a passion for  linguistics and is looking forward to enhancing our ENL program. In addition, as a certified Special Educator, Nicole will also support our students with IEPs. 

Jessica Hartman (OT), has transferred to us from PS32 and brings a wealth of expertise. She and Cristina Septien are available to answer any of your OT related questions. 

Thanks to our very generous and supportive parent community, we are able to partner with The Brooklyn  Music School. They will be implementing a dynamic music program for all grades led by a team of teaching artists all  specializing in a variety of areas. Grades K and 1 will have Music FUNdamentals, focusing on foundations in music practice, literacy, and listening skills. Grade 2 will have Choir on Fire, focusing on vocals and ensemble performance. Grade 3 will have Buckets and Beats, focusing on bucket drumming in a group setting. Grade 4 will have U-Can Ukulele, where students get the opportunity to begin practicing strings and playing chords to favorite songs. Grade 5 will have World Percussion ensemble, focusing on Afro-Caribbean grooves and multi-part playing.

As part of the BMS community, PS154 families are encouraged to take part in activities at their Downtown Brooklyn site near the Atlantic Center. They have special discounts on private instrumental and vocal lessons and group classes, including vocal, jazz, theater, and dance programs. Reach out to the BMS registration desk directly or look on  their website for more information.


Everyday,  we have opportunities to inspire our children and expose them to ideas, investigations and challenges.  Our primary objective is to help our students to understand how interconnected we are; with each other and with the natural world. Learning is more powerful when we are able to make connections to concepts and experiences. In order to emphasize these bridges we will continue to integrate our curriculum so that content areas are not taught in isolation.

Social Emotional Learning-

Helping our children to connect the dots so that they develop a better sense of themselves, their relationships and their place in the broader community starts with social emotional learning. Our social emotional initiatives remain a priority. We will continue to use, as our foundational model, the Responsive Classroom program (  in addition to strategies from the RULER ( program.  RULER addresses a variety of social emotional competencies such as; self-regulation and expression. Often, children have a limited repertoire of vocabulary to express how they are feeling, which can result in frustration.  Through RULER, our students will learn different ways to both identify and express their emotional state. Additionally, we will continue to use the 3C’s (Curious, Caring and Courageous) to develop a common language in teaching and reinforcing school-wide expectations.  

Over the summer, we  began reading the book, Lost at School, by Dr. Ross Greene.  Dr. Greene’s work focuses on ways that we can improve outcomes for students who exhibit challenging behaviors.  His approach is based on the premise that, “Kids do well if they can” and that negative behaviors are simply the result of a lagging skill that needs to be supported.  It’s our job as educators (and parents) to help our children identify any gaps and to come up with solutions collaboratively.   Dr. Greene’s program is called Collaborative and Proactive Solutions (CPS) and it was selected to help us develop a more student centered approach to behavioral interventions.  If we aim to foster student agency in the academic areas it makes sense to provide the same opportunities within our SEL work. 

Culturally Responsive Education-

This year, we will continue to make curricular shifts towards a more culturally responsive education for our children. Through our diversity book of the month series, assemblies and Teaching Tolerance modules we engaged in conversations and activities around equity and diversity. This work will be enhanced through professional development opportunities for our staff as well as a continued focus on issues of equity and perspective taking within our instruction. I encourage you to attend our monthly Equity Team meetings to share ideas and hear from others in our community as we work to enhance our overall understanding. 

Universal Design for Learning-

Our instructional focus targeted curricular planning. Specifically, we explored how to be more responsive to the strengths, backgrounds and interests of our students.  This approach is best accomplished through the Universal Design for Learning (UDL) framework as it prioritizes self expression,  inclusivity and accessibility for all students.  The UDL framework is intended to  increase flexibility in teaching and decrease the barriers that frequently limit student access to materials and learning. We will be continuing our focus on UDL this year and have chosen the text UDL Now! to use as a guide for our professional development.


We’re pleased to announce that Leila Rached will be supporting the roll-out of our new math curriculum (grades 1-5), Eureka Math, as our coach. Leila is a gifted educator who will be an incredible asset to our teachers as they begin this new program.  Her responsibilities don’t stop with our teachers. She will be providing small group support/enrichment for students, helping with math based activities during after-school and facilitating parent workshops. Eureka math is a big shift from what we’ve been doing and will, no doubt, come with some hurdles but I’m confident that with Leila’s support it will provide our students with  opportunities to push their thinking as they explore rigorous math concepts. Here is the online curriculum- and a sister site filled with math games/activities-


Finally, our Kindergarten classes will be implementing the Read, Write Inc. program this year. RWI, is a learn to read program that we are thrilled to provide to our students. We spent most of last year preparing for this rollout through professional development and group readings. Our teachers are incredibly excited to get started and we are fortunate to have our trainer, Colleen Somich, scheduled 2-3 times per month for development days with the staff. RWI will be used as the primary literacy program in Kindergarten and will be implemented as an intervention program in grades 1 and 2.  Here is a link to some RWI resources:

Enjoy the rest of your summer.  We are looking forward to another great school year!


Jason and Michael

Dear Students,

Last year, we spent time discussing the 3Cs and what it means to be Curious, Caring and Courageous.  We need your help to make sure that the 3Cs are even bigger part of our school!

Here is your first DESIGN Challenge!  Feel free to try one or both options.

1-  Can you help to create a school chant that incorporates the 3Cs?  It should be something that we can all say together in the mornings and at assemblies. 

2- Can you help us make 3Cs posters?  Draw a picture of how you could communicate the 3Cs in the various school locations. 

For example,  how are you caring in the cafeteria?  How are you courageous in the schoolyard?  How are you curious in the classroom?  

Here are the locations that we discussed last year:  

Hallways and stairwells MMR

Bathroom Cafeteria

Schoolyard Classrooms

Get creative and stick to it!


Mr. Foreman and Mr. Buckley