Chancellor Carranza - Don't Take Counselors Away From Students in the South Bronx

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Chancellor Carranza - Don't Take Counselors Away From Students in the South Bronx

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On Friday, Chancellor Carranza excessed 5 out of the 8 social workers and counselors at the Bronx Academy of Letters. He did this to many other schools in the South Bronx and Brownsville, Brooklyn as well. 

Just two weeks ago, our beloved principal Erin Garry died suddenly and unexpectedly. Even prior to this unfathomable loss, our students had already been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic: beginning with a lack of technology and reliable internet connectivity for remote learning; continuing with the death of four of our students’ parents and the hospitalizations of several students and family members; plus, facing persistent challenges to their mental health.  The Single Shepherd counselors will play a vital role in mitigating the effects of all this recent trauma by providing students and families with the coping skills necessary to weather this storm.     

The presence of Single Shepherds at our school has brought the previously unreasonable caseload of approximately 325 students to 1 counselor down to the more humane ratio of 100 students per counselor.  At a school like Bronx Letters, where 91% of students qualify for free lunch and over 70% of students live in one of the twelve public housing projects near the school, additional counselors is not a luxury.  They are, rather, a vital source of human capital necessary to address the complex needs of our kids--now more than ever.

Please join the staff at Bronx Letters by signing the Open Letter below to Chancellor Carranza.

Open Letter to Chancellor Richard Carranza on the Decision to End the Single Shepherd Program

Cc: Mayor Bill De Blasio

June 23, 2020


Dear Chancellor Carranza:


We have just learned that you have decided to end the Single Shepherd Program, which would lead to five of our counselors/social workers at the Bronx Academy of Letters being excessed.


Just two weeks ago, our beloved principal Erin Garry died suddenly and unexpectedly.  The sense of loss and grief has pervaded our close-knit school community, and it has required all of the social-emotional supports for our students that we can muster.  We anticipate a “second wave of grief” to arise among our vulnerable student population when school resumes in September for the 2020-21 school year.  Even prior to this unfathomable loss, our students had already been disproportionately impacted by the Covid-19 pandemic: beginning with a lack of technology and reliable internet connectivity for remote learning; continuing with the death of four of our students’ parents and the hospitalizations of several students and family members; plus, facing persistent challenges to their mental health.  The Single Shepherd counselors will play a vital role in mitigating the effects of all this recent trauma by providing students and families with the coping skills necessary to weather this storm.     


The Single Shepherds have become part of the Bronx Letters family, and to exacerbate loss with more loss will be devastating to our students and to our entire school community.  Since the Single Shepherd Program started in 2016, these counselors/social workers have provided one-on-one academic and social-emotional support for students; connected families with wraparound social services to address such issues as food insecurity and child care; assisted with college readiness projects for our mostly first-generation students; and supported grade-level counseling during crisis and grief.  During the 2015-16 school year, the year before Single Shepard began at our school, our graduation rate was 53%.  In the following year, with Single Shepard counselors on our staff, our graduation rate rose to 85%, and our college readiness index increased by almost 10 points.


Perhaps most importantly, the presence of Single Shepherds at our school has brought the previously unreasonable caseload of approximately 325 students to 1 counselor down to the more humane ratio of 100 students per counselor.  At a school like Bronx Letters, where 91% of students qualify for free lunch and over 70% of students live in one of the twelve public housing projects near the school, additional counselors is not a luxury.  They are, rather, a vital source of human capital necessary to address the complex needs of our kids--now more than ever.  They are, to borrow a term from trauma-sensitive education research, “alternative attachment figures,” and to lose them now would retraumatize our students.    


We implore you to reverse this decision and to reinstate the Single Shepherd Program at the Bronx Academy of Letters, effective immediately.  Please let us know if you would be able to meet with us as soon as possible so that you can hear first-hand testimonials from our students and staff about the urgent need for the continuation of this program at our school.


Thank you for your consideration.

Sincerely,

 

 



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