The first day back to school in New York City was welcomed in by Mayor Eric Adams and Schools Chancellor David Banks, alongside public education representatives and elected officials, today in the Bronx’s District 11 at P.S. 121 The Throop School.
The event included an announcement made by Banks about “activating” automatic tenure for more than 500 teachers with bilingual or English as a new language license.
P.S. 121 Principal Jared Kreiner said it was a privilege working for the city’s education department for the past 27 years and serving children in the Bronx at this morning’s press conference.
Kreiner thanked guest speakers Schools Chancellor David Banks, UFT President Michael Mulgrew, Bronx Borough President Vanessa Gibson, Council Member Rita Joseph, Council Member Marjorie Velazquez, and Assembly Member Michael Benedetto.
“It’s more than just being academically smart,” Adams said. “We want our children to be emotionally intelligent. We want them to interact with each other, to deal with the challenges that they’re facing.”
Adams pointed to several challenges that the school community now faces: ongoing negotiations between the Amalgamated Transit Union and private bus companies that provide school buses, new arrivals of young migrants and asylum seekers, and school budget cuts.
“We have to still produce a product that will allow our children to be ready for the future,” Adams said. “That’s what this school year is about.”
Hizzoner touted several accomplishments that the city has provided for its students, including learning internships and the Cafeteria Enhancement Experience. He shared his excitement to visit the students who are currently going through the justice system on Rikers Island.
“Not only is this the first day of school here in the New York City public schools, it’s also the first day of school for those children who went on the wrong path,” Adams said. “These are all our children and we cannot ignore any one of our children.”
Chancellor Banks touched upon the roughly 20,000 migrant students who have joined New York City public schools, and dismissed the perception that “there’s chaos that’s happening in our schools.”
“They’ve already been assimilated into the schools,” Banks said. “Kids who came in not even speaking a word of English — by the end of the year, already speaking English.”
A major announcement was made in support of teachers who hold bilingual or English as a new language licenses as a way to incentivize them to teach English to students learning the language.
The administration announced that starting today, any tenured teacher who holds a secondary ENL or bilingual license, and secures a position under that license, will be granted automatic tenure in that ENL or bilingual license.
“We’re thrilled to announce today that we’re activating a special group of teachers who already work in our schools,” Banks said. “That is a very big deal.”
There are currently more than 500 tenured teachers who hold these additional licenses on top of their teaching license, according to the chancellor.
“These are very special teachers who can teach multiple subjects,” Banks said. “But often, they do not, for fear of having to restart their tenure.”
Mulgrew added that teachers who are already certified so be allowed to switch their certificates without any liability to themselves.
“Because they’ve already proven to be highly successful teachers,” Mulgrew said. “To receive tenure is not an easy thing.”
Mulgrew reiterated the administration’s push to advance reading levels for New York City public students, calling the NYC Reads initiative “an absolute plan that can succeed.”
“We have had mayors for years who have spoken about reading, but they never had a real plan,” Mulgrew said. “They only spoke about it.”
The UFT president stressed the need for “more from the system” including more support from elected officials, better policies, and more money. Mulgrew raised the imminent possibility of a school bus strike and that there was work being done on the issue through the weekend.
“There’s a contingency plan for the city,” Mulgrew said. “But let’s be clear — schools are already putting their own contingency plans together.”
Banks dedicated time thanking United Federation of Teachers President Michael Mulgrew, who was present at the event, for building a relationship with the administration. The chancellor noted how the recent years have been spent rebuilding bridges with the union.
“Over the years, I watched this acrimony between the union and the administration, as though that was something that was a given,” Banks said. “It’s not a given. It’s built on relationships and on trust.”
Banks expressed that he has set his sights on improving reading and literacy levels across New York City’s public students, especially those of Black and Hispanic students. He added that the administration would be using a “balanced literacy approach” as early as pre-K.
“What I am going to be laser focused on is ensuring that every single child in the school system is on grade level no later than the third grade,” Banks said. “That is the work that this administration will be completely focused on.”