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Virtual Parent Conferences

Addressing borough-specific needs
New York Teacher
Mark Levine on Zoom

City Council Member Mark Levine, the Manhattan borough president-elect, welcomes parents to the Manhattan conference.

Four UFT boroughwide parent conferences in October and November, held virtually for the second consecutive year, drew nearly 350 parents and featured workshops, speakers, resources and surprises.

Nicholas Cruz, the UFT director of community and parent engagement, said the UFT is able to “keep in tune with borough-specific needs” thanks to the boroughs’ volunteer parent committees, which helped plan the conferences.

For example, many parents in Queens primarily speak Chinese or Spanish, so the Queens conference on Nov. 20 included live translation.

Nicholas Cruz on Zoom

Nicholas Cruz, the UFT director of community and parent engagement, stops by the Learning to Play, Playing to Learn! workshop at the Bronx conference.

Stacy Moss, a Manhattan parent of a high school sophomore, attended the Queens, Manhattan and Bronx conferences. Her favorite workshop at the Queens conference covered the high school admissions process. “You need to get your child into a school that fits your child,” she said. While the process can be overwhelming, Moss said she learned so much that she has a “cheat sheet” to share with other parents.

Staten Island has the city’s largest percentage of students with Individualized Education Programs (IEPs), so many of the workshops at its Nov. 13 conference focused on special education issues. The UFT’s Staten Island special education committee was instrumental in planning the event and is planning more parent workshops in the winter and spring.

Theresa Veasey, a parent of two and a paraprofessional at PS 57 on Staten Island, said she always approaches her work “through the eyes of a parent. My students are my ‘kids,’ always were, always will be,” she said. Veasey said she feels a partnership between parents and educators is the “one-two punch” that creates a “rich educational environment” that children need to succeed.

Khaleel Anderson on a Zoom Screen

Assembly Member Khaleel Anderson listens to the discussion at the Queens event.

The Bronx conference on Nov. 13 offered 13 workshops, many focusing on health issues such as asthma and mental health — issues that Bronx parents identified as their priorities.

Rima Izquierdo, a Bronx mom who has three children in city public schools, attended the Bronx and Manhattan conferences. As a District 75 parent, she particularly liked the Bronx workshop about the Administration for Children’s Services (ACS). “Some District 75 students don’t have a transportation paraprofessional or bus route,” she explained, so their parents are sometimes mistakenly called by ACS when they don’t go to school. The workshop gave her information that “really helps parents protect themselves,” she said.

The Manhattan conference on Oct. 16 offered 10 workshops based on the committee’s survey of past conference attendees. There was a focus on college admissions and financial aid. Moss, who has another child who recently graduated from high school, is looking for a gap-year program, and the conference “helped me with that,” she said.

The Brooklyn parent committee is planning a spring conference that will focus on voter registration efforts.

Overall, the parent conferences “give people tools in their arsenal to advocate for their children,” said Izquierdo. Just as important, said Moss, UFT parent events are “warm places.”

“It’s like another family,” said Moss. “You go in there, and you just have fun! Everyone should go.”

Related Topics: Parents