2020-21: The Year in Review
As we officially close out 2020-21, I have been reflecting on this past school year as well as the road ahead. To say this year has been challenging is an understatement. We have all been tested in multiple ways: mentally, physically, emotionally, and technologically. But, despite all the curveballs that life threw our way, we made it – together – and we are stronger for it.
When I think about all the challenges that our students and families have faced, it is easy to default to looking at the glass as half-empty instead of as half-full. We may immediately start to think about all the things we did NOT get to do. We all want more for our students and families, and that desire is what makes our school community great. But it’s important to also remember to honor and celebrate all we HAVE achieved and accomplished, together as a community. We have a LOT to be proud of!
Throughout the pandemic, we rose together to meet and conquer a myriad of challenges. Looking back at 2020-21, I am most proud of how our FAmily:
- Kept the focus on students’ social, emotional, and mental wellness
- Remained flexible and pivoted with ever-changing technology needs, and
- Went above and beyond to support our families, inside and outside of school.
I stand in awe of the selfless efforts of our staff and community volunteers who put together so many helpful and healing resources that included family webinars, a COVID emergency fund, and taking groceries to families in need, just to name a few.
As an ever-evolving and expanding organization, we have also made major progress with our larger 5-year goals that exist within our strategic imperatives. I definitely want to make sure we acknowledge our progress and celebrate the achievements here.
Strategic Imperative #1: Consistency and Alignment
This year, we:
- Provided our students with FULL days of live virtual instruction, and 1:1 student devices and internet access, both from day one of remote learning
- Ensured no-cost breakfast and lunch distribution to our families throughout the pandemic
- Arranged child care options for our families with the Trenton-area YMCA and Boys & Girls Club
- Secured charter renewal through 2026, and were approved for potential expansion in 2024
- Completed several facilities improvement projects
- Revised our branding, logos, and website, and created a mascot!
- Created a wellness program and COVID-19 vaccination opportunities for staff
- Prioritized the physical and financial health of staff throughout the pandemic: no furloughs, layoffs, or salary cuts, and gave all staff a $1K appreciation bonus
- Safely re-opened our buildings to in-person instruction in April, and over the course of nine weeks, had just one COVID-19 case, resulting in exposure for a total of two students
- Offered multiple opportunities for free, on-campus COVID testing for staff and students K-12
- Saw our 8th consecutive class of high school graduates once again achieve 100% college acceptance
Strategic Imperative #2: Leadership
This year, we:
- Hired a Director of Training and Development, Shanesia Davis, and as a result, staff survey data showed that the quality and consistency of coaching, observation, and feedback that teachers receive has improved
- Supported mid-level instructional leaders with ongoing professional development and weekly “iron-sharpening” coaching sessions
- Created a leadership development vision and an inclusive leadership pathways program to foster staff growth through development opportunities
Strategic Imperative #3: Resilience
This year, we:
- Engaged all staff in Race & Equity training: “Overcoming Racism”
- Hired a third School Social Worker to better support our students
- Continued to train teachers on being trauma-informed and responsive
- Hosted a number of virtual wellness sessions and trainings for our families
- Continued to build the Friends of Foundation Academies, including scholarship initiatives and other programming to enrich the student experience
- Supported community members significantly affected by the pandemic through the Friends of Foundation Academies’ COVID Relief Fund
As you can see, we have achieved quite a LOT over the past year. Looking ahead, this important foundational work will support our next steps as we begin to prepare for the 2021-22 school year and a return to full-time in-person instruction.
Our power truly is in our amazing people. By continuing to develop our existing family and growing to add even more like-minded, committed individuals who deeply believe in our mission, I am confident that the year ahead will be one filled with joy, learning, and continued excellence.
Wishing you an enjoyable and relaxing summer, and I look forward to the return of students beginning in July at Summer Accelerated Academy!
Graig Weiss has served as the Chief Executive Officer of Foundation Academies since 2014. He began there 5 years before as Middle School Principal. A 2003 Teach for America corps member, Mr. Weiss taught Math and Science in the Bronx and the Dominican Republic prior to becoming an administrator and was selected as Teacher of the Year in 2007.
Prior to entering the education field, Mr. Weiss worked in the financial services sector with Cambridge Associates, LLC in Boston, MA. He holds a Bachelor of Arts and a Bachelor of Science in Finance and Accounting from the University of Pittsburgh, a Master of Science in Teaching from Fordham University, and a Master of Science in Educational Leadership from the University of Scranton.