End of Week 10: Leaders Reflect on the Path Forward – An Update from the CEO

Good afternoon, FAmily,

Last week marked the end of Week 10 of online instruction, and we headed into the 3-day Memorial Day weekend. It’s hard to believe we are so close to the end of the school year already, but here we are. 

This will be the last in my series of updates centered around the question of “How’s it going with online instruction?,” and it seems fitting that it concludes with the voices of some of our school leaders, as we set our sites on making plans for the future.

While there is certainly no substitute for in-person learning, there are some positive lessons that have come out of moving our school community online. And that’s the answer I’m hoping to use to help us plan and move forward in the weeks, months, and years ahead. 

As educators, parents, and individuals, I encourage all of us to reflect on the lessons we have learned over the past ten weeks. What can we continue to implement that will improve our scholars’ experience overall, and what can continue to make things easier for our school FAmily?  

Below, you’ll hear the suggestions offered by some of our school leaders and principals, including Ms. Sheria McRae, Ms. Natasia Cooper, Ms. Venetia Birchmore, and Ms. Melissa Campbell.


Ms. Sheria McRae, Foundation Academies Chief Academic Officer

Q: What are some aspects of online instruction that will benefit how you/we do things moving forward?

A: At two of our campuses, online instruction has provided students with the benefit of having tutoring each day. Tutoring is extremely beneficial for our students, staff, and parents. It provides the opportunity for scholars to create and achieve their growth goals and improve their academic performance. Tutoring helps to build the necessary skills you need in life, in a small group setting. I hope that we all see the many benefits and can continue this even when in our brick and mortar buildings.

Q: What are some concerns you have regarding educating our kids when you look forward to the next year or so?

A: I am mostly concerned about our ability to continue to develop socially and emotionally healthy scholars remotely. With privacy concerns, this remains at the forefront of our minds as we tackle how to reach the whole child, virtually.


Ms. Natasia Cooper, Foundation Academy Primary School Principal

Q: What are some aspects of online instruction that will benefit how you/we do things moving forward?

A: Utilizing Google Classroom more is something I would like for the Primary School to do next year. We have the ability to assign lessons to students and also communicate with parents. If additional help is needed, teachers can pre-record lessons/tutorials to help scholars out. I would also love to have POP Squad (our Primary School parent group) meetings virtually. Hopefully, this will alleviate parents having to come to the school building for a parent meeting and still be actively involved in their child’s learning and school community.  

Q: What are some concerns you have regarding educating our kids when you look forward to the next year or so?

A: One of my main concerns is solidifying the new content we started to teach remotely and ensuring ALL scholars have mastered those skills. However, I am confident in our teachers’ abilities to get scholars caught up and push forward with new material. 


Ms. Venetia Birchmore, Foundation Academy Intermediate School Principal

Q: What are some aspects of online instruction that will benefit how you/we do things moving forward?

A: This experience has helped me gain perspective on what is developmentally appropriate for our children. I think that it’s revealed a lot about our grading practices and how grades should reflect mastery of a skill, not just showing up. I also think it’s helped me see some areas of opportunity for staff development on effective and empowering communication with families.

Q: What are some concerns you have regarding educating our kids when you look forward to the next year or so?

A: What will a return look like? How do our practices, in school and remotely, meet the needs of ALL students? How can we continue to adjust our instruction during this time of uncertainty to best serve ALL students? How can we best support families and the stresses of having to support their learners?


Ms. Melissa Campbell, Foundation Collegiate Academy Principal

Q: What are some aspects of online instruction that will benefit how you/we do things moving forward?

A: Building strong student relationships are always at the forefront of our minds. Before moving to online learning, our hallways were always filled with students and teachers interacting and talking before the academic day starts, for a few minutes in-between classes, and after school with clubs and sports. 

Since moving to online learning, we have had to create new ways to continue interacting with our students, so we can continue to build these positive relationships. Some of the things that teachers are incorporating are positive daily messages, videos, competitions, yoga, teacher-led cooking shows, academic challenges, etc. 

Staff and students are seeing each other in a different light, as we are all facing and growing from these new challenges together. I look forward to staff continuing to use these tiny – but important – moments, whether it is through online learning or physically in the building, as we know that stronger relationships among students and staff equal a strong learning environment/space.

Q: What are some concerns you have regarding educating our kids when you look forward to the next year or so?

A: A concern I have is making sure that every student has their social and emotional needs addressed. This time apart has been a difficult time for all of us, but even more so for our students. It will be imperative that we are not just focusing on the gaps in knowledge and skills, but prioritizing how to address the social and emotional health of our students. As we look forward to the future and what that looks like, we need to ensure that these concerns are addressed, which is why we have already begun to plan for what that may look like.


Overall, I am confident that we will emerge from this experience stronger and more attuned to providing a truly excellent experience for our scholars moving forward. 

I want to again thank our teachers and leaders for sharing their input during this experience. When I reflect on these collective answers, I am reminded yet again that first, we have some incredible educators in our school FAmily, and that the only way we can succeed is by working together as a unified community, laser-focused on our number one priority above all others: fulfilling our mission’s promise to our students.

In closing, I hope you have enjoyed hearing from our teachers and leaders, and that the ideas shared here can help you, too, to get laser-focused on achieving the goals and dreams that you hold most dear.

Have a great week!

Yours in community,

Graig Weiss
CEO
Foundation Academies

P.S. If you’d like to help support our students as they face the many unforeseen challenges of this crisis, please consider making a donation online today.

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Graig Weiss

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.

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