Seeing Clearly in 2020: A TNCS Community Forum to Promote Anti-Racism

This year has been a year of firsts at The New Century School, and the trend continues. These firsts are TNCS’s ways of rising to the occasion, of meeting the challenge and addressing it with customary courage and compassion, respect and service. Thursday, June 4, 2020 was another of these firsts. With the nation in an uproar over the senseless killing of George Floyd and all who went before him, communities needed to voice their emotions about the racially motivated wrongs permeating our society, to hear and be heard. Making this difficult time even harder, we can’t be physically together for mutual support.

In true leader fashion, however, TNCS Head of School Shara Khon Duncan and Head of Parent Council Sakina Ligon provided a first-of-its-kind forum with a Virtual TNCS Social Justice Community Conversation. “The heartbreaking events surrounding the death of Mr. George Floyd last week, so close on the heels of other similar tragic events throughout the United States, have pointed to the unjust discrimination and systematic racism that has continued to permeate our country,” said Sra. Duncan in an email announcing the event. “As an academic institution, TNCS has a responsibility to educate our community in order to combat ignorance and intolerance in order to dismantle a system that is broken in our society.”

TNCS, as a “model of inclusivity,” is well poised to do some good here. Head of the Lower School and Dean of Students Alicia Danyali agreed, saying, “The fact that we are starting to talk openly is the first step in partnership with all stakeholders to cultivate change we hope to see.” And that became the thrust of the evening—what positive action can we make to effect change and to heal our societal wounds?

But before we get to that, here’s an abridged recap of the three-part evening for those who were unable to attend this event. All of our voices are important, and our participation in this conversation is vital. “It’s an ongoing process,” as Sra. Duncan emphasized.

Part 1: Foundation Building

Sra. Duncan, a former diversity coordinator and well-versed in these kinds of dialogues, introduced the evening by urging participants to speak freely but respectfully. “Active listening”—focusing on what is being said, not on what you anticipate will be said—is also key in such exchanges of ideas. She also laid some ground rules for “conversational norms” including definitions:

  • Use “I” statements, not “you” or “we,” to speak just for yourself and avoid making generalizations.
  • Focus on the topic at hand, what’s going on with racial injustice in our country.
  • “Have comfort with discomfort”; these conversations are not easy.
  • Use “both/and” instead of “either/or” to open up possibilities rather than limiting to only two.
  • Expect and accept non-closure.

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These fundamentals were then put into practice with an exercise to demonstrate how our mindsets can be radically altered when we realize that our perspectives are not absolute. Sra. Duncan asked the audience to draw a circle clockwise in the air above their heads then slowly lower it in front of the face to the abdomen. What happens? Clockwise becomes counterclockwise by virtue of nothing more than a flipped visual orientation (i.e., looking up, then looking down). Just like that, we got a glimmer of how easy it is to see things differently.

Prior to the evening, questions were submitted to the committee, which became the framework of the presentation and discussion. Topmost on everyone’s minds? What do we say to our children?

Part II: How to Talk to Our Kids

Perhaps surprisingly, earnest self-reflection is the necessary first step before we can speak honestly with our children. Acknowledge our prejudices and preconceived notions so that we can open our minds to other possibilities. This is especially important for groups of people. We might assume we’re not racist (and strive hard against racism), but do that check in. Ask yourself questions like, “What are my biases?” “What are my gut reactions to people of different groups?” “How does my privilege smooth the way for me?” “How can I use my privilege to help those who are oppressed?”

Know where you stand before you talk to your children. They are observant; are we “walking the walk?” They’ll know if not.

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Ms. Ligon spoke next and reminded us that there’s an historical context to these issues. “In terms of educating oneself,” she said, “research this repeating history.” We need to make sure we have the right words and the background to broach this with our kids.

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Sra. Duncan and her team gathered these helpful resources for discussing these complex topics with your children. She stressed making sure the resources you turn to are age appropriate and that they “practice and prepare.” Also examine your child’s media—are books and toys reflecting different types of people? Help your child see the beauty in difference with exposure to multiple cultures. Ask them to imagine being in someone else’s shoes to cultivate empathy. Elementary-age children can go a bit deeper; ask them to examine what they say to their schoolmates and whether they are saying things that might not always make the other person feel good (“microaggressions”). In upper elementary and middle school, monitor those social media accounts, urges Sra. Duncan. “Debrief with them,” she advises. Remind them that it’s okay to feel uncomfortable about these things.

Part III: Next Steps

Describing U.S. citizens as “standing on a precipice,” Sra. Duncan quoted former President Obama’s stirring words about “. . . [working] together to create a ‘new normal’ in which the legacy of bigotry and unequal treatment no longer infects our institutions and our hearts.” Ms. Ligon made the excellent point that if we’re ever going to draw back from the rim of that abyss, we need a fundamental curricular change. Our history books need to tell the whole truth she said.

I think of how we learn history in specifically the United States and where history starts, and, as I look ahead anticipating how this historical moment will be depicted in the history books to follow, there will be a huge gap in reality. In terms of where the history books pick up and where people who look like myself started, there’s this gray area in between and then we go straight to, ‘oh, they were looting and rioting.’ I believe that how history should be taught reflects everyone in the room. I have to do a lot of troubleshooting with my own child to explain to her that here’s another perspective and here’s how we fit in to what you learned in school. It’s hard when you’re a person of color (POC) and you’re trying to learn about who you are . . . it would be a different day and a new world if we also get it in the place where we’re supposed to be getting educated. For me, it’s very important for this to be implemented in the curriculum.

Discussions for how to achieve a better, more accurate social studies curriculum at TNCS are up and running. (For adults, the podcast 1619 fills in a lot of these gaps and is well worth a listen.) Sra. Duncan also mentioned that this a cross-curricular endeavor, as appropriate. “It should permeate everything we do,” she said.

Indeed, the biggie in this part of the forum was action—take, for example, the difference between non-racist and anti-racist. Sra. Duncan asked the audience how these terms differ, and the upshot is that anti-racism means actively combatting racism rather than simply not partaking in racism.

Following are some of the incisive and insightful questions and suggestions that participants contributed during the forum.

Questions from Parents:

  • Are teachers having these conversations with students either before Covid-19 or on Zoom? What help can we as parents do to support the school in developing anti-racism resources, and coalition building, curriculum, etc.?
  • How is the school staff and leadership thinking about/addressing Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) issues within the school? (I am doing this at my organization and would be curious if you have set any goals for changes, etc. I am also reaching out in my community to try and bring together potential allies on antiracism—is there any interest in some consciousness-raising among parents or students, leading an aftercare class or camp on anti-racism, etc. perhaps parent and kids learning together? I am willing to volunteer to help with some sort of antiracism discussion group for adults and/or camp for kids.
  • Are we looking to revamp the global studies curriculum?
  • Is there a part of the school curriculum that helps guide students to find their individual role in combatting racial injustice? Parent DEI forums can help with vocabulary and navigating diversity conversations at home.
  • What training will the TNCS staff have on this topic? How will they be trained to handle our kids questions?
  • At one time, the students were meeting on a regular basis with Mrs. Danyali. Could that be a time where the conversations can be had with students on diversity?
  • To circle back to the point about not letting this topic “drop” going forward—perhaps we could continue having these TNCS community discussions about DEI that could be virtual or eventually in person… maybe quarterly? As a way to keep the conversations and actions going?
  • Is there an opportunity for students to send anonymous questions, thoughts, reactions to recent events to generate a forum for the students to participate in a faculty/ parent facilitated forum?
  • How do we stay in touch and keep the conversation going?

Each of these items was addressed, and the takeaways are that TNCS stakeholders will collaborate and divvy up the action items: Teachers are increasing their morning discussions of such issues in age-appropriate ways*; parents will potentially host ECAs, book clubs, and other parent/child forums (all to be determined); and admin will facilitate these efforts as well as increase professional development opportunities in this arena. “But we can’t do this alone,” she said. “We need your help. The Parent Council is a great place to get parents involved.” Sra. Duncan also consults the Association of Independent Maryland & DC Schools (AIMS) DEI tenets as outlined here.

*The very next day, upper elementary and middle school homeroom teachers Nameeta Sharma and Daphnée Hope guided 5th- through 8th-grade students in whole-group discussions on social justice, focusing on how their generation would combat racial violence. Wrote Mrs. Hope in a follow-up email to parents:

We were blown away by the maturity, depth, respect, and insightfulness that your children displayed. Perhaps one of the most profound things that we heard was when one of our students stated, ‘No one is born a racist. It is what you have been taught over time.’ We were able to learn from each other and bear witness to the experiences of each other. It was simply incredible. I think we can learn so much from looking at the world through the lens of a child. They are passionate, hopeful, and more insightful than we sometimes give them credit for.

“We started with parents,” said Sra. Duncan, but it would be great to also have these conversations with parents and students. I think it’s really important that students see that we’re all working on this together, and it’s not just an at-school thing or an at-home thing that will gain us a better understanding of the issues.”

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“We are fortunate to be a part of a caring and supportive community. Let us all take the time to pause and reflect on our role in how each of us can help move the conversation and the country forward. By examining our beliefs, our privilege, and our prejudices, which we all have, we can begin to repair this country for our children,” said Sra. Duncan. Real change for a problem of this scale requires a coordinated effort over a sustained period. “So, remember not to judge, and remember to listen,” she said.

And don’t forget to support your local businesses!


Just below is a poem that has resonated with many over the last few weeks and may help us all see a little more clearly in this pivotal year.

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Lastly, we invite you to share your question, comment, or thought about discussing social justice and anti-racism with your community and your children in comments. Have a book or resource to suggest? Please, put it in the comments. We welcome your voice. And your 2020 vision.

TNCS Dean of Students/Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali Presents at AIMS Learning to Lead Conference 2020!

On March 3, 2020, just days before the COVID-19 pandemic shutdown, Alicia Danyali, the Dean of Students and Head of the Lower School at The New Century School, presented at an important and now exponentially more relevant conference: The Association of Independent Maryland and DC Schools (AIMS) annual Learning to Lead event, this one on the theme of “Handle the Pressure: Building Social Media Leadership in Our Students.” The impetus behind the conference was this:

Social media continues to transform the educational landscape in our schools, as well as the emotional development of our students. These young people are being asked to grow up faster, and the implications of their decisions now have grand consequences that can affect their social lives, mental health, academic performance and, in some cases, college matriculation and career path. Never before have our young people been faced with such pressure to be perfect … in every way.

Now, with shelter-at-home orders in place across the state, many students are spending even more time online to varying degrees, whether it’s for entertainment or educational purposes. TNCS students, for example, are attending virtual classrooms, which is a wonderful thing (read all about it here). But this often dramatic increase in screen time has some parents wondering, “Are my children practicing safe online habits? What is their level of social media literacy?”

The Social Institute

The 2020 conference was hosted by the Severn School in Severna Park, with Laura Tierney as the keynote speaker. Ms. Tierney founded  The Social Institute, whose mission is to “. . . empower 1 million students nationwide to navigate social media and technology in positive, healthy, and high character ways. As a team of digital natives, we bridge the digital divide between students and adults by offering schools a comprehensive, student-led curriculum and presentations that students respect and embrace.” The Social Institute is funded by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. Rather than focusing on the negative aspects of social media, Ms. Tierney “has created a dynamic curriculum that inspires leadership and reinforces smart-decision making through a positive, growth mindset.

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“The audience was about 80% middle and high schoolers, and our focus was to give them tools to be school leaders,” said Ms. Danyali.

Self-Care, Self-Discipline, and Self-Reflection: Three Principles to Guide Your Online Presence

“Ms. Tierney and her group basically talk to students about healthy relationships and what character means as well as how that translates into their everyday lives,” explained Ms. Danyali. Three concepts she focuses on are self-care, self-discipline, and self-reflection. “She emphasizes that how they present themselves on social media can affect them long term, such as when it’s time to apply for college or get a job. Regarding attitude in general, how do you send positive messaging? How do you still remain friends with people that you don’t agree with on social media? All of those things that they’re going to face challenges with.”

After the keynote presentation, the audience broke out into four groups to workshop some of these concepts related to social media. They were given a quiz about their habits and privacy, which Ms. Danyali hopes to replicate for TNCS 7th- and 8th-graders to help them investigate, for example, what their habits are and what habits they might be looking to change, what has benefited them or improved their lifestyle.

WE Schools

One of the benefits of attending a conference like this is networking. During one of the breakout sessions, Ms. Danyali describes connecting with a representative of WESchools, “an innovative series of experiential service-learning programs that engage educators and youth globally to empower them with the skills, knowledge, and motivation to bring positive change in themselves and the world.” Sound like something Ms. Danyali would be interested in? In fact, she plans to partner with them in the near future, possibly for extracurricular activities.

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“Generation Z and How to Forge Accountability”

Ms. Danyali, who has been teaching TNCS elementary and middle school students about social media literacy for years, was an ideal presenter—one of only two, in fact. Her talk was titled “Generation Z and How to Forge Accountability.” Although she has spoken on this topic before, this time, she says, she approached it a bit differently. “I started out asking whether anybody was able to cultivate accountability from somebody else, whether it was a personal or professional relationship. How did that play out?” She got a lot of response, and students shared their school social and emotional learning experiences. She explains, “Where I was going with this is, most of these independent schools, including TNCS, use four or five words to describe what they hold as their Core Values—but how do you actually cultivate those and how do you hold the community accountable for upholding them? How are they represented in your school in a way that contributes to people taking responsibility for their actions?”

For example, one of TNCS’s core values is Service. Ms. Danyali recounts how Ms. Lee’s 2nd- /3rd-grade class assembled hygiene kits to donate to the Baltimore Rescue Mission, an authentic and worthwhile service initiative. But they took it a step further and shared their experience of why they undertook the project and why it was important with the much-younger students in Ms. Mosby’s primary classroom to help establish this concept with them, so they can build on it meaningfully as they grow. That’s how TNCS brings it full circle. “But some educators confessed that they never talk about the actual words,” said Ms. Danyali, “and I think they now see why they should perhaps start doing so, such as by relating the values back to books the students are reading. It can be that simple.”

In some schools, such as the Park School, social and emotional learning even becomes part of the student’s assessment. Although it’s certainly subjective to evaluate someone’s degree of, for example, empathy, Ms. Danyali says that’s how you not only “talk the talk” but also “walk the walk.”

“I wanted my talk to open the door for more conversation, which is how I presented it,” said Ms. Danyali. “This is just planting a seed that maybe resonates with you as relevant or so that you can pick the conversation back up in your school house with your colleagues or with your family at home. I want the conversation to be ongoing.”

Speaking of ongoing, Ms. Danyali will bring many of the valuable insights she gained by attending and presenting at the conference home to inform new initiatives for TNCS students. One example is the One Love foundation, which also focuses on healthy relationships. She wrote 20 words on a chalkboard and asked members of the TNCS 3rd and 4th grades to circle which ones signified a healthy relationship. “We talked about the words,” she said, “but what was striking is that they were able to do it without picking any of the wrong ones.” After this “test drive” of One Love, she will undertake some of these initiatives with the older students as well.

To bring all the various threads in this post back together, in this time of increased socializing via screens, let’s make sure we—and our kids—are being who we want to be, both in real life and on social media.

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Valentine’s Day at TNCS is about Spreading Love to the Community!

For Valentine’s Day 2020, students at The New Century School made a “wholehearted” push to spread some love. Compassion and service are two core values at TNCS and, along with respect and courage, are part of the day-to-day “invisible” curriculum. Nevertheless, this winter, students in all divisions have come together to put those values in practice in meaningful ways. From service-learning initiatives led by Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali, to student-led charitable collections, to extracurricular activities focusing on kindness, these kids are showing our community within and beyond the campus walls what’s in their hearts.

Before we jump in to all of the great acts of loving kindness TNCS students engaged in, let’s look at why this kind of engagement is so beneficial to their social, academic, and emotional development. According to research by Edutopia, “A schoolwide focus on cultivating traits like self-discipline, courage, and perseverance helps students meet high expectations.” This focus also stretches beyond the classroom, preparing students to contribute to the world as adults.

So many great things were happening all over the school, so the following account progresses in sort of let-the-love-flow-from-the-ground-up order!

Preprimary Service Initiatives

The preprimary division of 2- and 3-year-olds has been doing their part for the NexTrex challenge and have already filled a box—which is pretty impressive for this age group. Ms. Danyali is careful to restrict their service initiatives to what will be meaningful to them. So, they practice kindness in the classroom among one another and participate in those schoolwide initiatives like NexTrex that they can understand.

Primary and Lower Elementary Service Initiatives

The primary through 4th-grade classrooms (primary, K/1, 2/3, and 3/4) have collaborated on comfort kits for Baltimore’s homeless population. They realized that after the end-of-year holidays pass and the new year has begun, charitable donations taper off, which sadly coincides with the time of year those in need most require support and warmth. “We felt really strongly that we want to keep the giving going,” said Ms. Danyali. So, she reached out to Baltimore Rescue Mission and Karis Home (exclusively for women), who will take and disperse the kits TNCS students lovingly assembled. “We have an overflowing box of hygiene items, which is so great. It started kind of slowly and then really caught on. I’m amazed by the abundance our community has donated” said Ms. Danyali. The hygiene kits will be distributed at the organizations’ mobile shower unit.

Although the collection was originally supposed to end on Valentine’s Day, the  TNCS community has expressed interest in extending it, and Ms. Danyali is receptive to that idea.

In the coming weeks, K/1 will visit the Ronald McDonald House to prepare lunches for the residents/families getting treatment in March/April. Immersed will follow up on this important initiative!

Lower and Upper Elementary Service Initiatives

BluWater Baltimore is another partner organization with an upcoming service project. TNCS 2nd- through 4th-graders will stencil storm drains around the Fell’s Point neighborhood to remind passersby that what goes into those drains has a direct conduit to out precious local waterways. TNCS students have done this in the past as part of a science unit, but this time, their stencils will be in both English and Spanish! “We want to remind people in a pleasant way to not throw trash down the storm drains,” said Ms. Danyali, “because the repercussions are huge long term.” Visit Blue Water’s Storm Drain Art page to learn more.

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Another possible project with Blue Water Baltimore is to design and paint two rain barrels, one to keep and one to raffle off. Again, this is something TNCS has done in the past, but it was such a huge hit among the community that revisiting it a few years on with a different group of students seems like a no-brainer. (Visit Blue Water’s Harvest Rainwater page to learn more.) “It will be a nice feature to have at school with spring coming and the greenhouse reopening,” said Ms. Danyali. Raffle tickets will be on sale at TNCS Parent Council’s annual upcoming Earth Day celebration, and a portion of proceeds will fund additional student enrichment initiatives, while some funds will go back to support Blue Water Baltimore.

In the 5th- /6th-grade classroom, students have become more and more aware of homelessness in Baltimore. Ms. Danyali partnered with Live with Purpose to have students assemble Kindness Kits, which are similar to the Comfort Kits made by the younger students, except that these are intended to be distributed by students and families. The kits include basic essential items and toiletries that participants are encouraged to give out as they drive or walk around and encounter someone experiencing homelessness. This resonated so deeply with students that many asked if they could enhance the kits by adding special items not already included in what Live with Purpose provided. “That’s really where I wanted them to go with this,” said Ms. Danyali. “We also talked about homeless statistics—there are more than 3,500 people living on the streets in Baltimore on any given night, totaling more than 30,000 per year, and an even larger number seeking a return to a home—but we did not go into the roots of these problems. That’s overwhelming. But we talked about the potential impact of  everyone doing this little bit, given the degree of need. It created a really great discussion.” Discussion questions included:

  • What are some thoughts you have when you encounter someone who is asking for help on the street?
  • If you were no longer able to live in your current home, where would you go?
  • What are some injustices that you see in the world?
  • How can you commit to intervening to address these injustices this year?

(Note the socks, which are one of the most needed and least frequently donated items for individuals experiencing homelessness.)

New for Q3 2020 at TNCS, is the ECA Project Kindness for 3rd- through 8th-graders, led by Upper Elementary and Middle School ELA and Global Studies instructor, Daphnée Hope. On Thursday, February 13th, the “PKers” took it upon themselves to scour the multipurpose room and then decorate it with positive messages.

Middle School Service Initiatives

In the 7th- and 8th-grade classroom, Ms. Hope has incorporated mediation and yoga as stress relievers. “I’m very excited about this,” said Ms. Danyali, “because they are developing tools for better listening to each other without judgment, feedback, or anything else—just listening. That cohort already has a nice community feel, but they got a lot of out of this and showed even more kindness toward each other as a result.” That  will certainly translate into day-to-day social intelligence.

They’ll also soon be going back to the William S. Baer School for their Baer-a-Thon, and Immersed will keep you posted on that.


February is a big month for showing that you care. On the heels of Valentine’s Day comes Random Acts of Kindness Day on Monday, February 17th. Show your love!

Head of TNCS Lower School Alicia Danyali Attends Maryland Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education Presentation!

The New Century School cares about nothing so much as quality education, so when the “Kirwan Commission” was established in 2016, TNCS took note. In fact, just last week, Head of Lower School Alicia Danyali, who is involved in advocacy for this initiative, attended a presentation and was motivated to share her thoughts about what she witnessed.

“Dr. Kirwan worked with the National Center on Education and the Economy (NCEE). to identify building blocks of high performing schools around the world for 1 year,” said Ms. Danyali. “During his year with NCEE, he researched gaps in Maryland, which led to the Kirwan recommendations.”

What’s the Kirwan Commission? 

Kirwan 2The Maryland Legislature established the Commission on Innovation & Excellence in Education in 2016 to improve Maryland’s school system to world-class status. This commission has become known as the “Kirwan Commission” after its Chairman, Dr. William E. “Brit” Kirwan, Chancellor Emeritus of the University of Maryland and nationally recognized authority on problems in education. With a long and illustrious career in education, starting in the classroom and working his way up to multiple university presidencies and chancellorships, Dr. Kirwan nevertheless calls this Commission, “the most difficult and important work of [his] life.”

Maryland Association of Boards of Education (MABE) puts it like this: “The Kirwan Commission on Innovation and Excellence in Education is a multi-year initiative to research and develop major funding and policy reforms to improve the quality of Maryland’s public education system to benefit all of the more than 790,000 students, which will in turn benefit the State’s economy and quality of life for all Marylanders.”

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Key Policy Areas

The Kirwan Commission has a two-pronged goal: 1) Make policy recommendations that will improve Maryland schools performance overall, and 2) propose changes to current funding formulas for schools.

KirwanThe Commission has targeted five key policy areas to achieve their goal: Early Childhood Education, High-Quality and Diverse Teachers and Leaders, College and Career Readiness Pathways, More Resources to Ensure Success of All Students, and Governance and Accountability.

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Interim Report

Screen Shot 2020-01-13 at 10.53.36 AMAlthough the Commission was supposed to submit its final report to the legislature by December 2018, it ultimately took another year to work out how to achieve the necessary funding (known as the “Thornton formulas”)—a whopping $4 billion (a small fraction of which will come from casino revenues). The Commission issued a comprehensive Interim Report in January 2019.

Benefits for All Marylanders

That price tag—sounds like a lot to ask? Not when you consider the potential return on investment (ROI) study done by Strong Schools Maryland and the Sage Policy Group. along with David Hornbeck, another Marylander with a stellar career in education. “Mr. Hornbeck is gathering facts and statistics to support getting this bill passed,” said Ms. Danyali. For example, 12% more moms would return to the workforce if preK were more widely available. With a well-educated population, prison expenses as well as Medicaid expenses drop, because individuals are employed. The bottom line is, by 2046 the ROI is projected to be $6.3 billion—that’s a lot more than the initial outlay.

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Educating youth, starting at very young ages, and valuing educators has multiple advantages: individual empowerment; healthy, more sustainable communities; and a robust statewide economy. (Read the full Executive Summary.)

Kirwan’s Presentation

IMG_0949Said Ms. Danyali: “Through his social justice advocacy group, Dr. Kirwan is committed to high-quality schools and especially early childhood education (ECE), with mandatory pre-K4 statewide and expanded offerings for ages 0–3, which is why I got involved. He spoke a lot about Judith P. Hoyer Center Early Learning Hubs, also known as “Judy Centers,” that provide resources and support for ECE in every county in Maryland.”

Some of Dr. Kirwan’s speech really resonated with Ms. Danyali:

This is the right vision and focus to match needs and prepare students for the current work world and for the future. We have to be as good as the best. There are many good schools and superb teachers, but not enough—47% of MD teachers leave the profession after 2 years due to lack of compensation and support. Students need to perform at a grade 10 ELA and have completed algebra 1 to graduate, but only 40% of MD students meet this criteria. We can’t allow this to stand. It’s unacceptable. We need to make education a high-status profession. If we do not shift this point, there is no point.

Want to Take Action?

The 2020 legislative began Wednesday, January 8th, and there will be multiple opportunities to make your voice heard. Here are a few:

Join StrongSchoolsMaryland in Annapolis: http://bit.ly/AnnapolisSignUp
Join the StrongSchoolsMaryland email list: http://bit.ly/ssmsignup
Get your voice counted for fixing the funding gap: https://www.strongschoolsmaryland.org/email-your-leaders

The legislation goes to vote on April 6th, and this is it. Another such commission will not be possible within this decade and maybe even the next. The time is now to stand for great education for all Marylanders. “It doesn’t matter if you’re public or private,” said Ms. Danyali. “This is going to affect every school in some way.”

‘Tis the Season for Service at TNCS!

Untitled-2Service is a Core Value at The New Century School, and Dean of Service Learning Alicia Danyali always has multiple initiatives going including by class/division, schoolwide, and community targeted. (To read more about TNCS Core Values, click here.) What better time of year to take a look back at how TNCS students have given back in the first half of the 2019–2020 school year?

It has been a busy semester with lots going on, so, in no particular order, let’s just jump right in!

Flashcards for Hope

Live with a Purpose reached out to Ms. Danyali in October because the Esperanza Center expressed a need for English/Spanish flashcards for their afterschool program for children new to the United States who are learning English. So, students in Ms. Lee‘s classroom made 60 packs of flashcards to assist them in learning some of the basics, like numbers and colors.

“Creating these materials also reinforced for TNCS 2nd- through 4th-graders the importance and the benefits of helping others, especially immigrants that need support when they move to a new country,” said Ms. Danyali. “The fact that our students could be supporting other kids who are learning other languages was very important to me. If the shoe fits, we’re going to wear it.”

Bake Sale for Shelter Animals

“For the older students, I prefer that their service initiatives be student led,” explained Ms. Danyali. So, the 7th- and 8th-graders held a bake sale alongside their October 23rd coffee and lemonade morning. They broke up into four groups, each researching a different organization (three were for animals and one was for support for the homeless). As part of their assignment, they were required to submit a needs assessment and what the organization does. After narrowing the organizations down to two, they then had to make a presentation about their preferred organization to be chosen, ultimately deciding to donate their proceeds to the Baltimore Humane Society. They baked their sale items with Ms. Danyali. Altogether, they made $40, which isn’t bad when you consider that their baked goods were priced at only $1 each. Based on wha the photo below shows, that’s a steal!

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Reading Buddies

The always-popular Reading Buddies program provides mutual benefits to younger TNCS students paired up with older TNCS students and vice versa. Ms. Klusewitz’s and Sra. Salas’s classes comprise one pair, and Ms. Sandkuhler and Ms. Hope’s classes another (among others). “They’ve really been sticking to it,” said Ms. Danyali. “It’s so great to see.”

Biscuits (and More) for BARCS 

Ms. Klusewitz’s and Sra. Salas‘s classes also partnered on an initiative for BARCS (Baltimore Rescue and Care Center). Ms. Klusewitz’s class baked homemade dog treats with Ms. Danyali, and Sra. Salas’s class decorated holiday gift bags. The two classes came together to stuff the bags with biscuits during a recent reading buddy morning.

Although it turned out that BARCS cannot accept comestibles that are not factory sealed (for the safety of their animal charges), the exercise in partnering up with older/younger friends to do some good in the world was not for nought. A 4th-grader and her family who regularly support the organization volunteered to “be ambassadors on behalf of TNCS to deliver the holiday cards and cheer to BARCS,” as Ms. Danyali put it.

Said Volunteer Coordinator Alicia Rojas: “The cards were a hit and they definitely felt the love from the students! All the students should be proud—they were extremely generous in picking this organization, that helps so many animals each year!”

Ronald McDonald House

IMG_3394 copyBack to the Core Values for a moment, Ms. Danyali has been focusing on those with with lower elementary students and asked teachers to create an area in their classrooms where the Core Values can be prominent and interactive. Students might attach a slip of paper to the wall, for example, that starts with “I show courage by . . . ” to both remind and encourage them to exemplify TNCS’s Core Values.

Compassion goes hand in hand with Service, and Ms. Danyali wrapped up a unit focusing on those two words together in Ms. Sandkuler‘s and Ge Laoshi‘s kindergarten and 1st-grade homerooms. “We have started a service project to partner with the Ronald McDonald House to do an on-site visit and activity to help the families they serve after the winter break,” said Ms. Danyali. “To make this meaningful for that age group, we are making cards with compassionate messages. The messages were very mature, and they really internalized what compassion is.”

tncs-ronald-mcdonald-house

Not surprisingly, a “kindness wall” has evolved over the last few months in Ms. Sandkuhler’s classroom.

Giving Tree

The class partnerships are fluid and often mix ages. For example, Ge Laoshi and Ms. Lee’s homerooms spearheaded a “Giving Tree” drive to collect scarves, mittens, and hats for fellow Baltimore students at a nearby school. Other collections were also ongoing.

Adopt-a-Baer-Student

Ms. Hope‘s 7th- and 8th-grade homeroom adopted a student for the holidays from the William S. Baer School in Baltimore City that serves severely physically or developmentally challenged students from ages 3 to 21. TNCS middle schoolers brought holiday gifts for their “adopted” student, Rachel, then went with Ms. Danyali on a field trip to tour the school and understand how students are supported there. They also got to meet many of the staff members and students.

IMG_1798“Our students were deeply moved by the experience and would like to return to the school in the spring when they host the school Baer-athlon,” said Ms. Danyali. (More on that in 2020!)

Looking Ahead

Additional service learning initiatives are planned for quarter 3 in early 2020. Ms. Klusewitz’s students, for example have broken out into groups to research an organization of interest and present their ideas to Ms. Danyali.

Linus Blankets will be ongoing as well—in fact, you can register your child for the upcoming quarter 3 ECA! The postcard below is a thank-you for blankets TNCS made this fall.

“As long as it’s meaningful and helpful, and it supports our local community, then I’m board for it,” said Ms. Danyali.


Did you know? The amazing TNCS Parent Council has a Service Committee that you can join to partake in some service of your own! Sign up here: https://www.signupgenius.com/go/30e0b4faea823a0fd0-parent

Or, you can get involved with planning a Community Event or a Fundraiser to enhance the TNCS community experience. Either way, we appreciate you!