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Our Home, Our Family, Our Pride!

Elena Grubova, Reporter

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I was greatly honored to interview our FDR Principal, Melanie Katz. I learned a lot of new and interesting things, which I would love to share with my Cougar family. Here is our Q and A!

Why did you decided to change the official classes for students?

“By doing this, we wanted to get an official class system which would help us understand our students better. The first number is the year of your graduation, the second number is the year that you are at in school: freshmen- 1, sophomore- 2, junior- 3, senior- 4, and the letter at the end- is the first letter of your guidance counselor’s last name. These two numbers can help teachers to understand if you are on track to graduate. It brings an awareness for everyone if the student is a little bit off-track.”

What is being done to assist lower levels ELLs? For example, students who should be level 1 are in with level 7, and they’re struggling.

“It’s a whole new New York State understanding of how the ENL or ESL should look. Now they’re saying ENL, as English as a New Language, because some students learn a lot of languages, and English is no longer a second one. The first level, as everyone used to call it, is now Entering. It’s when you just came into the country and barely speak, write, or read. Second level is now called Emerging- once you started to write and read things are getting easier. Then comes Transitioning, Expending and Commanding. So, the levels that we had before 1,2,3 are now gone. All of these changes happened two years ago, but we are finding some of the struggles.  For example, some of the freshmen were sitting with the juniors and seniors in a regent class, and some 9th graders were taking a really hard English Regent. It’s a little difficult this year, because we’re transforming it from were it was to were it is now.”

A lot of students hear the term “college readiness,” but many of us would like classes in our future professions? Are there any plans to further expand FDR’s course offerings?

“Right now we have College Now, which is has more traditional courses. We also have an agreement with Touro College, and we’re planning to give college credits for programming courses.  I would personally love to open accounting courses and multimedia design courses. The answer is YES, YES and one more YES! It’s a process, but I would love for students to have a chance to have courses that they are interested in and will use as a future job! I also want them to be ready to face the truth, and realize that they don’t like certain subjects at all, so they won’t waist their time in college, taking the wrong courses then. There are also a lot of AP classes that we offer this year, one of the great examples is AP Psychology. “

Why do seniors, who don’t need many credits, have a full schedule if they don’t need credits?

“We are mandated by NYS education law to give a minimum hours of instruction. In the past, students may not have received it. We are required to give it. I know that some of the students would like to leave earlier, some students may even have jobs. But I’m also looking at it as an opportunity to continue supporting our kids. I do really worry when a student finishes his or her Science requirements in 3 years, and the last year they’re not taking Science at all. I would love to give more college level courses for seniors and hopefully students will be happier with that option.”

We have many students who speak so many different languages. I know we added Chinese as a language class this year, why don’t we have other language like Arabic, Russian, Uzbek, or Urdu?

“The program is called a Bilingual Program. It’s very difficult to get teachers with the other languages, and I know that we have a growing population of Urdu, Arabic, Bengali, Russian, and Uzbek. Uzbek is really difficult, because we are constantly looking for translation resources. But we’re trying other things. For the new students that just came into the country, we put two teachers in the classroom to support the students. Students from different cultures bring so much to FDR, and that’s who we are as a school. It’s also a challenge not only for students and teachers, but for parents too. We do hire people who help us with the parents, plus we do have a phone number to a translation unit, so whenever we have a parent who doesn’t speak English, we get the translation though this service. It’s a huge opportunity and a big challenge for us. During the summer we hired two Chinese teachers, and I actually looked for a Russian one as well. The program requires that we hire two teachers in a given language, and we were only able to find one. I was looking for Chinese, Russian and French, but  I’m really happy with the two new Chinese teachers, they are WONDERFUL, and I would love to bring in more languages.”

Do you have any special messages for the Cougars at FDR?

“Cougars are the BEST! It is an absolute pleasure to be a part of this community. I’m incredibly lucky to be at FDR, and our Cougars are a huge part of it. I’m the luckiest principal in Brooklyn as far as I am concerned. I have the best kids in Brooklyn. Our students are so nice and polite to each other. We have amazing diversity in the building. This is a very good place to be! I would love to thank everyone at FDR for making me, and many others, feel like FDR is our second home and family.”

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