COVID-19 A Year Like No Other. Our Interview With Ms Katz


It is a very unique Cougar year, and Principal Katz really wishes we were all together, physically, at school! The New Dealer was lucky to get a chance to sit down with Principal Katz to discuss the 2020-2021 school year.

The New Dealer: What was the preparation process like, when you were preparing for this school year amidst the pandemic?
Principal Katz: The preparation process for this school year was very, very different. At the end of the school year, last year, there was not a lot of information provided on how remote learning worked, and how it was supposed to work. So, to prepare for this school year, I worked with a ton of people at the school, like the teachers and the School Leadership Team (SLT). We were trying to understand what resources we had, what was possible, and we also were trying to understand what it would be like for everyone. We listened to different ideas and inputs from the teachers, the Chancellor, amongst many others, and we were all trying to work together to prepare for the new school year.

The New Dealer: How did it feel to reopen school, even though the pandemic was still very dangerous to students and the staff?
Principal Katz: It really was a lot of stress, because we all wanted it to be very safe for everyone. Although I was very fortunate, because there were a lot of people who were helping to figure it all out. I also met with principals from other schools, just so that we can do what’s safe for everybody. If I am being honest, this school year has been very difficult for all of us.

The New Dealer: How did you deal with the fears of many parents, whose children signed up for blended learning at the beginning of the school year?
Principal Katz: Well, I worked with everyone at FDR to find good methods for blending learning. I also worked with different people to figure it all out- like what it was supposed to be like, and what it would look like. Also, we just tried to be extremely honest with parents on what was going on, and we have had several parents and family meetings.

The New Dealer: What made you decide to change the method of remote learning used, because it was different last year, with mostly asynchronous work?
Principal Katz: Remote learning last year was not easy for teachers and students, because it was so new to everyone. Everyone was trying to figure it out, and it just wasn’t possible to start with synchronous work- everyone was very stressed. Also, most teachers did not know how to do synchronous learning. However, for this school year, the Chancellor, and UFT (the teacher’s union) agreed on synchronous instruction, and we decided on a 20 minutes live meeting for everyone. We were required to inform the parents, and at the end of the day, everyone understood.

The New Dealer: How do you think students, teachers, and even parents are responding to this new normal?
Principal Katz: I think, and I hope, that people are getting more accustomed to it. Although, you can really feel this new normal during the different holidays. At FDR, we are still giving out technology devices to different students. I know, this new normal is very hard for teachers, because they had to figure it out Overall, I think people are progressing, even though it’s not easy.

The New Dealer: How did the school prepare teachers for this new way of teaching and learning?
Principal Katz: In the beginning of remote learning last year, teachers had just three days to learn how to work with remote learning. Now, we have Teacher Leaders as well as Assistant Principals of each department, who have been helping the staff out. We also ask the teachers what type of software they like, to help them to teach better. They have to do what works best for them. We have had teachers trained about how to support the emotional health of their students, so that we are not just paying attention to the academic aspect of our students’ lives.

The New Dealer: How do you feel the school year is going so far; is it going as well as you wanted, or have there been some ups and downs here and there?
Principal Katz: I really wish we all could be together. I think a lot of students find comfort zones in schools that they don’t have right now. Everyone is really trying their best, although most teachers wish that the students would show their faces, plus use their mics more. In all, I just really wish that we were all together physically in school.

The New Dealer: Any message for the Cougar Nation?
Principal Katz: Stay safe! Wear a mask! Wash your hands! Social distance! Make good decisions! I can’t wait for us all to be together!

A special thanks to Principal Katz for making time in her busy schedule for us! We all look forward to a great rest of the year.