The student news site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

The New Dealer

The student news site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

The New Dealer

The student news site of Franklin Delano Roosevelt High School

The New Dealer

An Interview With Ms. Katz!


Hello, returning Cougars, and a hearty welcome to all the incoming freshmen! The New Dealer sends good wishes to you all, hoping that your summer break was splendid and that you’re adjusting smoothly to the routine of school once again. The New Dealer commences the academic year with a special interview featuring our esteemed Principal Katz!

The New Dealer: Starting this new school year, there has been a significant change to the bell sound. Is there any purpose behind changing the bell sound?  

Ms. Katz: Yes, the bell sound that we had let us know when classes ended and started, but it was also very abrupt. We would find ourselves when there were guests in the building, and they heard it, we saw them visibly react to it. We would say, “Oh, I’m sorry.” It was very intrusive, and I think that so much of FDR is not that way. So, we started thinking about how a lot of other high schools use music, and we spoke to a few people about it. People were concerned about having four minutes of music like other high schools do, so we said, “Alright, let’s try some music at the beginning and end of the period.” We went through, and we started to try and figure out, just as a starting point, some music that represented who we are, and we had a few people do it. Mr. Catalano found the software and programmed it in. We added, “Please step away from the closing doors,” which I know is a bit repetitive. Some people would know this is the end, because sometimes music just trailing off won’t be enough of an end. We’re actually looking for a different way for that message to be sent, because we know it’s a bit much at this point. I’d be interested in knowing how the students liked it, and I know that the student government just sent out a survey.

The New Dealer: Yes, the student government sent out a survey and asked for feedback on the bell sound to see whether or not students liked it. There was also the option of students being able to recommend songs, so that their music recommendations would have an opportunity to be played during the bell sound.

Ms. Katz: I actually sent out a survey to the students and the staff as well, probably a week in, to see what they thought. Some students liked it, and some said to bring the old bell sound back. Students also gave recommendations, and a lot of the songs you’re hearing today are from those recommendations.

The New Dealer: A concern for many students has been where to access their grades and check their progress for this school year. Many students are finding it challenging to access and depend on GAMA for checking their progress this school year. I’m aware that our school is using GAMA for teachers in order to take attendance and input grades for students. What I’m interested to know is where can students access their grades in order to check their progress for classes? 

Ms. Katz: Last year, it was very difficult as well. We know that we had the old system which worked for us, and then there was a data breach. Now we have GAMA, and they actually brought it live a couple years early. Currently, the GAMA view for students is in TeachHub, but you can’t see the individual assignments- and they’re working on that. There’s a group specifically for whenever we hear of a problem. We take a screenshot and reach out to them, and we are hoping you are able to view the individual assignments soon. Some of your teachers use Google Classroom, and you may be able to see assignments there. Your parents can see the individual assignments and grades. If your parents go into their NYCSA accounts, they can actually see it, and you can work with them. Student government is starting to create a bunch of videos that we can play in the cafeteria and put on Instagram, to show exactly where students can go and check their grades to try and help students. We’re going to do the same thing for parents as well. Student government, I understand, is also going to be doing Tech Tuesday, where they are going to be tabling and helping students with viewing their grades and progress. In the beginning, when Pupilpath came out, no one knew how to do it, and the teachers were figuring it out. I was a teacher then, and the students and families were figuring it out. The good news is that we know what we want to find and what we want to see, just that we don’t know where it is yet. It’s a matter of transferring things over.

The New Dealer: As you know, FDR is a diverse school with many students coming in from different cultural backgrounds, especially with a large population of multilingual learners. How does the school foster an inclusive environment that celebrates different cultural backgrounds? 

Ms. Katz: We are really lucky, because we are a very diverse school, and people who aren’t with us don’t understand what it’s like in the building. When we look for staff members, we look for members that speak the languages, and come from the cultures, which match our school’s population. This helps the students and parents feel comfortable, and that’s been a big part of it. We will also be having a surprise announcement shortly that we will talk about, as a way for our school to celebrate our cultures as a whole, so stay tuned!

The New Dealer: For this upcoming school year, can you describe what are FDR’s main goals that you would like to see accomplished? 

Ms. Katz: Our main goal, as always, is based on student achievement and improving student outcomes. When we look at our graduation rate and how students are doing on Regents, we see what’s happening in the classroom. A few different groups of people get together and choose what’s called an “instructional focus.” Right now, for this year, you may see it in classrooms. It may be more understandable to the teachers than to the students at this point, because we’re looking at tier one instruction and core instruction in the classroom. We are making sure we can support the teachers and students in having the best instruction and learning. We have great teachers; they care about the students, and sometimes learning something new or understanding how we can help is very powerful. One of the things we’re looking at is that we had a visit from the Superintendence office a couple of weeks ago. The APs and I went around and found that sometimes students are silent in class and don’t want to talk. A lot of how multilingual students learn is by speaking, and we know that sometimes it’s scary. You might need to see sentence frames and vocabulary words, and it’s intimidating to speak in front of a large group. We are looking at how we can support the teachers in setting up a way that students feel comfortable talking and speaking to each other. That’s what’s important to us: getting the students to talk productively, using academic language about the content and improving their outcomes. We also want people to feel safe and comfortable, and that’s very important. We have a lot of people in the building between the guidance counselors, deans, APs, and teachers. It’s also important that the students feel safe, and the parents feel safe that their kids are in the building.

The New Dealer: Regarding social media threats to FDR and the incident that occurred over the summer where a kid was fatally shot near FDR, what measures has the school implemented in response to ensure the safety and well-being of students and staff? 

Ms. Katz: The most important thing is safety. At the bottom of my email, you’re going to see something that says, “Maslow before Bloom.” Maslow is saying that if someone doesn’t feel safe, they’re not going to be able to learn. There is a lot of thought and work into that. When you come to school and your parents send you here, you have the belief that you’re going to be safe here, and that’s a priority. One thing that helped us with the social media threat is that students told us about it. We started getting emails about it over the weekend, and we were able to have the scanning at the school and learn more about what happened by Monday morning. A lot of it is continuing to let people know that if you hear something or see something, let us know so we can keep you safe. It’s using relationships where people feel comfortable reaching out and emailing a teacher over the weekend.

There’s also a lot of procedures in place; you’ve seen the drills we’ve done with the evacuation, soft lockdown, and shelter in drills, so that we all know what to do. We even had a challenge last Friday with all the rain. We were able to get back to a fairly normal day quickly, because there are people in the building—they’re called the BRT (Building Response Team)—that can help us do that. There are people inside the building, and people outside of the building, who guide us. We’re in touch with the Borough’s Safety Director, the Supervisory Office, and the Youth Officers. There are many Youth Officers that we can reach out to in case there are any worries. There’s a new Commanding Officer at the precinct who came to our school. He’s learning about us, and we’re in touch. There are procedures in place in case there’s an emergency, and as I mentioned before, it’s also about feeling psychologically safe.

If we have scanning, we have staff members at the entrance, or I’ll be outside, where people are helping guide and explain what’s happening. We have guidance counselors around if students feel upset so there is someone they can talk to. Ms. Repoli makes announcements to make sure we respect everyone and are safe. It’s a shared responsibility, but a big part is the procedures are place, so that if there is an incident, we know how to react. This is why we practice it. I think most people feel safe, but we live in a world where things unfortunately happen.

The New Dealer: As we conclude this interview, is there a final message you’d like to convey to FDR students to motivate them for this upcoming school year?

Ms. Katz: FDR is really an incredible place, where you’re in a community where we care about each other. The diversity and exposure to so many different cultures are really a gift. When we hear about things we know don’t happen at FDR, anyone can make a poor decision at any point, but we are very fortunate. One of the things you are going to see and hear about around the building is the Moral Compass of Kindness. It emphasizes responsibility, compassion, integrity, forgiveness, and how we should work with each other. When we speak about the Moral Compass of Kindness, think about what it is. Because, in a community of kindness and people who want success, it’s going to happen.

A special thanks to Ms. Katz for taking her time to discuss so many important issues! Let’s have a great year Cougars!

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