Pomp and Circumstance

U.N. secretary general, 'Radiolab' host to address city graduates

The most email newsletter of Democracy Prep Public Schools touted Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations secretary general, as the speaker for the charter network's first high school graduation ceremony. He joins dozens of other prominent people who will appear at city schools' graduations this month.
The most email newsletter of Democracy Prep Public Schools touted Ban Ki-Moon, United Nations secretary general, as the speaker for the charter network’s first high school graduation ceremony. He joins dozens of other prominent people who will appear at city schools’ graduations this month.

The secretary general of the United Nations joins luminaries in media, the arts, and public service as speakers at city graduation ceremonies this month.

Ban Ki-Moon will speak June 24 at Democracy Prep Charter High School, which is graduating its first class this year. Recruiting the graduation speaker was a feather in the cap for Seth Andrew, the charter network’s founding director, who is stepping down at the end of the month.

Among the many Ray Kelly, the city’s police commissioner, and Salvatore Cassano, the fire department commissioner, are each speaking at high schools with a focus on public safety. A Baltimore Ravens football player will speak at a Manhattan school that serves many transfer students. And in a coup that is likely to excite teachers, Jad Abumrad, host of NPR’s “Radiolab,” is speaking June 24 at Lyons Community School in Brooklyn. 

Chancellor Dennis Walcott will speak at 20 graduation ceremonies, four more than then 16 he appeared at last year. He will appear at elementary, middle, and high schools; selective schools and ones that accept students who have flunked out before; schools that prepare graduates for work as well as college; and two charter schools, including Democracy Prep. Walcott will also share the stage on June 24 at the Cinema School, which is also graduating its first class, with James Murdoch, a top deputy at NewsCorp to his father, Rupert Murdoch.

The city also released statistics about high schools’ top graduates:

For the Class of 2013, there are approximately 398 valedictorians. Of these students, 66% percent are female, 48% percent speak a language other than English at home and 74% percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Those statistics are mostly identical to those posted in each of the most recent years. Some of them also mirror national trends: Estimates put the proportion of valedictorians who are women at over 70 percent. The proportion of valedictorians who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch, however, is 9 percentage points higher than in previous years. Citywide, poverty has been on the rise among students and their families.

The city’s full press release about the graduation speakers is below.


Artists, business leaders, authors, educators, actors, and government officials this month are coming to New York City’s public schools to congratulate and offer words of wisdom to the graduates of 2013.

Here is a list that highlights some of the graduation keynote speakers by date of the graduation and school:

June 20

Rob King, vice president of editorial, print, and digital media at ESPN – Business of Sports School.
Robin Roberts, ABC’s “Good Morning America” host – Young Women’s Leadership School, Harlem.
Lauren Velez, television actress – Leon M. Goldstein High School.

June 21

Wendy Williams, media personality and author – Brooklyn High School for Law and Technology.
Salvatore Cassano, FDNY commissioner – FDNY High School for Fire and Life Safety.
Charles Rangel, United States congressman – PS 79 The Horan School.
Christopher M. Livaccari, director of education and Chinese language initiatives at the Asia Society – East-West School of International Studies.
Dr. Ricardo Fernandez, president of Lehman College – High School of American Studies at Lehman College.
Jennifer Raab, president of Hunter College – Hunter Science High School.

June 24

Raymond Kelly, NYPD commissioner – High School for Law Enforcement and Public Safety.
His Excellency Ban Ki-Moon, Secretary General of the United Nations – Democracy Prep.
Grace Meng, United States congresswoman – Francis Lewis High School.
Hakeem Jeffries, United States congressman – Transit Tech Career and Technical Education High School.
Mary Wittenberg, president and CEO of New York Road Runners – Gaynor McCown Expeditionary Learning School.
James Murdoch, deputy COO of Newscorp, and Katherine Oliver, commissioner of the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs – The Cinema School.
Chris Canty, defensive end for the Baltimore Ravens – Murray Hill Academy.
Jad Abumrad, co-host of NPR program Radiolab – Lyons Community School.
Clem Richardson, New York Daily News columnist – Channel View School for Research.

June 25

Dr. Joseph Polisi, president of the Juilliard School – Frank Sinatra School of the Arts.
Vanessa Williams, actress, singer and dancer, and Will Chase, Tony Award-nominated actor – Bronx Theatre High School.
Cheryl Wills, NY 1 news anchor – Unity Center for Urban Technologies.
Daniel Reed, president of the NBA Development League – Manhattan Business Academy.
Dr. Pedro Noguera, urban sociologist at NYU – Academy for Language and Technology.

June 26

Ann Tisch, founder and president of the Young Women’s Leadership Network – Young Women’s Leadership School, Astoria.
Nancy Giles, CBS Sunday Morning contributor and actress, Jamaica High School.
Maher Nasser, Director, Outreach Division, United Nations Department of Public Information – CSI High School for International Studies.
An-My Lê, artist, 2012 MacArthur Grant winner – Bard High School Early College, Manhattan.

Keynote addresses by Department of Education officials:

Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott – Hospital School Program, June 13; D75 Program at JFK Jr. School in Queens, June 14; PS 3 Margaret Gioiosa in Staten Island, June 18; Urban Institute of Mathematics in the Bronx, June 19; P.S. 219 Kennedy-King in Brooklyn, June 19; GED Plus, June 20; OACE Nursing Program, June 20; J.H.S. 57 in Brooklyn, June 20; P.S. 196 in Queens, June 20; P.S. 86 in Queens, June 21; LYFE program, June 21; Tompkins Square Middle School in Manhattan, June 21; The Cinema School in Manhattan, June 24; Kingsborough Early College School in Brooklyn, June 24; Democracy Prep Charter High School, June 24; University Neighborhood High School in Manhattan, June 24; Queens High School for Information, Research and Technology, June 25; New Dorp High School in Staten Island, June 25; Bard High School Early College (Manhattan & Queens), June 26; Explore Charter School in Brooklyn, June 26.

Chief Academic Officer and Senior Deputy Chancellor Shael Polakow-Suransky – International High School at Lafayette in Brooklyn, June 21; High School for Excellence and Innovation in Manhattan, June 25.

Senior Deputy Chancellor Marc Sternberg – Uncommon Charter High School in Brooklyn, June 14; Sunset Park High School in Brooklyn, June 26.

Deputy Chancellor Corinne Rello-Anselmi – Hospital School Program, June 13; P.S. 108 Philip J. Abinanti in the Bronx, June 20.

General Counsel Courtenaye Jackson-Chase – Hellenic Classical Charter School in Brooklyn, June 25.

Deputy Chancellor Dr. Dorita P. Gibson – ReStart Academy Program, June 19; OACE Nursing Program, June 20; GED Plus, June 20; The BELL Academy in Queens, June 21; Kingsborough Early College Secondary School in Brooklyn, June 24.

For the Class of 2013, there are approximately 398 valedictorians. Of these students, 66% percent are female, 48% percent speak a language other than English at home and 74% percent are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch.

Weekend Reads

Need classroom decor inspiration? These educators have got you covered.

This school year, students will spend about 1,000 hours in school —making their classrooms a huge part of their learning experience.

We’re recognizing educators who’ve poured on the pizazz to make students feel welcome. From a 9th-grade “forensics lab” decked out in caution tape to a classroom stage complete with lights to get first graders pumped about public speaking, these crafty teachers have gone above and beyond to create great spaces.

Got a classroom of your own to show off? Know someone that should be on this list? Let us know!

Jaclyn Flores, First Grade Dual Language, Rochester, New York
“Having a classroom that is bright, cheerful, organized and inviting allows my students to feel pride in their classroom as well as feel welcome. My students look forward to standing on the stage to share or sitting on special chairs to dive into their learning. This space is a safe place for my students and we take pride in what it has become.”

Jasmine, Pre-K, Las Vegas, Nevada
“My classroom environment helps my students because providing calming colors and a home-like space makes them feel more comfortable in the classroom and ready to learn as first-time students!”


Oneika Osborne, 10th Grade Reading, Miami Southridge Senior High School, Miami, Florida
“My classroom environment invites all of my students to constantly be in a state of celebration and self-empowerment at all points of the learning process. With inspirational quotes, culturally relevant images, and an explosion of color, my classroom sets the tone for the day every single day as soon as we walk in. It is one of optimism, power, and of course glitter.”

Kristen Poindexter, Kindergarten, Spring Mill Elementary School, Indianapolis, Indiana
“I try very hard to make my classroom a place where memorable experiences happen. I use songs, finger plays, movement, and interactive activities to help cement concepts in their minds. It makes my teacher heart so happy when past students walk by my classroom and start their sentence with, “Remember when we…?”. We recently transformed our classroom into a Mad Science Lab where we investigated more about our 5 Senses.”


Brittany, 9th Grade Biology, Dallas, Texas
“I love my classroom environment because I teach Biology, it’s easy to relate every topic back to Forensics and real-life investigations! Mystery always gets the students going!”


Ms. Heaton, First Grade, Westampton, New Jersey
“As an educator, it is my goal to create a classroom environment that is positive and welcoming for students. I wanted to create a learning environment where students feel comfortable and in return stimulates student learning. A classroom is a second home for students so I wanted to ensure that the space was bright, friendly, and organized for the students to be able to use each and every day.”

D’Essence Grant, 8th Grade ELA, KIPP Houston, Houston, Texas
“Intentionally decorating my classroom was my first act of showing my students I care about them. I pride myself on building relationships with my students and them knowing I care about them inside and outside of the classroom. Taking the time to make the classroom meaningful and creative as well building a safe place for our community helps establish an effective classroom setting.”


Jayme Wiertzema, Elementary Art, Worthington, Minnesota
“I’m looking forward to having a CLASSROOM this year. The past two years I have taught from a cart and this year my amazing school district allowed me to have a classroom in our school that is busting at the seams! I’m so excited to use my classroom environment to inspire creativity in my students, get to know them and learn from their amazing imaginations in art class!”


Melissa Vecchio, 4th Grade, Queens, New York
“Since so much of a student’s time is spent inside their classroom, the environment should be neat, organized, easy to move around in but most of all positive. I love to use a theme to reinforce great behavior. I always give the students a choice in helping to design bulletin boards and desk arrangements. When they are involved they take pride in the classroom, and enjoy being there.”

moving forward

After Confederate flag dispute at Colorado football game, schools pledge to bring students together

PHOTO: Marc Piscotty
Manual High students.

Acknowledging “we may never have a conclusive picture of what happened,” two Colorado school districts sought to move past a controversy over whether a Confederate flag was displayed at a football game and open a conversation between the two school communities.

The principal of Manual High, Nick Dawkins, wrote in a community letter over the weekend that the visiting Weld Central High School team “displayed a Confederate flag during the first quarter of the (Friday night) game, offending many members of the Manual community.”

Officials from Denver Public Schools and Weld County School District Re-3J released a joint letter Tuesday saying that based “on what we have learned to date, however, the Weld Central team did not display the Confederate flag.” At the same time, it said, multiple Manual eyewitnesses “reported seeing spectators who attempted to bring a Confederate flag into the game and clothing with flag images.”

Going forward, students from the two schools — one rural and one urban — will participate in a student leadership exchange that has student leaders visit each other’s schools and communities to “share ideas and perspectives,” the letter says.

“At a time in our country when so many are divided, we want our students instead to come together, share ideas and learn together,” says the letter, which is signed by the principals of both schools and the superintendents of both school districts.

The alleged incident took place at a time when issues of race, social injustice, politics and sports are colliding in the United States, making for tough conversations, including in classrooms.

Weld Central’s mascot is a Rebel. Manual, whose mascot is the Thunderbolts, is located in one of Denver’s historically African-American neighborhoods.

Dawkins in his initial community letter also said “the tension created by the flag led to conflict on and off the playing field,” and that three Manual players were injured, including one who went to the hospital with a leg injury. He also said some Manual players reported that Weld Central players “taunted them with racial slurs.”

Weld Central officials vehemently denied that their team displayed the flag. In addition, they said in their own community letter they had “no evidence at this point that any of our student athletes displayed racially motivated inappropriate behavior.”

They said district officials “do not condone any form of racism,” including the Confederate flag.

Weld Central fans told the Greeley Tribune that they didn’t see any Confederate flag.

Read the full text below.