Family Newsletter from Commissioner Rosa – 09/27/2023

September 27, 2023
Dear Parents and Families,
I hope this message finds you and your family well. We are thrilled to have your children back in classrooms across the state and cannot wait to see all the amazing things they will achieve.  

As this new school year gets underway, I encourage you to take advantage of the helpful resources detailed in this newsletter – resources that are designed to help your child excel academically and personally. And please take this opportunity to watch our Welcome Back Video Series, in which state leaders share their favorite school memories and advice for students.  

Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion Elevating student voice is critical to advancing diversity, equity, and inclusion (DEI) in school districts. NYSED, in partnership with the Region 2 Comprehensive Center, is hosting a live, three-part webinar series in which we will hear from six school districts that are engaging students as partners and leaders in DEI efforts. Please visit NYSED’s Office of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion website for more information and to register. The webinars take place on September 27, October 18, and November 8.  

Accountability  You can also stay involved in state-level education policy by familiarizing yourself with the state’s school and district accountability system. NYSED is accepting public comment on proposals to amend the Commissioner’s Regulations relating to the Every Student Succeeds Act’s (ESSA) accountability system.   More information about the proposed amendments is available on NYSED’s School and District Accountability web page. New York State’s approved ESSA plan can be found on NYSED’s ESSA plan web page. Comments on the proposed regulations will be accepted through November 27, 2023, and may be emailed to  

Indoor Activities, Family Events As the weather begins to turn chillier, you may be looking for more indoor family activities. The New York State Museum’s new exhibition, Each One Inspired: Indigenous Art Across the Homelands, features more than 60 original creations of Indigenous artwork by artists whose homelands lie within what is now New York. This collection of contemporary art focuses on Indigenous histories, teachings, and communities and how they relate to and inspire our relationships and connections to our environment. The State Museum is also home to many other exhibitions and experiences, including a reconstructed Haudenosaunee (Iroquois) Longhouse, the Cohoes Mastodon, Discovery Place, and the historic carousel!  

In addition, you can join the New York State Library each month for a full slate of free programs, including onsite walking tours and a presentation on picture books and activities to pair with them. Check out the full calendar of upcoming programs on the New York State Library website—including Family History Day on October 1.  

Congratulations I am also thrilled to share that this month, the U.S. Department of Education announced that 22 schools across New York have been recognized as 2023 National Blue Ribbon Schools, including nineteen public and charter schools and three nonpublic schools. A full list of the 2023 New York State National Blue Ribbon Schools is available on NYSED’s website. Congratulations to all the honorees!  

At the September 2023 Board of Regents meeting, the Board and I honored Zachary Arenz, a music teacher at Flower City School Number 54 in Rochester, the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year. Mr. Arenz embodies the power of the arts. In addition to his traditional music classes, he also teaches ensembles and instrumental lessons and has developed a music enrichment program for students who are experiencing grief. Mr. Arenz is not only a model leader for his students but also a dynamic example of excellence and motivation for his colleagues. He inspires students and positively impacts their social emotional development as well as their academic skills by ensuring his students enjoy learning through music. I am proud to honor Mr. Arenz as our Teacher of the Year. Congratulations!  

Watch this inspiring video from New York State United Teachers (NYSUT) to learn more about 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year Zachary Arenz.  
I would also like to congratulate the finalists for the 2024 New York State Teacher of the Year:  
– Jonathan Clemmons, Minisink Valley Middle School, Minisink Valley School District, Slate Hill, NY;
– Ellen Foley, Wheelock Early Childhood Center, Fredonia Central School District, Fredonia, NY; and
– Nichole Hantsch, Chenango Forks Middle School, Chenango Forks School District, Binghamton, NY.  
Health Insurance Coverage, Changes 
Finally, as students embark on a new school year, it is vitally important for families to maintain health and mental health insurance coverage. Having health insurance, including access to mental health care, is critical for children to thrive at school and in life. Children with health insurance are more likely to complete high school and graduate college compared with their peers who don’t have access to care. Health coverage for kids benefits everyone.  

If a child doesn’t currently have health insurance, families can apply for coverage through NY State of Health today. Nearly 99 percent of NY State of Health enrollees qualify for free or low-cost insurance that covers important benefits, including doctor visits, immunizations, mental health services, prescriptions, and hospital care. Child Health Plus provides additional dental and vision coverage.  

Consumers can enroll in a health plan by:  
– Calling the Customer Service Center at 1-855-355-5777
– Monday to Friday from 8:00 a.m. – 8:00 p.m.
– Saturday from 9:00 a.m. – 1:00 p.m.
– Logging onto the NY State of Health website
– Speaking with an enrollment assistor  

If a child is already insured through NY State of Health, families should be prepared for important changes. Starting in Spring 2023, New York State restarted eligibility checks for enrollees in Medicaid, Child Health Plus, and the Essential Plan. This means enrollees may need to take action to renew their health insurance. If your family has health insurance through any of these programs, make sure all of your contact information is up to date so NY State of Health can reach you regarding any renewal action you may need to take.  

Thank you for all you do to stay involved in your child’s education. When you attend parent-teacher conferences, check in with your child’s teacher regularly, and volunteer at school events, you are helping to ensure that they have a successful and fulfilling school year. Working in partnership, we can make this the best school year yet!   

Betty A. Rosa Commissioner