Monday, December 9, 2013

Somos El Futuro Fall Conference in San Juan, Puerto Rico

The 2013 Somos El Futuro Fall Conference was held this year in San Juan, Puerto Rico from Nov. 6-10, 2113. Since last year's conference had to be postponed last November because of Super Storm Sandy there was much anticipation and interest in ensuring the success of this year's conference. Sponsored by the Somos El Futuro, Inc. and NYS Assembly//Senate Puerto Rican & Hispanic Task Force, which is chaired by the Hon. Assemblyman Felix W. Ortiz it drew major elected officials from U.S. Congress, New York State Assembly/ and NYC Council, among them, the Hon. Congresswoman Nidia Velazquez, Mayor Elect, Bill De Blasio Hon. Assemblyman Roberto Rodriquez, and Councilwoman Melissa Mark-Viverito. There were over 500 participants from the business community, Not for Profit organizations, Puerto Rican officials and over 100 legislators from NYS and NYC.

The conference was dominated by major issues such as immigration, national policies in Latin America and the needs of the growing Hispanic population in New York and the United States. The critical nature of these needs transformed the conference into a true policy retreat for all legislators and participants. The workshop topics ranged from issues of Charter Schools vs. District Schools, Economic Development, Hispanic Women Empowerment, Higher Education, Civil rights of the LGBTQ community to Mental Health and Preservation of services for Hispanic and underserved individuals with developmental disabilities The conference included some of the most perplexing issues facing the Hispanic family today.

The Honorable New York State Assemblyman Felix Ortiz, was honored and commended for his commitment to preserving services for persons with developmental disabilities and multicultural providers by the Federation of Multi-Cultural Programs, Sinergia, Inc., Human First and the New York Assoc. of Emerging and Multicultural Providers,. Moreover, Assemblyman Ortiz was recognized by our agency for his vision and foresight in the enormous undertaking of organizing the Somos el Futuro Conference.

On November 9th, the fourth day of the conference, our very own Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Sandra Ruiz and Dr. Len Torres joined other non-profit providers in a workshop focused on the preservation of services for people with developmental disabilities, and the critical role that community based, multicultural organizations play in serving them. The panel focused on the need to advocate for the sustainability of these agencies who serve the most underserved individuals, particularly Latino, other language minority and minority individuals.
Somos el Futuro posed three major questions:
  • Who are the most vulnerable among us?
What can we do to guaranteed human rights for all?
  • Where do we go from Here?

The mission of the Somos El Futuro is to create opportunities that increase the participation of the Puerto Rican/Hispanic community in the public policy making process and to build the capacity of New York's Hispanic communities to work towards the development of policies, laws, state rules and regulations that address the needs and issues of Hispanics across the state.

Thanksgiving Turkey Drive

Sinergia Inc., would like to express its most sincere and heartfelt appreciation to the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal  for their ongoing generosity. For the past three consecutive years they have donated 50 turkeys to our families during the Thanksgiving Holiday. Sinergia is grateful for this and other contributions the Franciscan Friars have donated throughout the year.      

We are thankful that they share 
their blessings with the families served by Sinergia. In addition on November 26, 2013 Sinergia  distributed 40  more turkeys to families in need. thanks to a generous donation by the Church of Heavenly Rest.
Families served by our Family Support Program, the Parent Support Group, Residential, Family Care, "We are Parents Too", Respite and Tier II (shelters) programs were beneficiaries.We thank these two organizations for their generosity and for making Thanksgiving a truly thank full day for these 90 families.    

Staff Announcements

It is with great pleasure that I announce that Yesenia Estrella will become the Deputy Director of Sinergia this December.   She is the present Director of our Housing Services and is very knowledgeable about the operations of the Metropolitan Parent Center, service coordination programs and other programs operated by the agency.  Mrs. Estrella has worked at Sinergia for the past seven years and is well respected and admired for her competency, devotion to individuals and families served and is well deserving of the appointment. 

Rolando Aquino has been appointed this December as Assistant Director of Residential Services.  He has been employed by Sinergia for the past 12 years and is an integral and important member of residential services and has earned this promotion. 

Paola Jordan assumed the position of coordinator of the Autism Initiative in September of this year.  Formerly a board member of Sinergia, she is the mother of twins in the autism spectrum and has enthusiastically taken the helm of the project and in a short time has introduced additional recreational and enrichment activities for the children and parents..

Last but not least Sandra Ruiz has stepped in as Interim Deputy Director in addition to her duties as coordinator of the We Are Parents Too Project.  Sandra can always be counted on to support the organization in whatever way is needed.  She is a treasure.

Dr. Len Torres has reduced his time at Sinergia because of his pressing work in Long Beach as an elected official.  Nevertheless, we thank him for his deep commitment to the people we serve and the mission of the agency.

Myrta Cuadra-Lash

Discoveries, Plus Retreat

 On October 19 through October 23, in Ocean Springs, Mississippi, I attended the Marc Gold & Associates fifth annual Discovery, Plus Retreat. The retreat required long days and even some evenings of attending informational sessions, presentations and workgroup sessions, but all of the time spent learning about Discovery was worth it. Beginning next year, staff at Sinergia will learn about Discovery.
This invitation only, retreat provided participants with information, skills, hands on experience and activities in understanding Discovery, and  how Discovery strategies are different from traditional assessment procedures for individuals with disabilities in preparing for customized employment.
Instead of trying to uncover the answer to what a job seeker wants to do, Discovery tries to determine a host of other findings. Discovery seeks to understand who the person with a disability is in as many aspects of life as necessary to inform planning.
A facilitator during one of the sessions helped us understand the shift that must take place by commenting; as professionals who work with and on behalf of individuals with disabilities and their families we must find a way to share in the journey of Discovery. This will require beginning new relationships, a new pact and new expectations.
In late January 2014 I will be training staff from Sinergia's Day Habilitation staff abut the Discovery process so that they may start introducing customized employment to the participants.
Cassandra Archie

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

50 Children

Ellaine Gallardo is a young woman who has worked at Sinergia for the past eight months as a Human Resources specialist. She took a short vacation this summer and by peeking at her computer screen we learned of her wonderful experience with young students in the Dominican Republic. The next time someone asks us what we did on our vacation let's remember Ellaine's story. We knew it had to be shared with our readers.

I impacted 50 children's lives and that changed my life.
I remember growing up with my family emphasizing that education was the only thing no one could take away. I feel I have been blessed to be surrounded with individuals that gave importance to the pursuit of my education, which has opened many doors to me and contributed to attainment of my greatest accomplishments. This year I felt extremely blessed and felt I should act on my religious beliefs.  

I decided to do something that would focus on education and impact individuals that might need extra support. I have seen the difference in the education system of the Dominican Republic versus that of New York City and decided for the first time to distribute book bags filled with school supplies to children in the Dominican Republic. My family in the Dominican Republic recommended a school in a poor region of the country side as in need of assistance. I chose 3rd and 4th graders because at that age children are young enough to benefit from positive influences, but old enough to understand the importance of education. I gathered all the materials by looking at weekly sales and searched for the best deals. My family and friends would also send me messages of deals for school supplies in their neighborhood as well. I remember visiting a store three-to-four times a week because there was a limit on customer purchases, as well as my arms would tire from carrying the materials home.

The school administration did not inform the children of my visit or the gifts. When I arrived at the classroom where the students were gathered, they all looked at me with confusion. I was introduced and asked to speak. During my speech, I told them of my plan, why I was doing it, and emphasized that education was extremely important. I called each child by their name to pick up their book bags filled with pencils, erasers, sharpeners, folders, notebooks, and crayons; I received a hug in return. The kids were shouting with excitement and were appreciative to receive materials they needed. The children did not want to leave my side and kept hugging me even after the distribution was over and the pictures were taken. The principal told the children I was their education godmother and they must stay in school as I instructed them to do so. My experience was wonderful and the heartfelt thank you and hugs surpassed my efforts.

I received 50 hugs of appreciation on September 25th, 2013 that changed my life. I did not want to publicize this event, because I did not do it to receive praise. I honestly did it to say thank you for my blessings. After the event, I realized that not sharing my experience would be selfish because everyone should know how rewarding it is to perform such acts. Besides, I had put the children's' picture in my desk top background on my computer screen at work at Sinergia and there was so much interest that I could not keep the information to myself and I was encouraged to   share my special project.

My plans for the next distribution are more ambitious as I will be collecting future donations, which I will share with a larger number of children. I will also not shy away from shining the light on these acts of sharing with others, since sharing this experience has also been an added blessing

New York City Parent & Community Engagement Conference

On Wednesday, October 16, the New York City Public Education Conference on Parent and Community Engagement was held at the New School’s Center for New York Affairs. The goals for the conference were:
  • To prepare a set of effective, research-based parent/family engagement programs that could be adapted to improve family and community engagement.
  • To discuss ideas and recommendations for new initiative in parent/family engagement.
  • To develop a report and follow-up activities to influence the next Mayor’s Public Education Agenda and Parent/Family and Community engagement polices as well as systemic actions.
Keynote speaks and a panel discussion, facilitated by Dr. Karen Mapp, Harvard Graduate School of Education, offered participants encouragement and ideas on Best Parent and Community Engagement models.   The World CafĂ© engaged participants in gathering ideas for improving the city’s parents and engagement structure, policies and systems.  

Affordable Care Act

The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act will ensure that all American have access to quality, affordable health care and will create the transformation within the health care system necessary to contain costs. The Act will accomplish fundamental transformation of health insurance in the U.S. through shared responsibility and reform will eliminate discriminatory practices such as pre-existing condition exclusions. Achieving all these reforms without increasing health insurance premiums will mean that all American must be part of the system and must have coverage. Tax credits for individuals and families will ensure that insurance is affordable for everyone.
The Affordable Care Act has caused many changes but a major change took effect on October 1st, 2013, when the marketplace exchanges opened for enrollment for coverage that can begin as early as January 1st, 2014. Individuals and families have the option of comparing affordable health insurances that meet the guidelines required by the Obama administration.  NY State of Health is the official health plan marketplace for New York State. Through this website individuals, families, and small businesses can:

- Quickly compare health plan options and apply for assistance that could lower the cost of their health coverage.
- See if they qualify for health care coverage from Medicaid or Child Health Plus through the Marketplace.
- Calculate cost and select plans.

- See if you are eligible for a Tax Credit.

There are several health plans options offered via the marketplace. The different options are categorized in metal tier and are as follow: Bronze tier, Silver tier, Gold tier, and Platinum tier. Keep in mind as the metal tier increases the coverage and premium cost also increases. There is also a catastrophic tier offered to individuals under 30. However, this tier does not offer tax credit even if the individual qualifies for it in other tiers.

It is essential individuals review their current plan and prepare for the future as many current health plans may become non-existent. Remember uninsured Individuals will face fines.
The NY State of Health website offers information to individuals & families, employers, employees, broker, and navigators. Please visit to apply or call 1855-355-5777 to speak to a representative.

Transforming Family Care for the 21st Century

Transforming Family Care conference was held at The Hilton Hotel in Albany. Kenia Peralta, Family Care Coordinator and Myrta Cuadra-Lash, Executive Director represented Sinergia along with statewide Family Care Coordinators, Family Care Providers, Home Liaisons, FC Nurses and Program Directors. Openings remarks were offered by Lucinda Grant-Griffin, Director of Home and Community Living, in addition to the introduction of Acting Commissioner Laurie A. Kelley with comments by Deputy Commissioner Gerald Huber.

Family Care: "The Caregiver lives in their primary residence with no more than four individuals who are unable to live independently and who are fully celebrated, supported, nurtured and integrated into the family lifestyle" .

Richard Niedel, keynote speaker offered a comparison of the New York State Family Care Program and Massachusetts Family Care Program, how the program has been successful in MA and how NY will transform the Family Care program for the 21st Century. Massachusetts' the Family Care Program benefits from wraparound services utilizing additional funding from state agencies for individuals with behavioral needs and Companionship Exemption to family Care through the MA department of Labor. Family Care - A GOOD LIFE, REFLECTIONS ON THE PAST, INSPITATION FOR THE FUTURE. Richard Niedel, Program Director of the Office for Community Living, Springfield, MA.

Goals and proposed Outcomes: Extending the services and benefits to a wider section of the population as in community work to reach beyond and exceed. Finding and hiring the best qualified Family Care Providers in a timely and cost effective manner, and a successful marketing plan to allow the family care program recognition among the target audience. A series of workshops were facilitated throughout the day to the transformation agenda:

  • Challenges and Solutions for Transforming Family Care Training for the Twenty first Century: to develop consistency/constancy to Family Care training system-wide. Employ different training methodologies for the FC manual and align the Family Care and Substitute providers' trainings.

  • Outreach, Recruitment and Marketing-Strategies to meet the diverse needs of Individuals in Family Care: the discussion of different strategies, challenges, barriers and solutions to outreach; and introduce new and innovative ways to recruit family care providers. Best practices to connect to new and innovative outreach, recruitment and marketing.

  • Innovation and Partnerships-Innovative Housing Initiative to strengthen and sustain Family Care Program: The introduction of the HUD approved Counseling Program, financial institutions that partnered with OPWDD and federal/state partnerships.

  • Using Social Media to Transform Family Care in the Twenty First Century: discussed the use of social media in Massachusetts's Family Care Program, the comprehensive screening, background checks and matching program, the use of staff market program to various entities.
State and Agency Sponsored Family Care programs are the most structured and cost effective which ensures the needs, choices and preferences of individuals living in family care are no different from anyone else's needs, choices or preferences. These individuals need a place to live, a place to learn and a place to work. They need love, support, guidance, friends, privacy, and recreation, good physical, mental and emotional health. They do not need to be isolated or made to feel that they are different.

Annual Affordable Housing Conference

The Neighborhood Preservation Coalition (NPC) of New York State held its annual affordable housing conference and membership meeting on October 10th and 11th in Albany, NY. The Coalition is  committed to support community-based organizations that are working on preserving and improving the quality of life in poor neighborhoods. T
his is done thru the creation of affordable housing and the delivery of services such as eviction prevention, tenant counseling and property rehabilitation.  

Sinergia, Inc. is proud to be an NPC member and to be part of this life changing network that is dedicated to make affordable housing possible for people with disabilities in the areas of Northern Manhattan, Harlem and East Harlem. Our housing department delivers a variety of housing services which include: housing advocacy and assistance with court related issues, repairs, tenant's education and subsidy and low income housing applications. Currently we operate three Tier II shelters, 26 Individual Residential Alternatives (IRA) apartments and six Individual Support Services (ISS) apartments for people with disabilities.  

At Sinergia we find that it is vital for neighborhood's tenants to be able to obtain affordable housing and maintain current low rent control and rent stabilized apartments. This is why we provide intensive one-to-one advocacy and case management for people at risk of losing their apartments.  

This past year many NPCs have dedicated a great amount of resources working on restoring those neighborhoods that were most affected by Superstorm Sandy. The work of the community preservation programs becomes more necessary as we confront a housing crisis in New York City where rent prices have skyrocketed. Due to the fact that rents are so incredibly high, we have more people living in overcrowded conditions, a large number of eviction cases and people going into city shelters.
The purpose of having an annual conference for all NPCs is to discuss the needs of our neighborhoods in order to improve the quality of life of the people living in these areas by ensuring the supply of affordable housing, promoting economic development, and preserving the already existing services. This meeting allows us to determine how to invest our time and funding.  

The conference was attended by government representatives and political leaders that came together to have an open discussion with the coalition members on issues related to disaster recovery, job creation, improving small business, housing alternatives and other very important topics. Among the attendees were Fran Barrett, NYS Governor's Nonprofit Liaison, Karin Kunstler Goldman from NYS Attorney General's office, Joseph Galante from the NYS Comptroller's office and the NYS Assembly member, Patricia Fahy.  

Awards were presented to two prominent individuals that dedicated their lives to the creation and development of neighborhood preservation programs in New York State. William Allen, NYSHCR's Director of the Neighborhood and Rural Preservation Program was presented the 2013 Leadership award and Gail Webster, was recognized with the Luis Arce Success Award for her work as the executive Director of Hudson River Housing.  

Those present were able to learn what other agencies in New York are doing to improve their communities and network with other fellow organizations. The idea of this annual conference is to allow an open communication between agencies that are devoted to improving the lives of residents in their communities and to exchange ideas in order to replicate the good work in other parts of New York. Sinergia is always looking forward to learning innovative ideas in order to improve our services. The conference was a great experience in which we were able to learn various methods to improve the development of our community as well as to express our concerns and advocate for better services for our residents.

Thursday, August 15, 2013

Facts about Bullying

Bullying has many faces and consequences and it’s difficult to define it. However, if you wanted a basic definition, this one developed by a well-known bullying expert is helpful: “Bullying is when someone repeatedly and on purpose says or does mean or hurtful things to another person who has a hard time defending himself or herself and is repeated over time.” Here are few interesting points about bullying:

•  While we may be familiar of how commonplace bullying is in our in our schools and playgrounds, bullying is also now being found in social media websites such as Face book, Twitter and in texting.  This is known as cyber bullying (or online bullying) and uses the Internet, computers, smart phones and I Pads to cause harm. Cyber bullying can be especially difficult on individuals with special needs because many of them use the Internet as a major form of communication and interaction with others and where they can feel just like their friends, unless someone decides to bully them;

• Children who are bullied are more likely than their peers to suffer from anxiety, depression, loneliness, and post-traumatic stress, and they are at heightened risk of suicide;

• Children who bully are more likely than others to experience peer rejection, anxiety disorders and academic difficulties;

• Children who both bully and are targets of bullies (known as “bully/victims”) who, unable to control their anger and frustration at being bullied, turn to bullying others and tend to have all of the problems of the bully and the victim plus are at greater risk for psychiatric disorders and criminal offenses in young adulthood.

Although anyone could be bullied, the targets are often children who are perceived as being different or vulnerable in some way, including kids who are sick or have special needs. It is clear that children with disabilities are especially vulnerable to bullying. This is shown by numerous studies, including one that found that up to 94 percent of students with disabilities report experiencing some form of bullying. Bullying has increased for students with disabilities as more are included in classes with non-disabled students. For instance, students with disabilities may demonstrate a lack of social awareness that makes them vulnerable to bullying.

The Metropolitan Parent Center of Sinergia will be addressing these and other issues at our annual anti-bullying event that will take place on Wednesday October 2, 2013 from 10AM-1PM. October is also National Bullying Prevention month so please check our website for further details about this event.

Wednesday, August 14, 2013

NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs


Andrew M. Cuomo, Governor
Jeff Wise, Executive Director

OPWDD and the Implementation of the - New York State Justice Center on June 30th, 2013-

June 30, 2013 is the date when the implementation of the new New York State Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs began. The June 30th date marked the culmination of a process spearheaded by Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature of legislation creating the Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs (Justice Center) last year in May 2012. Following a series of articles in the New York Times, exposing abusive behavior from some direct care staff from state agencies serving individuals with disabilities that went unpunished; the 2012 Protection of People with Special Needs Act(PPSNA) legislation represents the Governor’s initiative directed at transforming how the state protects over one million New Yorkers with disabilities in state-operated, certified, or licensed facilities and programs. This new law, the 2012 Protection of People with Special needs Act, (PPSNA), establishes a set of uniform standards to be implemented by the Justice Center for the protection of people receiving services from facilities and programs that are certified and/or operated by a number of state agencies, (including OPWDD and other state agencies like Department of Health(DOH), Department of Education(DOE) and Office of Mental Health(OMH). These agencies are all required to develop and enforce regulations in accordance with the applicable statutes.

OPWDD provides services directly and through a network of approximately 700 non-profit service providing agencies, with about 20 per cent provided by OPWDD state-run services and 80 per cent of services provided by a network of 700 private non-profits serving individuals in programs sponsored by OPWDD. Our agency, Sinergia Inc. forms part of this non-profit network of agencies and for many years has participated in incident management regulations through our Incident Review Committee in conformance to OPWDDs previous incident management guidelines. However, the new incident managent procedures established by the newly created Justice Center are not only autonomous from OPWDD and its network of non-profit agencies but will have real legal authority to investigate all significant incidents involving people with special needs. It’s Special Prosecutor/Inspector General has the authority to prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses;

What are the responsibilities of the NYS Justice Center for the Protection of People with Special Needs? The Justice Center created in legislation known as the “Protection of People with Special Needs Act” establishes the strongest standards and practices in the nation for protecting people with special needs. It serves both as a law enforcement agency and as an advocate for people with special needs. The Justice Center’s responsibilities include:

· Advocating on behalf of people with special needs and overseeing the quality of care they receive; · Operating a 24/7 Hotline which receives reports of allegations of abuse, neglect and significant incidents. Reports are made by service providers and others who are “mandated reporters” as well as by any individual who witnesses or suspects the abuse or neglect of a person with special needs;

· Ensuring that all allegations of abuse and neglect are fully investigated while maintaining a comprehensive statewide database that tracks cases until they are resolved and allows the Justice Center to monitor trends and develop abuse prevention initiatives.

· Previously to the implementation of the Justice Center, there were incident management review procedures for OPWDD and its network of nonprofit agencies to investigate and manage abusive situations experienced by individuals served by an agency, whether they were state or non profit agency operated. However, the Justice Center not only will function autonomously from OPWDD, DOH, DOE , OMH or other agencies functioning under its statuses, but the Justice Center has legal authority to investigate all significant incidents involving people with special needs. Its Special Prosecutor/Inspector General has the authority to prosecute allegations that rise to the level of criminal offenses

· Beginning on June 30, 2013, the Justice Center will maintain a “Staff Exclusion List” of individuals found responsible for the serious abuse or neglect of a person with special needs. Anyone entered into this statewide register is prohibited from ever working again with people with special needs in New York State.

It should be mentioned that OPWDD has been working with the Justice Center to develop regulations and procedures necessary to implement provisions of the 2012 Protection of People with Special Needs Act (PPSNA mentioned above. While this work is still underway, OPWDD has been updating their nonprofit network of agencies like our agency, Sinergia, Inc., with information delivered in the form of informational presentations, webinars as well as video presentations in the different regions this summer. Based on the latter updates and information received this summer; our agency has embarked in the process to update our incident management procedures , staff trainings and employee hiring procedures to deliver information and training to be in compliance with the PPSNA and new OPWDD regulations that were implemented on June 30, 2013.

For more detailed information on the Justice Center you can access it’s website at:

Support Group for Spanish-speaking Latino Males

The Metropolitan Parent Center and the Fathers Forum of NY, a men only support group for males who are raising children with special needs have entered into a partnership to create a support group for Spanish-speaking Latino males. The group had its first meeting Wednesday evening on April 3, 2013. Latino fathers were welcome to attend so they can share their stories regarding what it is like to raise a child with special needs.  

They  spoke of unique challenges which they had to confront including the lack of support from family and the struggle to get and keep jobs in order to try to address the needs of their children. They spoke of feeling loneliness and isolation because they were living in communities that were less than supportive with no connection to a support system. However, their stories were not just about struggles, frustration and despair. They shared wonderful and illuminating observations such as how they learned about patience, compassion, and acceptance and expressed their relationships with their children as being something precious.  

This unique support group offers Latino males with the occasion to get together with other males and to share their stories, challenges and their dreams and hopes for their children.
This support group will present fathers and other males with an opportunity to create and grow a community of Latino Fathers who will then reach out to other men who are raising children with special needs and invite them to join this unique group. This is an important objective because it is vitally important for males who have children with special needs to become more involved in the lives of their children. The next meeting will be taking place in the fall of 2013.  

You can visit the Sinergia website, and click on the calendar for the announcement regarding the date of the next meeting.

Back-to-School Tips and the Common Core

Back-to-School Tips and the Common Core

The new school year starts on Monday September 9th for New York City students. Getting off to a good start can influence children’s attitude, confidence, and performance both socially and academically. Here are a few suggestions to help promote a successful school experience.
It’s important to know the people who will work with your child during the school year. Try to introduce yourself to your child’s teachers, paras, school secretary, pupil accounting secretary, the principal and assistant principal Make sure you have their full names and titles, their telephone numbers and location in the school (room numbers) and an understanding of their roles and responsibilities. In addition, there are a number of important documents that you should either have or request. These include the school’s discipline code and your child’s most recent individualized education plan (IEP,) When dealing with school officials, teachers and service providers, it’s important to document, document, document!  Write things down, keep a record of phone conversations, and establish a “Paper Trail. Also become informed about your child’s special needs affects their behavior and their ability to learn in the classroom and at home.

You should have a conversation with your child’s teachers and tell them about your child’s interests, fears, health concerns, etc. The best way to support your child’s needs is to build and maintain a strong, positive relationship with all the people at school who play a role in educating your child. Now is the time to nurture alliances with teachers, support staff, parents, students and others who impact you and your child.

Parents should also note that this is the second year that the Department of Education is carrying out the Common Core Learning Standards or the Common Core. These are national standards for teaching reading and math designed to a consistent, clear understanding of what students are expected to learn. The Common Core focuses on testing students from the third grade through high school; while students in kindergarten through second grade will not be tested, the Common Core will also affect them. Because the Common Core has more challenging expectations, many students who take these new tests will encounter great difficulty in achieving a passing score. Parents should be aware of this situation and be prepared to lend greater support to their children.