Resilience and Hope During the Coronavirus Pandemic

We hope this edition of The Perch finds you healthy and safe. We see firsthand how much some of you are suffering from this pandemic and how others are making sacrifices, both great and small. 

As we adjust to this new reality, we are in awe of our Brilla community. Our families have been tenacious, our students adaptive, and our staff valiant. The past three weeks at Brilla have been a testament to the fact that crises have the ability to bring out the best in us. 

Brilla Veritas teacher Ms. Rivera checked in with a scholar on FaceTime

As the coronavirus situation began worsening in NYC during the first weeks of March, members of the Brilla Schools Network Team and school-based leadership teams worked around the clock to prepare remote learning plans for an anticipated long-term closure. It was not long before we learned that, indeed, we would have to implement these plans. New York City public schools are all closed until April 20, though it looks likely the closure will be extended. 

In true Brilla fashion, our staff rallied. Teachers reached out to their students and families; our leadership team launched remote learning plans; and our operations teams and several staff volunteers distributed meals and some 675 Chromebook devices, as well as old-fashioned books.  On the first day of remote learning, Monday March 23, 85% of our students engaged online. Attendance rates continue climbing and, today, 90% of our students are learning online. We are working to get to 100%, despite the technological challenges! Our scholars are engaged online at the highest levels. You can see this for yourself by searching #ShineRemotely on Instagram and Facebook. 

A cornerstone of the Brilla model is that parents are the primary educators of their children. The family is at the center of our holistic approach, which emphasizes character and culture as much as academics. During the school closure, we remain committed to supporting the social, emotional and physical needs of our students and their families. For that reason, Brilla’s charter management organization, Seton Education Partners, created an Emergency Family Support Fund. Thanks to the generosity of many, we have provided $20,000-and-counting worth of food and supplies to our families. The inspiring stories are many: the brother of one of our staff members drove a truckload of supplies from his home in Massachusetts to the Bronx; two generous partners (with the help of a Seton board member) donated some 200 hotspots to ensure that our students can access the internet; and our tireless operations and janitorial staff worked weekends and late nights to distribute needed supplies to our families. Join us in celebrating these individuals and so many others who give us hope. Share your own story of hope by following Seton Education Partners on Instagram and Facebook and commenting with your stories of #LivingHope. 

Scholars and their families picked up their Chromebooks

The story of the past three weeks at Brilla is about resilience and hope. We are edified by the work of so many, especially our families. They are the heroes of this crisis, steadfastly dedicated to their children amidst these extremely trying circumstances. We think about them every day and long for the day when we will see them back in our hallways and outside our schools at pick-up and drop-off. Until then, may you stay healthy and well!

Warm regards,

Luanne Zurlo

Executive Director, Brilla Public Charter Schools

PS– I’ll end on a happy note. Our superintendent, Kelsey LaVigne, gave birth to a beautiful baby girl, Belle Elizabeth (8.2 pounds and 19.5 inches), on March 26th. Mother and baby are thriving!

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