Dear Brilla Families, Staff, and Friends,
Tomorrow marks the end of a historic school year. When we welcomed scholars to school on August 13, none of us imagined we’d be ending the year like this. In many ways, we’ve lived through the unimaginable– a perfect-storm of coronavirus, George Floyd’s murder, and record economic hardship. All three of these on their own are deeply painful. Together, they are pushing us to our limits. As we are all too aware, our community has been hit the hardest by all three blows.
We’re proud of Brilla’s response to the coronavirus and to the economic devastation it has wielded upon our families. Thanks to contributions from small and large donors alike, we have provided $300,000 worth of food, supplies, and rental assistance to some of our most vulnerable families. We’ve done so directly, with no middleman, thanks to the heroic efforts of our operations teams and the thoughtful listening and communications of our teaching staff. All funds went to the specific needs of Brilla families in a personalized manner.
Our staff has been remarkable in reaching virtually every scholar and maintaining daily attendance rates of over 90%. They’ve found creative ways to teach scholars the best content, engage them at high levels, and educate them in mind, body, and spirit. Some of their work is featured in this heart-warming Teacher Appreciation Video made by the NYC Charter Center. In this issue of The Perch, you’ll read about two ways we have been educating the whole child while remote: continuing our partnership with El Camino Extended Day Faith Formation Program and offering a robust Fine and Applied Arts program.
Responses to coronavirus and economic devastation have been concrete, fairly obvious and immediate because these are more discrete and short-lived events with solutions that do not necessarily require a change in mindset.
Responding to George Floyd’s murder, or the many other police killings and abusive treatment of Black lives that have happened over centuries — rather than over weeks and months — takes many forms and is not necessarily as obvious. For some of us, it may mean marching in the streets, organizing others in political or social action, reaching out to those who have been directly impacted, volunteering, confronting family members or friends who demean others due to race, and the list goes on.
We are experiencing a moment that will change the arc of history. This is why for the first time, Brilla suspended classes on June 4 in response to the latest in a long line of injustices committed against Black people. We cannot be silent: we condemn all violence against Black lives; we stand in solidarity with our Black and Brown brothers and sisters. Black lives are precious. Black lives are infinitely valuable. Brown lives are precious. Brown lives are infinitely valuable.
We are committed to making Brilla a place where all people can thrive, where no one is made to feel the lesser because of race or background, or for any reason. We are committed to ensuring that our Classical curriculum includes a diverse array of perspectives and cultures; we plan to deepen our Equity and Inclusion work; we will encourage spaces that acknowledge and draw on the strengths of cultural backgrounds and lived experiences of our staff; and we will explore the establishment of a cross-network Equity and Inclusion Coalition.
The challenges of late remind us of how important our work at Brilla is. Our weapon to fight injustice is education. We are committed to doing it– whether remotely or in person. As it relates to our plan for the Fall, we will begin our school year remotely on August 31st and will return for in-person instruction when it is safe to do so. We will keep you updated as plans are made.
We see our scholars becoming young men and women of good character and spirit who are courageous, just, wise, and self-controlled– the kind of people our society desperately needs. Last night, we honored some of them at our elementary schools’ virtual Shine Awards. We’d like to extend a heartfelt congratulations to the Cardinals of the Year: Savannah Valez (third grade at Brilla College Prep Elementary) and Clara Matos (first grade at Brilla Veritas Elementary). Brilla College Prep Middle School will announce their Cardinal of the Year tonight at their virtual Shine Awards. We look forward to telling you more about these impressive scholars in the fall.
We wish you all a safe and restful summer.
Luanne D. Zurlo
Executive Director, Brilla Schools Network
Chief of Schools, Brilla Schools Network