Dear Families and Staff,
During the quiet months of summer, I take time to reflect on the past year. 2018–19 marked a milestone year. Our school "turned five," and our first class of seniors graduated in June. Throughout the year student accomplishments across all grades also continued to reaffirm the vision behind all that we have built here in Brooklyn.
We want to recognize the individuals who have been here since our school doors first opened and those who have joined us along the way. No matter what year you began, you were—and are—intimately part of raising a school. As we like to say, “a school grows in Brooklyn,” and with it so many children and professionals. Betty Smith’s seminal work, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn, serves as an iconic example for the school. We—like the characters in the book—have grown together and developed our community by facing common challenges and sharing in joys, successes, and celebrations. Like the symbolic tree, we have set down roots in order to preserve our ties to each other.
Before leaping into our featured list of student accomplishments, I want to spend time first recapping what has distinguished our school since we first convened classes five years ago, and how we continue to evolve to educate our students to the highest international standards.
Across almost all categories in our mid- and end-of-year parent surveys, more than three quarters of parents “strongly agreed” with statements related to the curriculum and student growth. The responses validate the continued focus on academics and the right level of challenge across age bands.
In response to specific comments, we heard parents say they would love to see more reading woven in and out of class. As a result, we took action. We made a more concerted effort to create a “culture of reading” by introducing National Reading Month in March. Teachers facilitated such activities as Drop Everything and Read (or D.E.A.R.) and other fun celebrations of literacy from costume contests based on favorite characters in literature to class discussions, reading log contests, and bulletin boards centered on the topic of literacy. Of course, a culture of literacy happens with much more support than reading log competitions and public service announcements. It takes a partnership between home and school to establish the routine, the love, and “the culture” of reading.
We also always strive to improve our curriculum, and next year is no exception. High school students requested that we expand our fine arts elective options. Based on that request, we introduced digital photography taught by Mr. Opirhory and electronic music taught by Mr. Heilbronn (a PE teacher by day and professional recording artist by night!). Additionally, in middle school we introduced creative writing. As our student body grows, we will have more interest to sustain a greater variety of options, including research-based seminars, dance, and art history. We look forward to student feedback as we create these offerings.
Capstone classes will continue to develop next year. In math we will keep linear algebra and add differential equations. In the humanities, we are adding an interesting course on the history of science, which explores the advances of Native Americans in calendrical astronomy, botany, mathematical nomenclature, and metallurgy, and conclude the year with a look into the Scientific and Industrial Revolutions.
Teachers – Engaging and Accessible
Teachers define our program. Parents praised the accessibility and responsiveness of our faculty with student and parent hours. They also stressed that teachers focused on making school academically engaging for students.
The satisfaction with teachers attests to the value we place on our amazing staff. The individual commentary helped flag some areas for professional development and growth, but the feedback overall reinforced how much esteem families hold for our faculty.
As the school grows, so grows our teaching body. In the next school year, we have some exceptional educators joining our team. We will be adding to our science faculty, math department, Learning Expert Teacher team, and an economics teacher. We have two transfer teachers from within the BASIS network—one with a PhD in math who taught Calculus and Differential Equations Capstone at BASIS Tucson, and one with her own math YouTube station from BASIS Scottsdale. Our new faculty collectively has years of teaching experience. They have graduated from universities such as Princeton, University of Pennsylvania, New York University, Wellesley, and Swarthmore.
Families and students will be pleased as popular, favorite teachers return and new teachers join their ranks.
Excellence – In and Out of the Classroom
Our school ownership changed at the end of April, and all ensuing actions reaffirmed the commitment to teachers and curriculum—the two things we value most according to the surveys of past and present. Our new owners, Spring Education, have demonstrated through words and now actions that they are committed to preserving the school’s excellence. This is critical to their vision to offer a BASIS Independent education to families to new cities carefully and deliberately.
Now I do want to state what I have said in many forums. BASIS Independent Schools are leading the world in math, reading, and science. In fact, the school that I was fortunate to found five years ago, BASIS Independent Silicon Valley, recently earned the highest of international accolades. BASIS Independent Silicon Valley outscored top countries and regions in the world on every single measure of the OECD Test for Schools that compares reading, math, and science amongst schools internationally. I focus on this now to tell you that BASIS Independent Schools bring with them the highest measures of success. Next year, the Brooklyn campus will have a large enough cohort of 15-year-old students to participate in this international exam too, and I anticipate stellar results just like our Silicon Valley campus. I feel confident making this conjecture due to our outstanding scores on the younger version of this exam—the International Student Assessment.
BASIS Independent Brooklyn students have consistently scored well-above their international peers in grades 3, 4, and 5 on International Schools Assessment. This year we are very pleased to report that trend continues. As our students matriculate to high school, we are confident they will also perform equally well on the international assessment for 15-year-old students.
Outside the classroom our students accomplishments made us incredibly proud. An overview of 2018–19 student accolades follows, broken out by discipline.
- Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition – Mr. Opirhory’s visual arts students won several regional awards, including silver medals in photography (3 awards) and silver key awards (2).
- Disney Performing Arts – Our upper school band and choir, instructed by Mr. Ingels and Ms. Taylor, received awards for their selection and performance in the Disney Performing Arts Program.
- New York State Music Association (NYSMA) – One of our students received a 99/100 “outstanding score” on a level VI NYSMA performance evaluation on Cello Solo. That is the highest, most difficult level possible.
- This year Ms. Crowley and Ms. Markel led two outstanding productions of Annie and Clue.
- Debate – Our debate team consistently won local competitions under the leadership of Mr. Hutchison, and students advanced to "Citi" and State Championships.
- Two students in grade 9 and 10 placed third as a team in New York State Championships in High School Intermediate Public Forum Debate. One went on to place first and the other placed seventh best speaker in the state.
- At the Urban Debate League "Citi" Championships, our students placed second and ninth in Individual Speaker Intermediate Public Forum Debate.
- Chess – Our Chess team won numerous accolades in local competitions throughout the year. Thank you so much to the leadership and guidance of Ms. Punnoose. We also convened the first BASIS Independent Manhattan and Brooklyn chess tournament this year!
- National Council of Teachers of English – One of our high school students taught by Dr. Lisa and Ms. Cushman earned the highest honor: “Certificate of Superior Writing.”
- National Spanish Exam - 69% of our students enrolled in Spanish class earned one of the following distinctions.
- Gold Medal - 3 awards
- Silver Medal - 25 awards
- Bronze Medal - 15 awards
- Honorable Mention - 30 certificates
- National Latin Exam - Congratulations are in order for our 30 students receiving awards of distinction.
- Gold Summa Cum Laude - 2 medals
- Silver Maxima Cum Laude - 4 medals
- Magna Cum Laude - 4 awards
- Cum Laude - 5 awards
- Ribbon plus certificate (Intro) - 6 awards
- Certificate (Intro) - 9 awards
- MATHCOUNTS – Our team led by Ms. Snyder and parent Matt H. placed first in the Brooklyn regional competition and advanced to the state championships!
- Math Olympiad – Two students received first place and one placed third in the elementary division. In the middle school division, one student placed first, another second, and another third.
- Girls Adventure in Math Competition - Our team of four 6th graders placed 4th in the competition among sixth to eighth graders.
- NYCIML - Our team placed third in regular division for both fall and spring.
- Broadcom Science Fair - Three students presented projects as part of our inaugural team, and we are proud of them for breaking new ground!
- Science Bowl - Our team advanced to the New York City Science Bowl Semifinals.
- Soccer – Our co-ed Junior High School (JHS) soccer team won the league championships - for the second year in a row - coached by Mr. McCollum and Ms. Rodriguez!
- Basketball – Boys High School, middle school boys, and co-ed grades 5–6 basketball teams both reached the league playoffs this year, and their focus and drive sets us up well for the upcoming season.
- Squash and Swimming - We began competing in squash and swimming this year, and we are proud of our growing teams! More to come on that front this fall as we continued to expand our offerings.
These awards are an amazing testament to the school and the power of the curriculum and teachers. Most importantly, they are an incredible representation of our hungry, diverse, driven, and scholastic students. As a school, our belief is that a classroom should be a place free of competition. However, outside of the classroom we want to provide ample opportunities to compete and show the rest of the world what a BASIS Independent Brooklyn student can do! It is important to me that as a school we prioritize opportunity, allowing students to showcase their skills, defining their interests and pursuing their passions.
When considering the high school, the senior class, and all future graduating classes, I want to remember three things: pride, identity, and connection. These are my themes for the future.
It is with great pride – my first theme - that we send our seniors off to college. These 16 young men and women started our program as students in grades 8, 9, or 10. They worked harder than our students who started earlier in the program, and we take pride in the results they achieved. All of our seniors were admitted to universities ranked in the top 125 colleges in America. Our valedictorian has what we want for all students. She has choice. She chose the program and university that she wants to attend. She is attending a joint BA/MD program, but she made this decision over Columbia and Georgetown, among other universities. Students who work this hard deserve the privilege of choice. Students have decided to attend Johns Hopkins, Carnegie Mellon, Carleton College, Pomona College, Northeastern, New York University, Stevens Institute of Technology, University of California, Irvine, Sarah Lawrence, Union College/Albany Medical School Joint BS/MD/MBA program, University of Colorado at Denver, and City University of New York.
The Class of 2019 represents our first BASIS Independent Brooklyn Alumni. Our team is already planning homecoming events around the Winter Break when students return from their universities. What I want to ask from our parents is help providing professional advice and even connecting our students after they graduate to internships and opportunities.
We want our students to look back, feel a great sense of pride in their school, and share in the school’s success as a part of what they helped create. We want our students to feel a part of what has taken root here in Red Hook, Brooklyn.
Next, Identity – my second theme. We are a high achieving school of students, faculty, and families in Red Hook, Brooklyn. Students are creative, bold, socially active, intelligent, gritty and so much more. We embrace our differences, and we celebrate our diversity. We rally our students behind our mascot of the BEAR, and we reinforce that strength, independence, and autonomy in all we do. We take care to make learning cool, so we make sure to celebrate academic accomplishments as much as sports accomplishments if not more.
Now for the third and last theme of connection. By connection, I mean the connectivity that students have between one-another as friends and classmates, but also a connection to a greater identity—being a BASIS Independent student. I have a very concrete example to share tonight that also stands apart since it is student-driven. Our high school students worked closely with Ms. Wallace this past year to form a program that connects our students to their peers at our Silicon Valley and McLean campuses. We have just started, and we foresee this program growing more. We want to encourage this and see opportunities abound for our students coast to coast.
In closing, I want to give a nod to Betty Smith’s iconic A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. Smith writes, “Oh, magic hour, when a child first knows she can read printed words.” Smith describes the endless enjoyment that learning can bring to a child, the relevance of imagination, and the importance of developing strength and fortitude. I am pleased that second to the home, BASIS Independent Brooklyn has been the institution in your children’s lives to develop these skills. Each day students arrive with smiles on their faces, and their teachers arrive eager to support and nurture this enthusiasm.
I look forward to many more years growing a school with you.
Head of School
BASIS Independent Brooklyn