Dear Families and Staff,
During the quiet months of summer, I always take time to reflect on the past year. The 2020–2021 school year sparked a period of constant introspection both as a community and country. It will stand apart for decades to come due to the pandemic and the many changes that ensued. Now I wanted to share some lessons learned, celebrate accomplishments, and pay tribute to our 2021 graduates.
What We Learned in 2020-2021
While we weathered the pandemic storm in a year that we hope will be like no other, we prioritized following the advice of scientific and public health advisors. While we learned—along with all our peer schools—that health mandates evolve based on changing data, we also realized the importance of remaining nimble with the health of the community as a priority.
Our community cares for each other. Thank you for staying home when sick and making mindful choices when thinking of travel and social plans. We are proud to have experienced minimal cases of community spread, and we attribute that to each family following our community agreement.
Primary School students pose on PJ Day last year. Note that even Baby Yoda is wearing a mask.
Importance of In-Person Instruction
If ever there was a doubt, we now have a complete understanding of the power of in-person learning. Throughout the past year, we saw teachers working incredibly hard to engage students meaningfully first through screens and then through masks and Plexiglas. We heard consistent feedback reinforcing how much esteem families hold for our faculty.
This year our team of educators succeeded in keeping our students on track with learning above grade level. The connection of our curriculum throughout the network helped ensure student growth whether in person, online at BASIS Independent Online, or a combination of both. We continued our focus on academics and the right level of challenge across age bands while adding in more support through our Counselor and Student Affairs team given the realities of the pandemic.
In the upcoming 2021-2022 school year, we have some exceptional teachers joining our administration team and faculty. We, like most other schools, saw a shift in teachers deciding to move or switch professions in the wake of the worst days of the pandemic. However, we also saw a shift in people who wanted to do something meaningful in their lives and teach. Families and students will be pleased as popular, favorite teachers return and new teachers join their ranks.
Mr. Bissinger photographed teaching one of his Gr. 3 math and science classes last year.
Appropriate Role of Technology
There are ways to continue with technology responsibly and deliberately, perhaps for after-school lectures or student hours. Now that Schoology has been used by all students, we will continue to find an appropriate role for it with our students while never replacing or diminishing the role of the teacher.
For our broader community, we realized technology allowed much greater accessibility for Coffee with Admin, which is an important monthly meeting for staying connected to school developments. We will continue with virtual Coffee with Admin while layering in meet-and-greet with Admin events in the coming year as a result.
Parent meetings via Zoom also offered convenience to parents and guardians that was appreciated, so this is a practice we look forward to continuing.
Nurturing a Culture of Giving Back
One theme that arose throughout the year was one of service. We saw increased attention and prioritization on giving back to those in need in our community and beyond. That culture of service is one we want to continue nurturing moving forward. Students were quick to recognize communities in need and first responders who could benefit from increased support. This is something we gladly intend to continue.
In 2020-2021 we started our National Junior Honor Society on campus for middle school students while continuing and growing our high school National Honor Society as well. Students started mentorship programs and raised funds for community food banks. High School students initiated drives to support community responders in both Brooklyn and as far away as India when the recent delta variant surfaced and led to an extraordinary loss of life in that country.
Importance of In-Person Community Events
Traditions are still traditions even if they look a little different. Thank you to our World Fest and Talent Show teams for shifting to a virtual venue in the 2020-2021 school year to keep the events alive. We had online choir and band performances as well as plays through Zoom this year.
Looking ahead to the new school year, we envision a return to sports, cultural events, community events, in-person camps meetups, retreats, field trips, tours of campus, community events, dances, and performances. We see this upcoming school year as an opportunity to bring back and embrace all the things we love about the school, including some aspects that we took for granted before the pandemic. All this would be on top of continuing to evolve to educate our students to the highest international standards.
Ms. Markel's Drama class students enjoyed taking rehearsals outdoors last spring.
Throughout the 2020-2021 school year one thing remained the same— student accomplishments across all grades continued to reaffirm the vision behind all that we have built here in Brooklyn. Our educators took pride in providing structure and stability in a year like none other even if school looked different at times.
Our students continued to excel at their studies. Approximately 70% of our high school students qualified as AP Scholars. We also saw gain in scores from Pre-Comps to Comps this year, attesting to the work of our faculty to help students master the material.
Outside the classroom, our students' accomplishments made us incredibly proud. An overview of 2021–22 student accolades follows, broken out by discipline.
Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition – Our students were recognized with more awards than in any year past. Ten Gold medals, 11 Silver medals, 12 honorable mentions in photography, digital art, painting, drawing illustration, and silver key awards.
New York State Music Association (NYSMA) – One of our students received a 99/100 “outstanding score” on a level VI NYSMA performance evaluation on Violin Solo. That is the highest, most difficult level possible.
Our entire Fine Arts Faculty pivoted to performances on Zoom. We also brought back our annual Talent Show once again via Zoom.
Several of our students' gold medal-winning entries in the Scholastic Arts competition.
- Debate – Our debate team had a fantastic year competing in the Urban Debate League. A few notable accomplishments include:
- Five teams received bids to the State Championships with one student awarded City Champion in Varsity Public Forum with a teammate as runner up
- At State there were three team honors
- 4th and 7th Place in JV Public Forum Semifinals
- 6th Place in Varsity Public Forum Quarterfinals
- Five individual honors
- 2nd and 14th Place in Varsity Public Forum
- 2nd, 3rd, 9th place in JV Public Forum
Scholastic Arts and Writing Competition – Two high school students were awarded a Gold medal in personal memoir and essay; Silver medal in poetry.
The Grizzly Student News Site – Our student news site was recognized with a Silver Medal by the Columbia Student Press Association for the first year of reporting. In the 2020-2021 school year, the students grew the site and expanded the photography and art offering.
The Grizzly Awards - Editor-in-Chief established the First Annual Grizzly Awards to recognize outstanding student contributions.
Members of our debate team celebrating the end of a great year of virtual competitions with Coach Miles Brown.
- AP Computer Science Female Diversity Award – Our school was one of 232 schools across the country to receive the College Board’s award for closing the gender gap in Computer Science instruction.
Fridays for Future - Our students assumed leadership roles in Fridays for Future, a student-led environmental advocacy organization
Math Team - Two students qualified for the American Invitational Mathematics Examination based on results from AMC 12
You Be the Chemist – A team of Gr. 7 students was named the New York team winner in the annual competition from the Chemical Educational Foundation
Our team of grade 7 students won best in New York State in the Chemical Educational Foundations' You Be the Chemist Competition.
Affinity Groups – Latinx Student Union, Black Student Union, Asian-American Alliance, South Asian Student Society, and Jewish Affinity Group
Animal Therapy Club
Flight and Aerodynamics Club
Health and Fitness Club
Japanese Culture Club
Math Honor Society (Mu Alpha Theta)
These awards and examples of community involvement are an amazing testament to the school and the power of the curriculum and teachers in a year like none other. Most importantly, they are an incredible representation of our hungry, diverse, driven scholars who proved incredibly resilient during the pandemic. It is important to me that as a school we prioritize opportunity, allowing students to showcase their skills, define their interests, and pursue their passions even in the face of challenging times.
Our Animal Therapy Club members brought their pets to visit Early Learning Students.
Class of 2021 Tribute
Let me close with a tribute to our 32 high school graduates, who are leaving home for the first time to pursue deep and varied interests at universities including Stanford, Columbia, Duke, Brown, Wesleyan, Hamilton College, Emory University, and many more esteemed institutions across the country.
The Class of 2021 represents our largest graduating class to date attesting to the growth of our high school. 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.
Head of School
BASIS Independent Brooklyn
Head of School Hadley Ruggles addresses the Class of 2021 at graduation, which was held at the Palm House in the Brooklyn Botanic Gardens.