FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
On Wednesday, July 20th, NYS Board of Regents Chancellor Betty A. Rosa and Board Secretary Tony Lofrumento spent an hour and a half meeting LaSalle School staff and board members to discuss the complexities and challenges of education in residential treatment facilities for youth.
Chancellor Rosa came to LaSalle at the invitation of LaSalle’s Board of Trustees Vice Chair Carmen Perez-Hogan. “I wanted Dr. Rosa to see what I now know,” said Perez-Hogan. “That LaSalle is a very special place where miracles happen for challenged kids every single day.” Ms. Perez-Hogan served the New York State Education Department as director of the Office of Bilingual Education from 1978 until her retirement in 2005. She was elected LaSalle Trustee vice chair in April 2016.
“Chancellor Rosa brought with her a unique set of insights from her prior experience and positions which led her to become personally aware of residential placement for youth along with a powerful commitment to overcoming barriers,” said LaSalle Associate Executive Director Anne Moscinski. “She understood what the 20,000 kids with special needs across the state placed in 853 Schools like LaSalle are going through and the special support they need. We were an example of that!”
Dr. Rosa toured LaSalle’s property guided by 2016 LaSalle Graduate Michael Bonilla-Soto. Starting in the lobby, Michael took her into classrooms, down academic hallways, into a residential dorm, and finally to the student dining room where the group convened for a wrap-up session. Along the way, Dr. Rosa and Michael bumped into teachers Michael hadn’t seen since his June graduation exercises.
One of those teachers, Art Teacher Colleen Weisl, told Dr. Rosa how Michael applied the creativity he learned in her art classroom to make up his own recipes for cakes and desserts next door in his culinary coursework and add his own artistic flair and style for decorating and presenting dishes. A budding pastry chef, Michael will be studying culinary arts in the Fall at the Schenectady County Community College.
“It was wonderful to watch as Michael walked with Dr. Rosa easily bantering back and forth from Spanish to English and back again,” said LaSalle’s Director of Education Jim Meyer. “For some of Michael’s teachers, it was their first time seeing him since his June graduation and they were very eager to say hello and ask how he was doing.”
The recent graduate was invited to be part of the chancellor’s visit due to his strong desire to work hard with LaSalle staff to recognize his difficulties and learn strategies to successfully overcome them. The fact that he is bilingual was an added plus. “I was very impressed with Michael’s maturity and ability to conduct the tour speaking in both Spanish and English in a beautiful articulate way,” said Ms. Perez-Hogan. “His proficiency and fluency in two languages will be of great value and something he will have for the rest of his life.”
“You could just see Dr. Rosa’s eyes light up as she watched Michael hug and greet his teacher,” said Dr. Camela Steinke, LaSalle’s Program Effectiveness and Research Specialist. “Dr. Rosa let them have a moment together but it wasn’t long before Michael introduced the Regent’s Chancellor to each teacher and they started up a conversation.”
Her own education was obtained in public elementary and junior high schools in the Bronx and a private Roman Catholic high school also located in the Bronx before an extensive secondary and graduate college career that resulted in a bachelor’s degree in psychology from the City College of New York (CCNY), two master’s degrees in education (Administration and Supervision, and Bilingual Education) from the CCNY and Lehman College, respectively, and two doctorates in education (Administration, Planning and Social Policy) from Harvard University.
Professionally, she worked as a bilingual teacher in New York City schools before becoming principal of Intermediate School 218, a middle school in Upper Manhattan and later as superintendent of District 8 in the Bronx, which includes some of the city’s poorest neighborhoods.
“I was impressed with how keyed in Dr. Rosa was to the challenges our kids struggle with, and the challenges agency’s like LaSalle face day to day,” said David Wallace, LaSalle’s director of clinical services. “She definitely possesses an insightful balance between sustaining the highest standards and meeting children where they are.”
A March 21, 2016 New York Times story announcing Dr. Rosa’s election as the new Regent’s chancellor referred to an interview with Dr. Rosa, 64, earlier in the month in which she stated ‘that she believe in high standards, but that she thought there should be more recognition of the challenges that schools serving poor students face in meeting them.’ “It’s not that you’re using poverty as an excuse – it’s recognizing that it does have an impact,” she said at the time. “I think that we really have to get to a place where we can have these honest conversations.” On July 20th, at LaSalle Albany, Chancellor Rosa put those words into action.
“I feel like she really listened to me, understood that for me to be at LaSalle away from my family was hard,” Michael said after Dr. Rosa and Secretary Lofrumento had left the agency. “She understood what I’ve been through, how hard I’ve worked, and how proud I was to graduate from high school!”
The Regent’s website states that the body is ‘responsible for the general supervision of all educational activities within the State, presiding over The University and the New York State Education Department.’ A member of the Board of Regents since April 2008, Dr. Rosa’s 2016 election as chancellor was to succeed Merryl H. Tisch, who served as a Regent for 20 years (seven of those years as Regent chancellor).
“Chancellor Rosa’s visit to LaSalle, even though it lasted only a few hours, is something I know I will forever remember as one of the highlights of my many years of work in this field,” said Bill Wolff, executive director of LaSalle School and president of the Coalition of 853 Schools. “You can tell that she is committed to an education system that works for all children – one that emphasizes, from the very earliest years, the creation of pathways toward achievement that result in solid opportunities for all of New York State’s children to realize fulfillment and prosperity.”
Wolff continued, saying “She couples that vision with system knowledge and experience and readiness to get to work. I was very impressed, and I am among the many from around the state that I am sure are ready to support her, the Regents and the department, in any way I can.”
LaSalle School is a leader in programs and services for youth and families in crisis offering a variety of programs designed to meet their needs including specialized residential placement, day service education, and alternative to detention services. The Counseling Center at LaSalle is an OMH and OASAS licensed outpatient behavioral health clinic located at LaSalle School, and currently implementing ACE treatment practices with youth and families. LaSalle is accredited by the Council on Accreditation (COA), and affiliated with the Council of Family and Child Caring Agencies (COFCCA), and the national Alliance for Strong Families and Communities. LaSalle is a member of The New York State Coalition of 853 Schools.