Dais presents $2 million to District 9 schools

Ten schools from District 9 receive $200,000 for STEM lab funding on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.
Ten schools from District 9 receive $200,000 for STEM lab funding on Tuesday, June 18, 2024.
Photo Maya Stahl

Bronx Assembly Member Landon Dais presented $2 million in checks for funding STEM labs in ten District 9 public schools on Tuesday at P.S. 11 in Highbridge. This is the largest individual grant ever given to school District 9, according to Dais.

Awarded schools include P.S. 11 Highbridge, I.S. 229 Roland Patterson, Taft Campus, I.S. 232 The Alexander Macomb School, I.S. 117 Joseph H. Wade, P.S. 64 Pura Belpre, P.S. 53 Basheer Qusim, P.S. 90 The Family School, I.S. 166 The Richard Rogers School, and J.H.S. 145 Arturo Toscanini. Each school received $200,000 in grant funding.

“I’m hoping that today that we’re providing a tool that will give you another tool in your box that will allow [students] to have better success metrics,” Dais said. “The reality is, if we are not preparing the kids for science, math, and technology of the future — specifically artificial intelligence, comp engineering — they will be behind, and I’m hoping what we’re doing today will help me allow y’all to get them in the right direction.”

Harry Sherman, District 9 superintendent, said he appreciated the investment into the public schools. He spoke to representatives from each school about what future STEM labs will look like in the classroom.

“It doesn’t mean a bunch of laptops,” Sherman said. “What it means is, how do we want to create pathways for our kids to innovate and be on that trajectory to be the 21st century learners and leaders that we know they deserve to be.”

District 9 is home to 48 schools on the western edge of the South Bronx, which includes the neighborhoods of Claremont, Highbridge, Morrisania and Morris Heights. During the 2022-2023 academic year, students from third to eighth grade scored at proficiency rates of 27% to 34% in math and science, according to New York state testing data.

Dais previously secured $1 million for the District 9 schools and Gov. Kathy Hochul matched his contribution. The assembly member’s office said the combined $2 million investment underscores a shared commitment by both city and state officials to improve the school district.

“I think the reality is we are in a new modern time with technology with artificial intelligence. I’m afraid that if our children, our community, aren’t prepared for this new technology, they’ll be left behind,” Dais said.

Felix Garcia, chief of staff for Dais, graduated from William Howard Taft High School. He said he advocated for the Taft Campus to receive funding to give back to his community.

“I advocated for my school because I’m a graduate, I went there. It set me up to have the opportunity to go to college, I went to UAlbany to get my bachelor’s, then I got my master’s, and here I am,” Garcia said. “And I think that every child deserves an opportunity. This can help increase that change for other folks to find a career, to find a long term pathway.”

The funding for each school will go toward building labs, updating equipment, and developing more programs in STEM.

Miguel Diaz, an eighth grade science teacher at I.S. 232, expressed gratitude for the funding that will “actually equip the students with the tools necessary to be able to be successful in new careers and innovation.”

“As a science teacher, I’m deeply happy because it means more opportunity for the students to engage in hands-on learning, which I love hands-on learning, and for the students to experiment. More experimentation and innovation,” Diaz said. “That’s the future. In reality, we have to get the students experimenting, and sometimes we have limited assets to be able to buy the technology and the tools necessary to get the students where they need to be.”

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