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The Schools: A Tribute to Grace

In last week’s issue, the introduction to an essay requested by the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford Stuyvesant, Inc. for publication in Our Time Press was printed in its first-draft state. Our Time Press apologizes for the error. What follows is the piece as originally submitted.


By: Ms. Cheryl Ault-Barker – Principal, PS 81/Thaddeus Stevens


It was a beautiful sunny day on April 2, 2018 at about 1:30 pm as I scurried to one of the classrooms to help a scholar in crisis.

On the way to the classroom, I was greeted with a beautiful smile from Bernice Green, whom the Parent Coordinator, Ms. Norton, introduced as the representative of the Magnolia Tree Earth Center of Bedford-Stuyvesant, Inc., donor of a magnolia tree that our kindergartens would add to our school’s garden.

When I heard the name Green, I inquired from Bernice if she had a sister by the name of Grace. I learned that Grace, known as Gracie, was her sister. I shared how grateful I was for the legacy and impact that Gracie had etched here at Thaddeus Stevens PS 81.


Not only was Gracie a straight shooter when it came to making her point, but she encouraged parents to come into the school, volunteer and become involved in their children’s education.

She reminded parents and families that they should not only show up when there was a crisis but also become actively involved in the decision-making and governance of the school.

As past PTA President, Gracie motivated parents to become “Learning Leaders” and to support their student’s learning. Gracie also had her son, Ralph, who is an amputee athlete and Olympics competitor, come and share key strategies and habits of mind with our scholars to help them to accomplish their goals. Her son also shared how he overcame his disability and is very successful at what he does. What an eye-opener for our scholars? This motivational event was one of the highlights of our school year.


Our Learning Leader population increased under Gracie’s leadership. Gracie was a no-nonsense person and knew exactly when it was time to take action to engage the external school community.

As a result of Gracie’s commitment, enthusiasm and fervor, we continue to have dedicated volunteers at PS 81.

In honor of Gracie’s tireless labors of love, we named and dedicated the magnolia sapling after her, on the morning of Friday, May 4, with nearly 100 people in attendance.

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