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During this extraordinary time when New York City’s educators are working closely with students and families from the confines of their homes, we will be publishing a series of posts describing their experiences in their own words. We are now #DOEconnected!

Follow our hashtag, #DOEconnected, join the conversation, and connect online with your neighbors across the City. Share stories of how you, your child, a teacher, or a school community member has become your hero. Remember, not all heroes wear capes!

Bennett Lieberman, principal of Central Park East High School, and site supervisor at the P.S. 180 Hugo Newman School Regional Enrichment Center in Harlem

“Personally, this is the least I can give to the City of New York.”

Bennett Lieberman has been the principal of Central Park East High School for 15 years, and has now taken on another job as the morning site supervisor at the PS 180 Regional Enrichment Center (REC) site.

There, he leads a team of dedicated DOE staff members to care for the children of essential workers in Harlem—“NYPD, FDNY, nurses, pharmacy technicians, grocery store workers—all of the people who need to go to work and help New York struggle through this and overcome this pandemic.” Principal Lieberman knows the tremendous practical and emotional value the REC brings to the hardworking parents they serve: “they don’t have to worry about their children during the day while they are taking care of other people.”

Principal Lieberman wakes up early every morning to get the REC site up and running. At 7:30 a.m., he begins to greet familiar faces—the nurses from Harlem Hospital, the pharmacy technicians who work in the Rite Aids and CVSs in the Harlem neighborhood, and the union workers bring their children in the RECs with “big smiles on their faces,” while staying positive. He takes every child’s temperature as they walk into the building to help keep the REC community safe.

Inside, Principal Lieberman leads an ensemble of committed educators and staff members in running the REC site. The paraprofessionals and substitute teachers are really good with children, “especially the younger kids, making certain that they are washing their hands constantly.” Every evening, the custodial staff are always at the sites to keep the buildings disinfected and stocked up with vital resources such as soap and hand sanitizers for the safety of the children.

Encouraging smiles, making sure everyone is feeling okay, and having fun with the kids—“It’s just, you know, small victories like that that are going to get us through this pandemic.”

Bennett Lieberman is emblematic of how New York City’s educators are adapting to these unprecedented times on behalf of our students and families. We thank all of our staff members for helping all of us stay #DOEconnected.

Are you a first responder or an essential worker who needs child care services during these difficult times? Consider applying for placement into one of the DOE’s Regional Enrichment Centers (REC)! For more information, including eligibility information and FAQs, check out our official REC web page.


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NYC Department of Education, 2019