Dr. Cheryl Champ, Superintendent of Schools, reported on progress made toward the District’s Strategic Plan at the Board of Education’s meeting on January 15. As part of her report, Dr. Champ spoke about each of the plan’s three goal areas, Authentic Learning, the Whole Child, and Cultural Competence with a focus on the steps that have been taken in the first year of the plan.
Though much work is already underway, Dr. Champ noted that it is too soon to determine measurable outcomes from the initiatives that have begun this year. That said, she shared with the Board that the Pelham staff have participated in 500 hours of training this year representing over 21,000 total hours that have been invested in implementing the Strategic Plan to this point. As this work has unfolded, the District has sought and reviewed feedback from parents, community members and staff via Thoughtexchange, which has helped focus our work in each of the goal areas.
A summary of the progress is as follows:
Efforts in deepening the District’s commitment to Authentic Learning are focused on two main action areas: expanding and advancing previous efforts in this field and examining the District’s use of time and space to foster true learning and social-emotional development.
Progress highlights this year includes:
Deepening our use of the Pelham Inquiry Cycle, which will be assessed as part of the TriState Consortium’s review of our K-12 Science Program in February
Collaborating with nationally renowned scheduling expert Dr. Michael Rettig to learn more about K-5 and 6-12 scheduling opportunities
Planning for implementation of flexible furniture in libraries/learning commons and select classrooms throughout the district
As the District seeks a comprehensive approach to education, the administration, supported by the Wellness Committee, is focused on defining what a healthy environment means in the Pelham Public Schools and strategically implementing Multi-Tiered Systems of Support (MTSS) to guide our approach to intervention services.
Research regarding a healthy environment for students has included a detailed review of the High-Achieving Schools survey results, which collected data from students on important issues such as substance use and mental health. Other research includes finding out how other districts are addressing wellness for their students.
Administrators have met multiple times with Dr. Jim Wright, a leader in MTSS, to help identify gaps in the District’s current practices for identifying and providing student supports. Additionally, elementary teachers continue to receive Responsive Classroom training, which is considered a Tier 1 support under MTSS. Morning Meeting, an aspect of Responsive Classroom, has been met with positive feedback. At the secondary level, the District is working to identify the right social-emotional skills-building program for systemic implementation.
A number of initiatives have begun under the District’s goal of achieving Cultural Competence. In December, the second cohort completed Cultural Proficiency training with CampbellJones Associates. This training is designed to help participants uncover and recognize one's own biases and understand how a person's background and culture affect the way they work and interact with others.
Additionally, all schools are working to implement cultural skills and activities into the curriculum. Examples include the Diversity Bookbag and Building Bridges programs that will be offered at the elementary schools this year, Pelham Middle School working to become a No Place for Hate designated school by the Anti-Defamation League while also pursuing recognition as a School of Character and PMHS implementing its 9th grade Squads program, which fosters connectedness and relationships.
The District has also taken steps to refresh hiring and recruitment practices with the goal of attracting more diverse candidates that reflect our student body. These changes include posting teaching and administrative positions on NEMNET, a minority recruitment website, posting non certified positions with the Department of Labor to increase visibility, and taking a lead with other area districts on hosting a Diversity Teacher Job Fair to be held on February 29 in White Plains, NY.
Additional examples and information on the Strategic Plan and available as part of the latest edition of FOCUS and on the District website.