Winter Newsletter - Progress Toward Our Goals

Cheryl Champ

The new year is the perfect time to reflect on the accomplishments of the fall and to look forward to the exciting things that are yet to come this school year. Over the past four months we began to unpack the contents of our new Strategic Plan and initiated specific steps to move our plan forward in the areas of Cultural Competence, Authentic Learning, and the Whole Child. 

Cultural Competence

Sadly, in just the past week, we learned of a Church shooting in Texas, a knife attack at a Hanukkah party in nearby Rockland County, and various anti-semitic hate crimes across the metro New York area. These heinous attacks and the apparent normalization of this behavior are extremely disturbing and must continue to be condemned along with hate in all of  its forms. Speaking out is one important part of the solution. Working to create a culture that strengthens our commonalities and honors and celebrates our differences is another key part of the solution. I am pleased to report that the second cohort of teachers, staff and community members is nearing completion of Cultural Proficiency training with CampbellJones and Associates. This training has been instrumental in helping us expand efforts toward building Cultural Competence in our schools. 

Pelham Middle School students sit in the library as Principal Sabia leads an assembly.

Pelham Middle School students learn about becoming a "No Place for Hate" school.

Under the oversight of the District’s Cultural Competence Committee, subgroups of staff and community members are working on creating a bank of common terms and definitions for consistent implementation throughout the district, review of library and classroom resources, identification of rubrics and frameworks for program, policy, and resource selection, and designing long-term staff and student training plans. This committee, while already one of our largest, was expanded this fall to include students from PMHS and PMS so that student voice is a key part of improving the culture of our schools and making Pelham a place where all are safe, respected and celebrated.

Students work at computers in a classroom with flexible and comfortable furniture.

Prospect Hill students participate in their "Hour of Code" and use flexible classroom furnishings.

Authentic Learning

Thanks to the generosity of the Pelham Education Foundation, we have completed designs for incorporating flexible furniture into our school libraries and select classrooms and many of the pieces have now been ordered. We anticipate installing the furniture this spring and look forward to seeing how this innovative approach helps our students and teachers in the classroom. Continuing under the goal of Authentic Learning, the District administrative team has been working with Dr. Michael Rettig, a national expert on master scheduling, to examine our use of time at all grade levels. Through this deep dive, we are seeking to identify strategies that may help us to better meet the instructional and learning goals of our students. Through our two-hour delays for professional learning, we are continuing to support our teachers in the area of instructional practice as well as develop key programmatic initiatives, such as the International Baccalaureate Middle Years Programme, Digital Citizenship, Teachers College Workshop and Science 21. This time is a valuable resource for our faculty during which they collaborate on implementation of these initiatives and work to master their craft and support student growth. 

Whole Child

As we seek to strengthen our work in supporting the Whole Child, our faculty has also been working with Dr. Jim Wright, a national expert on Multi-Tiered Systems of Support. This training will help us refresh and update our processes and practices related to providing interventions to our struggling students K-12. With the addition of an academic interventionist and a full time school psychologist at the elementary level this past year, it is the perfect time to look at our systems and practices to ensure our resources are aligned to best meet the needs of our students. An effective MTSS system addresses needs in both the academic and social-emotional realms and we are working to expand our understanding and mastery of this system in a way that fits our students and the District as a whole. Speaking of social-emotional learning, I am pleased to report that the District-wide implementation of Responsive Classroom at the elementary school has been progressing nicely and providing a strong foundation for our students each day. 

A student uses a marker to edit a note written on an easel as his teacher looks on.

A Hutchinson School student edits the morning message, a key element of Responsive Classroom.

We look forward to expanding Responsive Classroom as teachers continue to receive training and beginning research and design of a social-emotional program for the middle and high schools. Finally, in the realm of the Whole Child, the District Wellness Committee is immersing itself in data and research to determine a vision for what a healthy environment means for Pelham, and to make recommendations to move us toward that vision. 

Bond Implementation

Lastly, we are continuing to work diligently to implement the 2018 Capital Improvement Bond projects. The District anticipates awarding bids for the new Hutchinson School and PMHS/PMS work by the end of January. Progress at the Glover Complex has slowed a bit for the winter, but will resume more aggressively once temperatures cooperate. The goal is to have the facility ready for use by the late spring. We are thankful to the members of the Bond Steering Committee for providing expertise and oversight of these important projects. Also slated to begin this spring are renovations on the house at 314 Pelhamdale Avenue so that some administrative offices can move in before the end of this school year. While there are a lot of moving pieces related to construction, we continue to be appreciative of the patience and support of the community as we work to make sure our schools are equipped to meet the current and future needs of our students. 

It is clear to me that much of our work is complex, will be fraught with challenges, and risks getting messier before it gets better. I find hope and reassurance in the value of persevering in all of this work through the words of President Theordore Roosevelt, who said, “Nothing in this world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty. No kind of life is worth leading if it is always an easy life. I know that your life is hard; I know that your work is hard; and hardest of all for those of you who have the highest trained consciences, and who therefore always feel how much you ought to do. I know your work is hard, and that is why I congratulate you with all my heart. I have never in my life envied a human being who led an easy life; I have envied a great many people who led difficult lives and led them well.” Let us go forth remembering these wise words and working together to lead our lives well.

Warm Regards,

Dr. Champ's signature

Dr. Cheryl Champ,

Superintendent of Schools

P.S. I am pleased to report that the unauthorized duplicate Twitter account that was created last week has been deactivated by the company and my regular account, @DrCherylChamp is back online!

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