Dear Pelham Community,
The Board of Education received updates about the start of school, standardized test results, summer programming, superintendent’s conference days and District facilities at its meeting last Wednesday, September 7. Please read below for a summary of these important topics.
Update on Standardized Test Results
As part of her report on Authentic Learning, Dr. Alice Bowman, Assistant Superintendent for Teaching & Learning, shared that she and the curriculum directors were undertaking a thorough review of last June’s regents exam results. This review includes looking at individual questions and results to determine if certain patterns exist within units/content areas in a particular subject area so that the team can identify areas of strength and areas that need additional attention during this school year.
Dr. Bowman noted that there were several factors that may have impacted students’ regents exam scores. These include:
- Last year’s regents exams being the first that many students had ever taken because they had been canceled by the state the previous two years
- Difficulties teaching specific skills in some subject areas because of distance learning and physical distancing requirements during the pandemic, and
- Loss of in-person teacher contact time due to quarantine requirements and illness.
Specifically, Dr. Bowman explained that the pandemic’s impact was likely to be felt more significantly in science and math exams than in other disciplines in which skills are built throughout each course and are not dependent on hands-on experiential learning. She noted that students typically engage in extensive hands-on lab experiences that deepen their cross-curricular knowledge of the sciences, which was not possible during remote instruction. Additionally, she explained that certain mathematical knowledge and skill acquisition is more difficult to monitor during virtual learning than it was in other disciplines.
She said that the District is continuing to work diligently to make up any lost ground, but noted that it will take time.
Additionally, the District is currently reviewing results from the Gr. 3-8 math and ELA exams that were taken last year and more information will be forthcoming.
Dr. Cheryl Champ, Superintendent of Schools, provided a recap of the District’s summer programming, which consists of three programs:
- Extended School Year, which is for students with Individualized Education Plans (IEPs) and is intended to prevent academic regression over the summer
- Summer Stars, which is a K-5 ELA/Math program and helps students who are identified as needing additional support through the District’s AIMSweb screener. This program is primarily funded through the Federal Title 1 grant, and
- Middle School Summer programming, which is intended to help students recover credits and advance in their learning if they initially failed courses during the regular school year. As part of this program, the District offers a Regents Earth Science Boot Camp, which helps all participating students advance in the curriculum by the end of the summer.
Dr. Champ reported that there was strong participation in these programs and that students showed progress. She also thanked Dr. Tom Callahan, Director of Math & Science, Dr. Maria Thompson, Director of Humanities, and Lynn Sabia, Middle School Principal for overseeing these programs this summer.
Superintendent’s Conference Days
Dr. Steven Garcia, Executive Director for Human Resources and Leadership, Dr. Bowman, and Ms. Traci Holtz, Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services shared information about the start of the school year for staff.
The week prior to students returning, new teachers and staff were welcomed to the District for two days of training and onboarding experiences, including a Technology Boot Camp led by Director of Technology John Sebalos, and New Teacher Orientation, which was facilitated by Dr. Garcia. These opportunities provided an opportunity for new teachers and staff to get acclimated to the District, connect with administrators, learn about the District’s strategic plan and goals for the year, and more.
The full staff returned for two superintendent’s conference days on August 31 and September 1. In addition to the annual welcome back ceremony, which was held fully in-person for the first time since 2019, the two days offered an opportunity for faculty, staff and department meetings and a variety of professional development, including in the areas of:
- Integrated Co-Teaching
- Responsive Classroom, and
- Teachers College Reading & Writing.
Jim Hricay, Assistant Superintendent for Business, provided the Board and community an update on the District’s facilities, including an overview of some of the regular maintenance that occurs throughout the summer as well as the status of the projects from the 2018 capital improvement bond.
Over the summer, the District’s facilities staff undertakes a number of projects to prepare for the coming year, including removing all furniture from the classrooms to conduct a deep cleaning, waxing all floors, and touching up/ painting classrooms. Additionally, the team continues to make progress installing drop ceilings and LED lighting fixtures throughout the buildings. Other work included repainting and renumbering all parking spaces, servicing HVAC equipment and continuing the regular cleaning and maintenance of the buildings, which are used for summer programs and recreation camps.
Below are some highlights regarding the ongoing capital improvement bond projects:
- Prior to school opening, the scaffolding was removed from the front of PMHS and restoration of the stone masonry is nearly complete.
- Interior renovations at PMHS to create new classrooms in the space that was central offices is ongoing
- The Certificate of Occupancy was approved for the new addition at Prospect Hill. This space includes a new front entrance with double door security vestibule, ADA accessible elevator, a new classroom, a new intervention room and a conference room
- The Prospect Hill field is now open for use after a new irrigation system was installed and it was resodded last spring
- A retaining wall, light fixtures and sod have been laid at the corner of Lincoln and Third Avenues where the former Hutchinson School once stood. This space will become a pocket park for the community
- At the rear of the new Hutchinson School, sod has been laid for a new playing field. A blacktop area and new playground for older students will be installed soon (a new playground for K-2 students opened last year).
Mr. Hricay praised the District’s facilities team for their incredible hard work and also recognized the 30 student interns who assisted throughout the summer.
The first Board of Education Coffee of the school year will be held at 9am on Friday, September 23 at J. Cafe (please note that this is the new date for the previously scheduled coffee on September 20). The next Board of Education meeting will be held at 7:30pm on Wednesday, September 28 in the Pelham Middle School Library.
The Pelham Public Schools