BOE Meeting Wrap-up: Work Session on Responsive Classroom, Secondary Transitions

Alexander Wolff

Dear Pelham Community,

District administrators and school counselors joined the Board of Education on Wednesday, September 29 for an engaging work session on Responsive Classroom at the elementary schools and secondary transition events/planning for incoming middle and high school students led by Assistant Superintendent for Pupil Personnel Services Julia Chung. Both topics are priorities under the District’s Strategic Plan goal of The Whole Child.

Responsive Classroom/Morning Meeting

Principal Farid Johnson holds up a morning message at the Board of Education's work session.

Elementary school principals Jeanning Carr, Farid Johnson and Rachael Garcia spoke about Responsive Classroom, a social-emotional learning framework that seeks to foster a safe, engaging and joyful classroom for all students. This initiative was first piloted at Hutchinson School several years ago under the leadership of Principal Dr. Trisha Nugent Fitzgerald and has since been rolled out to all four schools. The principals explained that Responsive Classroom helps students establish procedures and routines through interactive modeling in which teachers or administrators demonstrate certain behaviors and students then try on their own. By helping to build a strong sense of community within a school or classroom, students are more readily equipped to learn each day. 

A key piece of responsive classroom is the Morning Meeting, which is scheduled at the start of each day. The meeting has four components: greeting, sharing, a group activity and the morning message. 


Students greet each other by name to start the day. This helps students practice healthy, respectful communication skills and begin the school day on a positive note. 


Students share information about important events in their lives. Listeners often offer empathetic comments or ask clarifying questions. This helps students build confidence, feel valued, and learn how to communicate effectively. The class and teacher learn about the students’ interests, families, and talents.

Group Activity

Everyone participates in a brief, lively activity that fosters group cohesion and helps students practice social and academic skills (for example, reciting a poem, dancing, singing, or playing a game). Through activities and games, students gain self-discipline, confidence, communication and social skills, empathy, respect for others, and a sense of belonging.

Morning Message

Students read and interact with a short message to help get them ready for the day and set expectations.

To further the Board’s understanding of the morning meeting, students from each of the schools modeled the morning meeting in a brief video clip before the board members participated as part of their work session. 

Ms. Chung explained that the District has been providing professional training in Responsive Classroom for the past several years and is on target for all teachers to be trained by next school year. 

Please access the videos/presentation slides or the Board meeting video to learn more about Responsive Classroom/Morning meeting.

Secondary Transitions

Principal Sabia speaks during the Board of Education work session along with Sean Llewellyn, Scott Brown and Terence Huvane

For the second part of the work session, Middle School Principal Lynn Sabia, Assistant Principal Sean Llewellyn and School Counselor Scott Brown, as well as PMHS Principal Mark Berkowitz, Director of Counseling Gene Farrell and School Counselors Terence Huvane and Katelin Cuccia joined the Board to share information about transitioning into 6th and 9th grades. 

View presentation slides

Middle School

Principal Sabia told the Board that the social-emotional challenges faced by incoming 6th graders are often greater than those caused by increased academic rigor. She mentioned difficulties getting to know the new school, changing classes frequently, meeting students from other elementary schools and the pre-pandemic use of lockers as areas that can cause anxiety for new students. Starting in 5th grade, the Middle School team works to acclimate incoming 6th graders to their new school and build a culture around Pelham P.R.I.D.E. (Prepared, Respectful, Involved, Determined and Excellent). Throughout these events, older students participate in various ways to help welcome the incoming 6th graders, answer questions and share their own experiences. Transition events/programming include:

  • Fifth grade orientation for parents/guardians in February 
  • School Counselor visits to all elementary schools in May to share information about the middle school with the 5th graders 
  • Attendance at CSE meetings by MS Counselors in May/June
  • Incoming 6th grade scavenger hunt in August to help acclimate them to the new building
  • New student orientation in August for anyone new to the District/MS
  • Sixth grade orientation on the first day of school, and 
  • A “Getting to Know You” activity in October

High School

Similar to middle school, transition planning for incoming high school freshmen begins in 8th grade with a series of events facilitated through the counseling department. Additionally, counseling staff from the middle school and high school work closely together to discuss students’ needs prior to the start of freshman year. The high school events are as follows:

  • Eighth grade night for incoming 9th grade families in January
  • School Counselor Terence Huvane, who is the counselor for all 9th graders, visits 8th grade classes to discuss course selection in January
  • Eighth graders visit the PMHS counseling office for course selection
  • Ninth grade orientation in August

For the first time this year, 9th graders will participate in a bonding experience at Glover Field featuring various team building activities to help build team strength, facilitate communication and develop problem-solving skills. 

Recognizing the challenges faced by last year’s 9th grade students, PMHS organized a Meet Your Counselor event for this year’s 10th graders, at which they were introduced to their counselor who they will work with for the rest of their time in high school as well as members of the school administration. The event also included icebreakers and a visit from the Pelicone Ice Cream Truck. 

The Board of Education has additional work sessions scheduled throughout the fall/winter. The next work session will be held on October 20 to focus on academics in the pandemic. 


The Pelham Public Schools

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