School board addresses swastikas, provides updates on strategic plan and construction progress

School board addresses swastikas, provides updates on strategic plan and construction progress

The Board of Education met on Tuesday for their regular meeting. Board President Jessica DeDomenico began the meeting by commenting on the swastikas which were recently found in the middle school.

President DeDomenico stated: “While anti-semetic acts such as these are unfortunately not new to Pelham or unfortunately in our surrounding towns, this news was disheartening for us to hear, especially given that their appearance came during the holiness of the Jewish holiday, and during a time when the district is more pointedly focused than ever on creating equity and inclusiveness in our schools. The response from our school leadership, community leaders, and religious leaders, as well as the large turnout at last Monday night’s meeting, was a reminder to me that all these hateful acts are not Pelham, or the Pelham that we aim to be. The feedback from community members at the meeting was a reminder that while our district’s heart and effort is in the right place, there is always more work to be done.” 

DeDomenico went on to thank PMS Principal Lynn Sabia, Assistant Principal Sean Llewellyn, and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ for “the care and concern they gave in addressing the students and community during these past few weeks,” as well as the community members who attended the meeting last Monday.

“While we can never control all the hate in this world, we do have a responsibility, as our new strategic plan clearly articulates, to cultivate an empathetic and inclusive and equitable school community that values and encourages respect, voice, and agency for all students,” DeDomenico concluded, adding that Pelham teachers and parents began training in cultural competence last week. 

Campbell Jones Associates, the agency which has been administering this training, was present at the meeting last Monday night, and will be attending the board meeting on November 12 to present their goals for the cultural proficiency program.

In Dr. Champ’s report, she stated that the district will be continuing a dialogue regarding cultural proficiency, as well as working to supplement all K-12 curriculum in order to ensure a more complete cultural understanding for students. In accordance with the strategic plan, the last board meeting focused on authentic learning, so the next meeting will be centered around the whole child, with a subsequent meeting in November covering cultural competence. Champ explained that the board hopes that these initiatives will not just be represented by a school approach but rather the efforts of the larger Pelham community.

DeDomenico announced that school board committee assignments will be announced by the end of this week, and planned for committee meetings to begin shortly after.

Dr. Champ added in her report that the board was overwhelmed with applications for these committee posts, which they were very grateful for, and that the Cultural Competency Committee will be meeting for the first time next week. Trustee Eileen Miller announced that the next district policy meeting will be taking place on Monday.

Trustee Jessica Young provided updates on the construction progress taking place at Pelham facilities and schools. Glover Field progress is continuing as scheduled, as well as the work at Hutchinson Elementary School, which is ready for the next stage of work. On October 8th, a number of bids went out regarding the work being done at Hutchinson and at the middle and high schools. Young estimated that the board would be able to get some numbers back on the bids in about a month, and that Prospect Hill Elementary School’s bids would be able to go out soon as well, slightly later than originally expected.

Assistant Superintendent for Business James Hricay provided some more information about the district’s construction projects, explaining that Hutchinson’s sidewalk shed will stay up so as to provide additional protection for the traffic around the building. At the tennis courts, playing surface, fencing, and striping will be added soon.

In college news, the high school has had almost 50 colleges and universities visit from September 25th to now. Pelham and Eastchester will be hosting a college fair from 7:00 p.m. to 8:30 p.m. in the PMS gym on October 21st. More than 70 colleges and universities will be represented at the fair. On October 30th, a presentation on financial aid will be taking place in the PMS library.

The district received federal funds in order to provide educational services for students with disabilities, as well as an annual $3000 donation to the Siwanoy Elementary School book club so that parents can donate books inscribed with their children’s names for their birthdays. The district is disposing of some equipment, including football sleds and three copiers, which will be available to view online.

The board’s next meeting is on October 29th.