School board reads out student petition calling for steps to reduce racist incidents

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At the final school board meeting of the academic year, Pelham Board of Education President Jessica DeDomenico Thursday read a petition started by a Pelham Memorial High School senior calling on the district to take action to reduce incidents of racism in Pelham. The petition was signed by more than 100 current students and alumni

The petition, started by Nick Lieggi, outlined three steps the district could take to curb racist behavior in Pelham schools: Ending police walk-throughs during the school day, holding more regular assemblies about social injustice and mandating bias training for all staff. (Lieggi is managing editor of the Pelham Examiner.)

DeDomenico read a letter she had written to the Pelham community in response to the ongoing protests for social justice around the country, saying that “we know that our work (in Pelham) has just begun.” DeDomenico explained the strategic plan’s focus area of cultural competence requires community cooperation and collaboration in order to be effective, and called on the district and Pelham community to work together to create a more diverse and conscious learning environment.

The school board also approved a new draft of the 2020-21 calendar, moving professional staff development days before Labor Day so that the first day of instruction will be the Tuesday after the long weekend. 

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ said the district calendar has also been changed to rename Columbus Day to ‘Indigenous Peoples’ Day.’ The move came after Champ received a letter from a Colonial School student in October who had learned about Columbus in class and said the renaming was necessary.

Champ said the class of 2020 voted to go ahead with the proposed drive-through gradation ceremony at SUNY Purchase on the original graduation date, June 27.

The board’s next meeting will be held on June 24 at 8:15 p.m.