Really the last meeting of year: School board to re-vote on Champ’s contract due to Open Meetings Law issue


Trustee Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane (center) warned last Wednesday the board might be violating the Open Meetings Law.

The Pelham Board of Education will hold a special meeting on Thursday to re-vote on the new contract for Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ because the board may not have been in compliance with the New York State Open Meetings law when it okayed the pact last week.

Last Wednesday, the board voted 4-3 to approve the new four-year deal at what was supposed to be its final meeting of the year, extending Champ’s term in the top job by two years to 2026. This Thursday is the last day on which the current school board can take any action, as the district’s year begins July 1.

According to the school board’s meeting notice, “While the terms of Dr. Champ’s contract were posted to the public meeting agenda a sufficient amount of time prior to the board’s June 15 meeting, the full contract was not posted to the public meeting agenda until the following morning. While this error was unintentional, the board is re-voting on the matter to ensure that it is in compliance with an amendment to (the) Open Meetings Law.”

In fact, Trustee Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane warned the rest of the board at Wednesday’s meeting it might be in violation of the Open Meetings Law. “Community members emailed requesting that the agenda and supporting documents be posted 24 hours in advance,” he said. “The contract was not posted until this morning, and that may be contrary to Open Meetings Law.”

The New York State Committee on Open Government confirmed for the Pelham Examiner this was a violation. The remedy for such an issue would be for a citizen to bring an Article 78 proceeding against the Pelham Union Free School District in New York Supreme Court, which could vacate the board’s decision on the contract if it found the Open Meetings Law had been violated.

Trustees Vincent Mazzaro, Ian Rowe and Owen-Michaane voted against the new contract, while Board President Jessica DeDomenico, Vice President Sue Bratone Childs and Trustees John Brice and Leah Tahbaz voted to approve it.

Brice, Tahbaz and Mazzaro’s terms on the board end Thursday, with newly elected trustees Will Treves, Natalie Marrero and Jackie De Angelis taking office on Friday.

The employment agreement gives Champ a new term running from July 1 to June 30, 2026. Champ’s current pact took effect in August 2019 and was set to end in August 2024. Under that deal, the board was not required to begin negotiations for a new contract until January 2024.

Last week’s vote came after a number of citizens at the school board meeting asked the trustees to delay the decision to Friday, when the three new board members will take office. However, others spoke in favor of signing a new deal with Champ, citing the difficulty of hiring good education talent in Westchester County.

The board will begin the special meeting at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday in the Pelham Middle School library, with the re-vote held first. “It is anticipated that the board will consider a motion to enter executive session to discuss matters leading to the employment of a particular person(s) related to the search for an assistant superintendent,” said the notice.

The business meeting can be viewed on YouTube live.