Same vote different day: School board re-votes to approve new contract for Champ by 4-3 margin


The Pelham Board of Education re-voted 4-3 on Thursday to grant Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ a new four-year contract, approving the same resolution it passed two weeks earlier to correct a violation of the Open Meetings Law that occured the first time around on June 15.

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.

Board President Jessica DeDomenico, Vice President Sue Bratone Childs and Trustees John Brice and Leah Tahbaz voted for the contract, while Trustees Vincent Mazzaro, Ian Rowe and Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane voted against it. That was the same rollcall as on June 15.

“When the board voted on Dr. Champ’s contract at the last meeting, the full contract was posted with the agenda, but without the 24 hours notice as required by the Open Meetings Law,” said DeDomenico. “This postings requirement became effective by an amendment to the Open Meetings Law during the school year. The district followed the past practice of including agreements such as this one in the administrative section of the agenda. But unfortunately, that practice is no longer in compliance with new regulations.” 

Thursday’s session was a special meeting called by the board to correct the error on the last day on which the current trustees could vote. Brice, Tahbaz and Mazzaro’s terms as trustees ended after the meeting adjourned, with newly elected trustees Will Treves, Natalie Marrero and Jackie De Angelis taking office on Friday, when the district’s fiscal year begins.

Before the trustees voted, they discussed allowing public comment, which had not been placed on the agenda for the meeting.  

“This is unbelievable,” Rowe said about the absence of a time for the public to speak. “I think it is very reasonable that we have public comment before the vote, and we discuss the misinformation and the new information that has emerged since the vote occurred two weeks ago.”

The school board voted 6-1 to allow the public time to address the board, with Brice opposed.

During the comment period, former board member Peter Liaskos said, “I would ask that in the interest of bringing unity to the community, that you would not push this through a second time. You made a mistake that actually gives you an opportunity to correct it. To not do it this way. To do it in a way that sets an example for our kids. Do this properly, and let the democratic process take its place, and let the newly elected board members vote on this.”

“I feel like it is my duty as a fiduciary to the district to carry through with the work that is before us, and to leave the new board in a stable place, and to leave the district in a stable place, and that is how I view this decision,” said Tahbaz. 

The next board meeting will be the annual reorganization meeting on July 12.