School board reviews search for new PMHS assistant principal, Franklin Field town pool idea


From left, School Board President Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane and Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ.

The Pelham Board of Education on Wednesday heard an update on the search for a new Pelham Memorial High School assistant principal and addressed a proposal to build a town pool on Franklin Field.

School Board President Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane led the meeting and expressed his excitement for the start of the school year.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ welcomed the new members of her cabinet to the meeting. Dr. Alice Bowman, the new assistant superintendent for teaching and learning, as well as Traci Holtz, the new assistant superintendent for pupil personnel services, were formally recognized at the meeting.

“I am already excited about what Traci and Alice are bringing to the district,” said Champ. 

In July, Pelham Memorial High School Assistant Principal Bethany Antonelli resigned from her position after two years in the job.

“We are in the midst of the search process to fill the vacancy of the assistant principal at the high school, so we have done screening interviews and have a focus group committee set up to interview a slate of candidates,” said Champ.

It is the district’s plan to have the frontrunners from the committee interviews on Friday to then interview with the board of education on Sept. 7, said Champ.  That means the board would not have the ability to appoint someone until the end of September. Realistically, a new assistant principal should be in place around October, the superintendent said. 

Champ brought up the recent suggestion made by Pelham resident Michael Treanor to install a town pool on Franklin Field.

“We have had a couple meetings with the town recreation department, who have shared their scheduling with us to try to get a sense of the field use, which is pretty significant in the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. hours during the fall, spring and summer seasons,” said Champ. Franklin Field also acts as a location for Colonial Elementary School recess and PMHS graduations. 

Owen-Michaane said that during the school day, the field is fully programmed by the district. Activities include recess and physical education classes.

“That field is also needed for evacuation drills, and if there were to be a real evacuation,” said Owen-Michaane.

Champ recalled at the beginning of the pandemic the middle school evacuated the entire seventh grade class onto Franklin Field when a student tested positive for Covid-19 in the middle of the school day. 

Board Vice President Ian Rowe raised the question about ownership and responsibility for the pool if it were built on Franklin Field.

“If it remained on our property, it would remain our responsibility,” said Champ.

Assistant Superintendent for Business Jim Hricay said he has managed sites with pools before and stated that a bond would be the most likely way to go to fund the new facility.

“Regardless of who pays for it or what bond, you would have to demonstrate some sort of custody for the property over that period of time,” said Hricay. 

During the public comment period, residents John Miller and Deanna Zammit spoke about the district’s code of conduct.

“We are concerned that the code of conduct doesn’t adequately protect the overall academic, emotional and physical well-being of the student body,” said Zammit. Both speakers said the district should make a greater effort to discipline students based on their actual actions, and not have rumors or social media play a role in disciplinary decisions.

Miller and Zammit also said they would like to see the code of conduct provide more protection of students’ privacy, specifically mentioning controls on the confiscation of students’ phones by faculty without the permission of the parents. They said the board should approve an “externally conducted review of the districts’ disciplinary process.”

Zammit and Miller also took issue with the code’s liberal use of the phrase “reasonable interpretation.” They said they hoped that the steps they described would ensure students under suspension or facing disciplinary action would be treated more fairly. 

The next board meeting is scheduled to be held on Wednesday at 5:30 p.m. in the middle school library.