School administration hosts guided discussion on excellence in Pelham schools


The Pelham school district’s administration held Monday a guided discussion with residents on the topic of excellence in schools. 

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ introduced the event. Also present were school board members Jessica DeDomenico, Jackie DeAngelis, Natalie Marrero and Will Treves. 

Champ described the goal for the event as a chance to “cross policy with ideas” and give parents a chance to reflect on how the district is fulfilling its mission and vision. Champ expressed gratitude for the opportunity to “recenter back on teaching and learning” after nearly three pandemic-impacted school years. 

A brief Ted Talk was presented as a way to introduce the topic of excellence. Cheryl Ferguson’s “Motivating People to Excellence” gave attendees information on what motivates children, specifically as adolescents. At nine tables, residents then discussed what they agreed with in the Ted Talk and how they differed with Ferguson’s view. 

Each table had an advisor who served to guide discussion and help move attendees along in the conversation. These facilitators included the school board members, parents and school leaders such as Pelham Memorial High School Principal Mark Berkowitz. 

The tables had copies of the district’s vision statement, which was created in 2000, when the late Dr. Charles Wilson was superintendent. There were also three different questions regarding excellence spread out amongst the tables. The questions were as follows:

Considering the district’s vision and your personal definition of excellence, what skills, competencies and understandings do you want your child to demonstrate when they graduate from our schools? What would it look, sound and feel like?

Research bears out that a strong home-school connection supports student achievement and success. How can parents and the schools partner on building relationships and an environment that fosters excellence for your child?

How does your personal definition of excellence align with the district’s vision statement? 

The goal of the guided discussion was to have the attendees at the tables spend 15 minutes conversing with each other about one of the three questions. After time was up, people moved to discuss the next question with a different set of parents. This way, people were sharing ideas with parents of differing ages and from various parts of Pelham. 

Ways of closing the gap between Pelham’s schools and households emerged from these discussions. One parent stressed the importance of a “feedback loop” in the classrooms, especially at the elementary level. This would hopefully eliminate the barrier that disrupts parent-teacher relationships. 

Another parent said they hoped the district would define many “modalities of excellence,” so that a wide range of students could feel as though they are meeting Pelham’s standards by differing means.