Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Statement: School board candidate Rowe seeks reelection because ‘continuity of leadership in this time of strategic planning is critical’

Editor’s note: This candidate statement was provided by Pelham Board of Education Trustee Ian Rowe, who is seeking reelection. The Pelham Examiner publishes statements in the form received as a service to the community.

Hello Pelham Community,

My name is Ian Rowe and I am pleased to announce my candidacy for reelection to the Pelham Board of Education. My wife Sylvia and I have been residents of Pelham since 2012, and we have two school-age children, Oscar (12) and Camille (14) who have gone through the Pelham schools since Kindergarten.

I have had the privilege to serve on the Pelham Board of Trustees for the last three years, and for the last two years I was elected by my fellow Trustees to serve as the Vice-President of the Board.

I have been honored to work with my colleagues over the last 3 years towards achieving the Pelham mission statement, “Inspiring a Standard of Excellence for All Students.” Throughout my professional and personal life, I have worked to achieve that standard of excellence with families and teachers to create safe and nurturing schools to help young people excel academically, build strong character, and ultimately lead self-determined lives of purpose and agency.

For the last fifteen years, I have been CEO of non-profit public charter schools in the Bronx, including (1) ten years leading a $45 million network of PreK, elementary and middle schools that educated more than 2,000 students, developed an innovative PreK program in partnership with Sesame Street, and implemented comprehensive special education co-teaching in all elementary grades; and (2) most recently founded a virtues-based, International Baccalaureate public charter high school. I am also Chairman of the Board of Spence-Chapin, a premier non-profit adoption agency that for more than a century has formed more than 30,000 families for vulnerable children. Additionally, I am a Senior Fellow at the American Enterprise Institute where I research and write on the factors that help young people achieve upward mobility, including having access to strong families, faith-based organizations, high-quality educational choices, and entrepreneurial opportunities.

In my tenure as a Pelham Board of Trustee member, our team safely re-opened schools in 2021 for in-person instruction and when data showed pandemic learning loss, we worked with school administration to immediately add drop-in math tutoring and more interventionists.

During my term, I worked to establish annual District SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Realistic and Timebound) goals. To measure progress versus these goals, the district has taken real steps to implement a formative data dashboard, which uses new systems like Branching Minds and Dreambox to collect academic and behavioral data to effectively measure interim progress, replicate best practices and implement course corrections during the school year.

Like many residents, my wife and I moved our family to Pelham because of the great public schools and the high expectations its leadership holds for all students and faculty. After serving for three years, I am even more inspired to seek reelection and bring my professional experience to improving the lives of children.

The Board is now engaged in a five-year strategic planning process in which we are exploring exciting paths to strengthen our district, including upgrades to our facilities and making districtwide the accomplishments of PMS as a National School of Character and Colonial as a National Blue Ribbon School. We are also tackling roadblocks to the progress in our students’ academic achievement and mental health issues. Three areas of focus for me include:

Need to Upgrade Facilities – Throughout the strategic planning process and in the February 2023 Work Session that the Board held with faculty at the High School, we have heard overwhelming feedback from the community that limitations on facilities continue to be an area of great need, and thus opportunity. It has been quite striking how across subjects – science, English, music, etc – facilities are mentioned as a factor holding our schools back. Teacher feedback highlights the need for 21st century learning environments for science, engineering, lab-based station work, etc. Moreover, large class sizes consistently come up as an issue, for example in English Language Arts, it hurts the ability to give feedback. Of course there is the cafeteria space, or lack thereof, which results in kids having to sit on the floor or on stairways for lunch at the high school. And lack of air conditioning continues to be an issue at our older elementary schools. I am excited at the opportunity to work with my colleagues to devise financially sustainable solutions going forward that address these needs.

Multiple Pathways to Individual Success – Since 2020, I have been CEO of Vertex Partnership Academies, a virtues-based, International Baccalaureate (IB) public charter high school, grounded in the four cardinal virtues of Courage, Justice, Temperance and Wisdom. Vertex is one of the only public schools in the country that requires all students to take the IB Middle Years and then choose between the IB Diploma and IB Careers Programmes. Through these world class offerings, students can pursue multiple pathways to prepare them for their individual success, whether that be college, or real-world learning through work-study apprenticeships that can lead to industry credentials. I am hopeful Pelham can build on the internship opportunities it has already started at the high school and emulate best practices at other schools, such as the Briarcliff Manor Senior Internship Program.

Strengthening Student Mental Health – Over the last several years, evidence has grown that cell phone use and social media addiction have had a significantly adverse impact on kids’ mental health and academic performance. As an example, at a time of extreme political division, it is telling that a bipartisan coalition of 42 State Attorneys General (including NYS) have filed a lawsuit against Meta (e.g. Facebook, Instagram, etc.) for creating deliberately addictive social media algorithms that target kids and teens. The suit claims these algorithms harm young people’s mental health and contributes to the youth mental health crisis. And as this Atlantic article Why Americans Suddenly Stopped Hanging Out argues, the “rise in teen depression coincides with the proliferation of smartphones and social media.”  Moreover, two very important Surgeon General Warnings have been issued that affect young people, the first focused on the Effects Social Media Use Has on the National Youth Mental Health Crisis; and the second focused on the Devastating Impact of the Epidemic of Loneliness and Isolation in the United States.

Both Surgeon General Warnings, as well as research presented in the Anxious Generation – cite overwhelming evidence that make a very compelling case to limit access to social media, sexting, cyber bullying, pornography, etc. and its primary delivery mechanism – cell phones – during the school day. Some may choose to ignore this evidence. But as Board members, we have the responsibility to proactively consider how this research should inform policy and practice in Pelham, given that our kids and schools are not immune. I am determined to work with my colleagues to craft a policy that is not just subtraction, but the addition of empowering alternatives that allow our students to make human, in-person connections with each other and to faculty, to promote wellness and belonging.

Continuity of leadership in this time of strategic planning is critical and the current Board has been working well together to craft what will guide the next five years of Pelham schools.  I am excited to finish what we have started this year and to see its implementation in collaboration with our strong district faculty and staff.

I humbly ask for your vote on May 21, 2024 to serve another three years on the Board of Education.  For more information on me and my candidacy, I welcome you to reach out to me directly or visit my campaign website.

With gratitude,

Ian V. Rowe

[email protected]


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