Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

School board narrows cell phone policy to two options; new strategic goals unveiled


The Pelham Board of Education unveiled June 5 two possible options for a cell phone policy at the high school. The more restrictive version would ban use of the devices during the school day unless students have staff approval.

The trustees also reviewed the long-awaited draft of a strategic plan for 2024-2029.

The digital device policy has been under development by the board’s policy committee for several months. The following is the language for the two versions which received their first readings at the school board meeting (the second imposes greater limitations):

Version One

Digital devices are not to be used by students during instructional time, which includes in classrooms and any other areas of the building being used for teaching and learning (e.g. assemblies, presentations, speakers, panels, learning activities outside of the traditional classroom. etc.) except as follows:

  • Pre-approved medical and/or instructional purposes documented with the district; and
  • Pre-authorized purposes by their teacher or other school official in the classroom for an identified instructional purpose. Teachers/other school official(s) will make clear to students when they are being pre-authorized to use their digital devices in the classroom for such limited instructional purposes.

Version Two

Digital devices are allowed to be used by students in the school building during the school day only as follows:

  • Pre-approved medical and/or instructional purposes and/or instructional purposes documented with the district; and
  • Pre-authorized purposes by their teacher or other school official. Teachers/school official(s) will make clear to students when they are being pre-authorized to use their digital devices in the classroom for such limited instructional purposes or other approved purposes.

“I think that the committee in general was comfortable recommending the first approach for the high school,” said  Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ. “Although, there is still a desire to consider the second approach.”

Of  the current cell phone guidelines in the PMHS student handbook, Champ said, “We looked at the feedback. There are concerns about inconsistency in the way that the approach was designed.”

The process of writing the proposed rules included a panel discussion with three educators opposed to phones in schools, a world cafe-style meeting for high school parents and students and a survey of students.

Champ presented to the meeting a draft of the proposed 2024-2029 strategic plan. The three priorities in the draft are:

  • Personal growth and achievement
  • Belonging and wellness
  • Facilities and sustainable learning environments

The follow graphic from the school district lists the objectives for each of those goals:

(Source: Pelham Union Free School District)

The three pillars in the outgoing 2019-2024 strategic plan are cultural competence, authentic learning and the whole child.

The board intends to consider the strategic plan for approval at its last meeting of the year on June 18. Administrators will work during the summer to create steps to implement the priorities and objectives.

The new goals were developed with consultants Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates and after reviewing nearly 1,900 survey responses and feedback from 150 individuals in focus groups and interviews. In the final step, the trustees and a working group of teachers, administrators and high school students met for three strategic planning sessions.

During public comment, Pelham Manor resident Liz Alderman discussed a petition circulating in Pelham calling for a reduction in the number of half days and asking the board to seek community feedback when setting the school calendar. She said the academic year is running later into June and this is a problem for the elementary schools that lack air conditioning.

Resident Nadia Krivickova endorsed that message: “Please get air conditioning in the buildings.”

Champ said that four half days are obligations under the teachers’ contract, but there could be some flexibility in the calendar.

Board Members Natalie Marrero said, “If we reduce one half day, it could sacrifice professional development. That’s the fine line we’re looking for.”

The school board honored this year’s retirees, including PMHS social studies teacher David Moskowitz, middle school/high school orchestra teacher Dr. Michelle Zanky, Colonial Elementary School lunch monitor Marjorie Tully and Mark Finegan, physical education teacher, coach, coordinator for the physical education department and president of the Pelham Teachers’ Association.

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Charlotte Cohn, Assistant Managing Editor
My name is Charlotte Cohn, and I am a tenth-grader at Pelham Memorial High School. I love writing, listening to music, and dancing. I have been writing for the Pelham Examiner since 2019.

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