Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Pelham Examiner

Board of education appoints new assistant superintendent, votes 5-2 in favor of most restrictive cell phone policy proposed


Somers Central School District administrator Claire Comerford was appointed assistant superintendent of teaching and learning by the Pelham Board of Education in an unanimous vote June 18.

Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ said, “We worked with a school leadership professional search consultant organization this year because we really wanted someone to take the baton and run with it.”

Comerford has served in several positions in the Somers district, including director of learning at the secondary level, director of learning for K-12 humanities, assistant director of learning K-12 and assistant principal at Somers High School. Comerford earned a B.A. in history and M.S. in education from Fordham University, holds a certification of advanced study in educational leadership from SUNY New Paltz and is pursuing her doctorate at Manhattanville University.

“It’s an honor and a privilege to be here tonight and to join this exciting team and the Pelham community,” said Comerford. “To join a school district that has such a great reputation and emphasis on continuous improvement and strength of the community as well as creating a sense of belonging for all is really important, and I’m honored to be here. ”

Claire Comerford is the school district’s new assistant superintendent of teaching and learning. (Source: Pelham Union Free School District)

Comerford joins the district on Aug. 1 to replace Dr. Alice Bowman, who resigned to take a similar post in a Long Island school district.

After the second reading of two versions of a proposed policy on the use of cell phones and other digital devices at Pelham Memorial High School, trustees voted 5-2 in favor of the policy that would impose a near total ban, sending that version to a third and final reading at the July 2 board meeting. That more restrictive policy was supported by Dr. Michael Owen-Michaane, Ian Rowe, Sidney Burke, Natalie Marrero and William Treves, while Annemarie Garcia and Jackie De Angelis voted against it.

The stricter policy would prohibit the use of smartphones during the school day unless PMHS students have permission from a teacher or other official, while the more lenient language would allow students to be on devices during non-instructional time.

The board vote could change before the policy becomes final. When it is read for a third time, Owen-Michaane and Rowe will have left the board, and Kathryn Cohen and Darra Gordon will have been sworn in as new members.

Cohen and Gordon defeated Owen-Michaane and Rowe in the district election in May.

On the policy, Rowe said, “We wanted to maintain face-to-face connections between students and faculty that do not require the use of a digital device.”

“I’m in favor of the more restrictive policy, and I would like to explain why,” said Treves. He compared the differences between high school and middle school students while observing them in the hallways. He said that students in the high school seemed more disconnected from interaction and only focused on their devices.

Garcia said she supports the more lenient approach because Pelham Middle School Acting Principal Sean Llewellyn will be taking over as the new principal of PMHS in the fall. She also said Llewellyn and PMHS Assistant Principal Dr. Kerri Titone have not been informed about the cell phone policy for the coming school year and will be unable to implement it effectively.

“I think we have done a pretty great job throughout the year guiding the district and deferring to the administration as the experts,” Garcia said. “But for this particular issue, we have just not done that, and that’s disappointing to me.”

The full text of the draft digital device use policy can be read here.

All seven trustees voted to adopt the new five-year strategic plan presented at the previous meeting.

On July 1 and 2, consultants will meet again with Champ to develop implementation steps for the plan.

In addition, a building conditions survey will become the road map to a five-year facilities plan and what funding is needed for projects, said Champ.

Rowe and Owen-Michaane were thanked for their three years of service on the board. Champ gave a speech in honor of both of them, and they received gifts from the board.

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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.

Comments (4)

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  • F

    Fran RingJun 29, 2024 at 7:20 pm

    In response to Ms. Mallach’s concerns about IEP and 504 accommodations that require technology and being exposed against their wishes. Violating civil rights? The new policy is just been voted on and you are jumping to the conclusion that legal IEP’s and accommodations will be violated.In most cases the fear comes from parents and not students.As a Special Education service provider and Case Manager having written approximately almost 1000 IEP in my 42 year career and served on 504 documents for post high school, high school and middle schoolers there is no shaming by other students. If a student requires a hearing aid to hear should all students wear a hearing aid so the Hearing impaired students don’t feel exposed? If a student had a physical disability and requires adaptive equipment should we have all students use the adaptive equipment so that a student doesn’t feel exposed or uncomfortable. Whatever they need to be successful is our goal. And to be successful academically doesn’t require cell phone technology. Chromebooks can meet the same accommodations.

    • A

      Adam IlkowitzJul 1, 2024 at 8:03 pm

      Not all 504’s are academically driven either, and Chromebooks provide no help for students with devices based on medical need.

      App-based medical monitoring via cellphone is quite literally a life-saver, improves quality of care, and eases the burden on school nurses. I have no doubt that the new policy will not limit this use case.

  • S

    Sara MallachJun 25, 2024 at 8:32 pm

    I wonder what consideration has been made by the Board to ensure that the students in the High School who utilize their cell phones as part of an IEP or 504 plan will not have those accommodations publicly exposed against their wishes. The most restrictive plan seems to be in conflict with FAPE and IDEA and I hope the District lawyers have thoroughly explored the possibility of violating students civil rights and any lawsuits as a result prior to taking a final vote.

  • F

    Fran RingJun 25, 2024 at 7:10 pm

    As a public school high school and middle school teacher for 42 years I know first hand the devastating impact of cell phones on education. I take issue with Ms. Garcia , who is supporting lenient cell phone policies, making excuses for the 2 new School Administrators. She states they won’t have enough time to implement being they are new hires. It is June and school starts in 2 months. Just say no to phones PERIOD!