By Yasmin Jorge
Last month, on April 24 and 25, the Pelham Board of Education hosted two community forums regarding the search for our next Superintendent of Schools. The hour long sessions were held in the Middle School Library and PMHS Alumni Hall, and consisted of residents, parents, and employees of the District who wanted to bring forth their thoughts, insights, and concerns to the selection process.
Both forums, one held in the evening and the other in the morning, were open to the public. They were moderated by Dr. John Chambers, one of the District’s search consultants with Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates. This search firm with 20+ years expertise is Chicago-based, but the consultants are regional. They are also familiar with the Pelham School District as they performed the Superintendent search four years ago, and presented candidates to the Board, from which Dr. Peter Giarrizzo was chosen. Dr. Chambers is a retired Westchester Superintendent himself.
Participants of these forums were asked to focus on three criteria:
1. Perceived strengths of the District
2. Problems or issues in the District
3. Characteristics the new Superintendent should bring to his/her role to be successful
Here were the main responses to these criteria:
• For District Strengths -- We have great teachers who are dedicated and want to work in our schools and help and engage our children. Community, diversity, and support groups are also strong.
• For Problems or Issues -- There should be better differentiation among students regarding how best to teach to different levels, from truly gifted through various special needs programs and methods. The District needs to be involved in how elementary schools are run, and the process should be consistent throughout the four schools. Class size is important and a challenge - Are all students residing in Pelham? The impact from new developments? Can the school buildings and configuration address growing classes? There needs to be an understanding about taxes and bonds for the school system.
• New Superintendent Characteristics -- He/she should embrace 21st century learning and is up-to-date on current ways in how to educate children, ie technology-driven and new methodologies to teaching. He/she is a very effective communicator, open minded and also flexible and hands-on from the elementary through MS and HS. He/she should have a clear vision of what the District wants to achieve. Finally, this person values community relations and involvement.
Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates will look for commonalities among community members to these questions; as well as the results from an online survey that was available to parents through April 26, and other stakeholder focus groups.
By May 2, the consultants will write-up their findings and present them to the Board. This then becomes a public document. The firm hopes to have a slate of candidates to interview in June. However, if a new Superintendent is not selected, there will be an interim Superintendent until the right one is found.