PELHAM – Classrooms in Pelham will be filled with students on Tuesday as kindergarteners through high school seniors wind down their summers and are welcomed back to the district with new technology, new curriculum and new faces.
The Pelham School District has worked through the summer to evaluate where curriculums and resources need to change ahead of the academic year. From a new math program in the elementary school to technology and facilities upgrades, but the most notable change in the district is in a new Superintendent Bill Furbush.
Furbish is "really excited about coming to Pelham,” he said. “Continuing the great work here that has been done,” is what he is looking forward to for the 2018-19 academic year.
Some of the most significant changes are taking place at the elementary school. New door locks have been installed to secure classrooms in lock-down procedures, in light of school tragedies that have plagued districts across the county.
Elementary school Principal Tom Adamakos claims the school will “absolutely” run drills for lock-down procedures, and highlighted that parents will be made aware in the event of a drill.
Furbush echoed Adamakos in discussing new safety measures, and the prospect of making sure students and faculty are prepared, “student safety is our top priority,” he said.
In addition to new safety measures, the elementary school has hired additional staff, including a third grade and two new special education teachers. More Google Chromebooks now make a one-student-to-one-device ratio for grades three through five, and a two-to-one ratio for devices in grades younger, according to Adamakos.
New curriculum changes are coming to the elementary school.
“We’ve identified that we really have to spend some time on the math program,” School Board Chairman Thomas Gellar said.
MyMath, a new math curriculum program for the elementary school, has been chosen by the district as the new path forward for the subject. The program provides performance data on assignments and tracks student progress for teachers.
“Math is definitely an area of focus,” Furbush said.
The investment in applied math has been made at the high school this academic year, as full-time science and business teachers were hired, according to Principal Gary Dempsey.
In an effort to “continue to look at (career) pathways,” Dempsey said, the high school is one of the few in the state that requires a financial literacy class to graduate. The class teaches students about the aspects of personal finance and managing money.
Focusing on preparing students for their careers in a personalized way is affirmed at all levels of the district, as teachers “continue to work together with parents on each student's personalized learning plan,” Dempsey said.
Looking forward to the fall, negotiations begin next week between the teachers and the district on a new collective bargaining agreement. Furbush and Gellar emphasized how an agreement should be reached by the beginning of winter as the agreement must be settled ahead of bond issues for the town at the end of the calendar year.
The district has formed a committee to work with architects and designers in coming up with a plan for renovating the middle school. Their objective is to identify “what it is we need,” Gellar said in order to develop a warrant article for the project.
The administration is looking forward to building on efforts made throughout the summer as students district-wide return to the classrooms on Aug. 28. “The school really is not a school without the kids in it,” Dempsey said.