Pelicans Welcome Dr. Champ as New Superintendent


Charlotte Edmunds, Junior

Superintendent Champ, in her new office, prepares for the challenges that face the Pelham Union Free School District.

Charlotte Edmunds, Junior, Co-Editor-in-Chief

After Dr. Giarrizzo announced his departure from Pelham schools late last spring, the Pelham Board of Education (B.O.E.) raced to find someone able to take on such vast and important responsibilities. After interviewing potential candidates, the Pelham B.O.E. decided upon hiring Dr. Cheryl Champ who fit the job description perfectly. Pelicans wait to see how she will leave her mark on the community as Pelham’s newest superintendent of schools.
Dr. Champ is no stranger to the school environment, as she comes to Pelham with an extensive background in education. Beginning her career in South Carolina as a music teacher, Champ moved her way towards administrative positions, becoming an assistant principal, principal, and finally bearing the title Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction at Sewanhaka Central High School District in Floral Park, NY.

Champ attributes much of her success to the varied opportunities she’s had as an educator.

“Every experience you have along the way prepares you better for the future, even if at the time it is out of the norm, or something challenging or difficult,” Dr. Champ said. “I always try to learn from everything, and use what I learn as I move forwards.”

Champ emphasized that even her time as an orchestra teacher has better prepared her to tackle the responsibilities of administration.

“[As an orchestra teacher], you [have to] take whoever comes through the door, with whatever skill level they have, and build them up so everybody can work together towards a performance.”

Dr. Champ intends to continue to apply this developed skill as superintendent of Pelham.

Though she has never held the position of superintendent, Champ is confident in her plan to continue her predecessor’s aggressive push towards 21st century learning. Champ will continue many elements of Dr. Giarrizzo’s Strategic Plan, which administrators have outlined through the use of different “pillars.” One pillar of Pelham’s educational goals is to stress the importance of social and emotional wellness. The district intends to focus on helping students learn how to manage stress at a young age so that they can hopefully bring this high value of mental health with them as they enter middle and high school. Another fundamental idea encompassed within this blueprint for Pelham schools is the push towards “supporting the whole child.”

“Students have varying needs,” Champ explained. “[My goal is] for students to graduate from our schools being the best they can be, using whatever strategies work for them.”
Champ also described how she plans to encourage teacher’s growth, as well, as a way of fostering Pelham students’ learning.

“If we expect our students to keep pushing better, higher and farther, than our teachers always have to too, because things are always changing,” said Champ, explaining that she will work to ensure that teachers and their ways of working constantly evolve, and improve.

Champ feels that Pelham schools are already doing a lot of things right. The superintendent is a passionate supporter of the open-enrollment system practiced at PMHS, and is thrilled to get the opportunity to build upon its progress. Despite controversy surrounding open-enrollment, Champ feels as though this innovative program will ultimately benefit the students.

“If a [child] chooses to be in a class, they’re going to work a whole lot harder, than if someone forced them to be there. That choice is really powerful as a motivator,” Champ explained.

In Champ’s opinion, an important task she faces is ensuring that the necessary supports are in place to allow children to succeed in these classes. If guidance counselors, teachers and parents alike have faith that a student can thrive in any course, Champ believes that this system will not only boost each individual child’s confidence, but also the middle and high school’s test scores as a collective body.

Champ also expressed strong support for the IB program recently introduced in the middle school, feeling as though with conversation, Pelham staff can figure out how to define the long-term goals of this program, and successfully phase it into the high school.

As riveting as Champ’s progressive educational plans may be, Pelicans are likely more concerned with the fate of the school’s’ upcoming winters. After waging many twitter battles against Giarrizzo over snow-day discrepancies, students anxiously await to see how Dr. Champ will react to the snow this winter season.

“I’m hoping for a very mild winter,” Champ confided.

Despite the responsibilities that a superintendent title holds, Champ is prepared to take on her new job with vigor.

“When you make the choice to become an administrator, you have to be okay stepping away from that day-to-day relationship you have as a teacher, but what I realized is you can still have a connection,” explained Champ. “If you can make things better for teachers, then in essence you’re making things better for an exponentially larger number of students.”