Sewanhaka seeks new curriculum chief as Champ departs

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Cheryl Champ, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction in the Sewanhaka Central High School District, is leaving as of Aug. 8.

The Sewanhaka Central High School District is seeking a new head of curriculum as the job’s current occupant takes the helm of another district.

Cheryl Champ, the assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction, is leaving to become the superintendent of the Pelham school district in Westchester County.

A search is underway for Champ’s replacement, and officials plan to hire one by mid-August, Superintendent Ralph Ferrie said. But Champ’s departure is bittersweet, Ferrie said, as she helped the district make great strides toward offering a stronger and more equitable education.

“We have to build on that. We can’t stop,” Ferrie said at Monday’s Sewanhaka school board meeting. “We have to keep moving forward.”

Champ came to the district in 2012 after serving as the first female principal in the history of Westchester County’s Lakeland High School. She has a doctorate from Manhattanville College and a master’s degree from the College of St. Rose.

Champ is set to be officially appointed on Tuesday as the Pelham superintendent effective Aug. 8, replacing the outgoing superintendent, Peter Giarrizzo.

The district has about 3,000 students in kindergarten through high school, Champ said, a contrast to Sewanhaka’s 8,500 students in grades seven through 12.

Pelham school officials picked Champ from a field of final candidates that included three sitting superintendents, according to a news release announcing her appointment.

“The Board of Education agreed unanimously that Dr. Champ will be an outstanding fit for the Pelham Schools and we are impressed with her ability to listen, her collaborative skills, and her commitment to ensuring that the needs of each and every student are met,” Madeline Smith, the Pelham school board vice president, said in the news release.

Leading a district as superintendent will be a “huge” adjustment from Champ’s current role, she said.

Her first challenge will be a familiar one, she said — Pelham officials are planning a substantial bond referendum to fund renovations at its six buildings, similar to the $86.5 million package of work Sewanhaka voters approved in 2014.

Champ said her proudest achievement in Sewanhaka is implementing a program that puts all seventh-graders into advanced courses when they enter the district’s five high schools, rather than segregating them based on academic ability.

That has increased enrollment in advanced courses in higher grades as those students move up, Champ said.

Champ led an initiative last year to eventually get iPad tablet computers in the hands of every Sewanhaka student, an effort to increase access to technology.

She also implemented cultural proficiency training in the district and helped create a Task Force on Equity, a group that came together in 2015 as the federal Office of Civil Rights started to review Sewanhaka’s student discipline practices.

Champ told the school board that she is confident her successor will carry on the work she started to give Sewanhaka students a more level playing field.

“My hope is that the last five years I’ve been able to provide a structure and a road map to lay a strong foundation for the educational program of the schools that will just be taken from here and the ball run forward,” she said.

 

Also on Monday, the school board elected David Del Santo, a trustee from the New Hyde Park-Garden City Park school district, as its new president following former President David Fowler’s resignation at the end of the school year last month.

Michael Jaime, a trustee form the Elmont school district, was elected to succeed Del Santo as the board’s vice president.

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