Pelham (NY) Superintendent Dr. Cheryl Champ is not new to planning for complex situations or making big decisions, but she is new to being a superintendent. She gained valuable experience as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum in the Sewanhaka Central High School District – and valuable skills from the collaborative and strategic leadership processes she learned there from TregoED. These skills proved transferable to her new job and valuable from day one in her new district.
At the board meeting approving her as superintendent, Cheryl watched the architect’s presentation on a variety of project options and quickly learned that she would need to hit the ground running. She needed a clear understanding not only of the content of those projects, but also of the board’s and community’s understanding of the projects and their ramifications.
To gain that understanding, Cheryl immediately turned to using Situation Appraisal to keep issues visible and prioritized. She began with a series of retreats with the board and a listening tour with other stakeholders of the district. People were invited to come in and have a cup of coffee and discuss issues important to them. Stakeholders saw that they had a voice and that their ideas were valued and recorded. By modeling transparent and attentive leadership, Cheryl gained the trust and confidence of her leadership team, the board, and community members. Cheryl was also able to use the expertise of the community to enhance communication of the bond issues and options as they were formed.
As they began to fully comprehend the options, it became time to select which options were going to be moved forward as part of a bond referendum. Some options were controversial as they involved repairing or replacing an entire building. Again, Cheryl turned to process to help them make the decision in a clear and transparent manner. Using Decision Analysis, the board evaluated eight options against well-formed, agreed-upon criteria, including: capacity, disruption to the learning process during construction, supporting our educational program, safety, preserving flexibility for new programming in future years, predictability during construction, fiscal stewardship, value added to the community and life quality features. Ultimately, the Board put forward a bond referendum which included a new school, renovations to two buildings, upgrades to safety and ADA accessibility, roof replacement and masonry repairs and a second proposition (only implemented if the first proposition is approved) improving fields, tennis courts and irrigation. As a result of the hard, collaborative work put into the decision making process, the board was lauded for their transparency and both bonds resoundingly passed.
While this is only the beginning, Cheryl’s use of process helped her get off to a great start in her new district – and process will help tackle the new work that comes with the execution of these new plans. She is excited about the future and credits her surrounding administrative team with providing the support and expertise to maintain all of the good work that happens every day in the district while this became a large focus for her in her first year.