Pelham Schools Superintendent Overjoyed With District's Progress

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Pelham Union Free School District Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo.
Pelham Union Free School District Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

This is the first of a two-part interview.

PELHAM, N.Y. -- As the very first classes under his watchful eye graduate this week, Pelham's Superintendent of Schools Peter Giarrizzo, couldn't be more pleased

."It's really been a terrific year," he said. 

Giarrizzo, who began his tenure in July 2013, already sports a long list of accomplishments. These include things as monumental as the completion of Glover Field and as small as simply getting his students to follow him on Twitter.

That, however, is not including the number of achievements the students have made on his watch, including reaching a 99-percent graduation rate, being accepted into seven out of eight Ivy Leagues, winning sectionals in various sports and earning awards and scholarships. 

Giarrizzo said starting the new year on a joyful, inspired note after a particularly stressful period was important to its success.

Another of his various successes for the 2013-14 school year was achieving his goal to improve communication within the district. This included designing a new website, starting a blog, promoting his Twitter account and preparing to launch a new email system.

"I'm trying to promote a standard of approachability between the staff, students and families," he said. "I'm still looking for more creative ways to do that."

On the other hand, one of the larger disappointments of the year was the problematic handling of security procedures. In this school year alone, Pelham had three lockdowns, all of which may have been related to human error. 

"We need to seriously work on our procedure. I'm proud of how we handled the situations, but I'm not pleased with how they happened," he said.

He added that it is an unfortunate sign of the times that schools must now be prepared for possible intruders, but it is better to be prepared. 

Giarrizzo's goals looking forward include further increasing diversity and professional development, along with implementing what he terms, "21st century learning," which includes not only using technology in the classroom, but also emphasizing critical thinking skills.

This, in part, is being done with the district's Chromebook initiative, which will provide students in grades eight and nine with laptops. The initiative was funded by a $100,000 grant from state Sen. Jeffrey Klein and a $116,000 grant from the Pelham Education Foundation.

Check back on Tuesday, July 1 for Part Two, which focuses on Pelham's implementation of the Common Core and Superintendent Giarrizzo's push for more diversity in Pelham schools. 

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