Pelham Superintendent Takes On Diversity, Common Core

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Pelham Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo.
Pelham Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo. Photo Credit: Suzanne Samin

This is the second of a two part interview. Read the first part here

Pelham, N.Y. -- Pelham Schools Superintendent Peter Giarrizzo's first year on the job presented some difficult issues that many schools across the state and the nation deal with daily.

The first was the continued implementation of the Common Core, a set of academic standards adopted by more than 40 states, which in Giarrizzo's opinion is a good idea that was implemented far too quickly.

He was one among a handful of superintendents in the state to withhold his students from field testing, which was scheduled for Grades 3-6.

Read about Giarrizzo's opinion on the importance of childhood literacy.

In a letter to parents regarding the tests, he wrote: "After a careful discussion with your building principals and consultation with the Board of Education, we believe that our students' time is most optimally spent engaged in high quality learning with their classroom teachers rather than engaged in more testing."

Giarrizzo said he chose to withhold the students because he believes the state is subjecting them to far too much testing.

"Assessment should inform instruction. We should not be assessing for assessment's sake," he said. 

The second issue was that of diversity, or the lack thereof, within the district. Giarrizzo helped create a diversity task force to examine how the district could identify and fulfill the needs of all kinds of students and families.

"What we wanted to do, through the lens of curriculum, cultural responsiveness, student achievement and parent engagement, is figure out how we're doing with all kinds of kids," he said. "What we came to learn is, transitioning to Pelham isn't easy."

Giarrizzo also met with students, including a group of women of color, to discuss the absence of racial diversity in course material, which he aims to correct.

The task force also looked at the LGBT presence both within the faculty and student body, and how to best accommodate students and families who fall into the spectrum.

According to Giarrizzo, the district is working with a transgender student to identify his needs in terms of facilities and support, to make his transition as smooth as possible.

"We're going to do all we can to make sure he has a really terrific experience here," he said.

"Its our job to make sure everybody is ready for this. We're not about tolerance, we're about acceptance. We're going to do more than just tolerate you."

@suzannesamin

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