Administrative Updates

... from the Cheltenham School District (August 22, 2019)

The following information has been collected from CSD administrative departments and reflects updates on key programs, priorities and initiatives. Items specifically related to the progress of Cheltenham’s strategic plan, Five Pathways, One Destination, are noted along with specific plan pathways. To access the plan and a description of each pathway, click here.

Dr. Renato Lajara Named CHS Interim Principal

The Cheltenham Director of Elementary Education, Dr. Renato Lajara has accepted the temporary assignment of interim principal at Cheltenham High School for the 2019-20 school year.

A former administrator in Philadelphia, Dr. Lajara has served as a building principal at Kensington High School and John B. Stetson School. Throughout his career, Dr. Lajara has earned accolades for developing positive school culture, increasing attendance and showing academic growth in key content areas. He served a successful term as the interim principal Myers Elementary during the 2018-19 school year.

Dr. Lajara earned his bachelor's (elementary education), master's degree/certification (educational administration) and doctorate (educational leadership) from Gwynedd Mercy University.


Family Engagement Meetings

  • Superintendent Dr. Wagner Marseille and several directors met with members of the United Parent Group (UPG) on Thursday, Aug. 1 to discuss opportunities to build community buy-in. UPG reiterated its commitment to supporting the district by serving as a conduit to increase parent engagement and "authentic engagement." Moving forward, Communications Director Kevin Kaufman will attend the superintendent's monthly meeting with UPG to create opportunities for dialogue and administration will release proposed committee meeting topics farther in advance than has occurred. [Strategic Plan Pathway 5: Communications and Engagement]
  • Special Education administrators met with the co-chairs from the Special Education Alliance of Cheltenham (SEAC) on Friday, July 26 and discussed event-related communications, parent engagement for the coming school year, and directory information for students in the intermediate unit classes. Another meeting with administration is scheduled for late September. SEAC is hosting its first meeting of the school year on Thursday, Sept. 5 at the high school at 6 p.m., followed by its annual Playground Social at Wall Park on Saturday, Sept. 14 from 3 - 5 p.m. [Strategic Plan Pathway 5: Communications and Engagement]


Equity Statement

Thank you to the parents who attended several meetings this past school year to assist in finalizing the district’s equity statement. The statement will now be used to support the school board in writing and implementing an equity policy for the 2019-20 school year. Read the equity statement>


Policy Adoptions

At its August 13 legislative meeting, the CSD Board of School Directors approved the following policies and associated administrative regulations:


Summer Professional Development / Curriculum Work

  • Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith and Director of Student Services Dr. Cheryl Horsey met with Al Vernacchio about working with the district on health curriculum writing and implementation. A human sexuality educator and consultant for more than 25 years, Vernacchio delivers human sexuality workshops across the country. A renowned speaker and author, Vernacchio earned his B.A. in theology from Saint Joseph’s and his M.S.Ed. in human sexuality education from Penn. [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]
  • Assistant Superintendent Dr. Tamara Thomas Smith and a team of CSD administrators and teachers attended the Delaware Valley Consortium for Excellence and Equity (DVCEE) Summer Institute at Lower Merion High School. The session was informative and provided material the team looks forward to implementing as part of the district's equity efforts.[Strategic Plan Pathway 3: Professional Learning]
  • STEM Supervisor Dr. Brian Reilly coordinated and lead curriculum design for Math 7 and 8 and Algebra 1 this summer. Middle School teachers Beth Kenna, Kristina Calhoun, Enonge Mallard, Desa Lee, Omar Rose, Christopher Warner and Andrea Anderson participated in developing pacing guides, common assessments and differentiated lessons. Concepts from Visible Learning for Mathematics and Mathematical Mindset were shared with the team to direct unit plan drafts which will be developed this school year. [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]
  • STEM Supervisor Dr. Brian Reilly aided in the design of the leadership workshop for the upcoming Chief Science Officers (CSO) program, which PaSEED is running as part of a Pennsylvania Smart grant Governor Wolf awarded. The leadership workshop is for students and teachers who will be engaged in the inaugural year of CSO in Pennsylvania. Four CHS students will participate in the training taking place in August at Arcadia University. CHS teacher Tanya Soboloff will serve as the program advisor. [Strategic Plan Pathway 5: Communications and Engagement]
  • On Tuesday, July 16, Director of Student Services Dr. Cheryl Horsey, Supervisor of Counseling Dr. Ray Realdine and Secondary Home and School Visitor Jessica Keene attended an introductory training on advanced Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports (PBIS) at the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit. Advanced tier systems and supports were defined and attendees were provided with the rationale and research behind this continuum of support. An overview of school team roles and functions, assessment for intervention (universal screeners), and interventions and systems were presented. This workshop offered the conceptualization needed to think about forming teams and what is entailed when determining advanced tier needs moving forward. [Strategic Plan Pathway 2: Student Achievement] [Strategic Plan Pathway 4: Holistic Experiences]
  • Cedarbrook’s seventh and eighth grade teachers met to finalize the standards-aligned English curriculum, which exposes students to a diverse collection of literature and allows them choice in text selection through a thematic approach. [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]

  • The Office of Education hosted a professional learning opportunity on Tuesday, July 30 for third through eighth grade teachers and Wednesday, July 31 for fifth through twelfth grade teachers. The sessions focused on NOTICE AND NOTE Strategies for Close Reading and Reading Nonfiction by Kylene Beers and Robert E. Probst. CBK's Kristyn Sanborn and Peggy Cooper facilitated the workshops. [Strategic Plan Pathway 3: Professional Learning]
  • On Wednesday and Thursday, July 10 and July 11, three special education teachers participated in two full days of professional development offered by the Montgomery County Intermediate Unit (MCIU) related to the rollover from “Aimsweb” to “Aimsweb Plus” planned for 2020. Aimsweb/Aimsweb Plus is a program that allows systematic data collection for the purposes of screening and progress monitoring. Special Education is considering a "train-the-trainer" model wherein all department staff will begin using the updated platform before the rollover. By sending specific staff members to the MCIU, those individuals are now designated as “teacher leaders” who can assist administration in understanding the challenges and scope of the rollover. [Strategic Plan Pathway 2: Curriculum and Instruction] [Strategic Plan Pathway 3: Professional Development]


Elementary Education

  • As part of the district's three-year curriculum plan, the Fundations English Language Arts curriculum will be implemented at the first grade level this school year, following the successful implementation in Kindergarten during the 2018-2019 school year.
    [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]

  • The second year of the district's successful Kindergarten Kickstart program concluded on Thursday, July 25. Forty-two students attend this year’s program, which assists children and their families to begin the school year ready and excited about learning. A three-week experience for families to learn all about kindergarten, Kickstart familiarizes children with typical school day activities and practices and aims to help children experience joyful learning, become more comfortable with the school environment and grow accustomed to daily routines and procedures. The students participated in numerous activities, including a field day and visit from the Cheltenham Township Police Department and Cheltenham Fire Department. [Strategic Plan Pathway 2: Student Achievement]


Secondary Education

  • STEM Supervisor Dr. Brian Reilly and Gifted Education Supervisor Matt Pimental lead a week-long PBL workshop for the PBL teaching teams at CBK and CHS. The seventh through eleventh grade teams engaged in developing their first project for this school year. Each team designed and constructed a prototype, prepared a project description and participated in a Charrette protocol for other PBL teachers to provide critical feedback. [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]
  • STEM Supervisor Dr. Brian Reilly coordinated with the representative from IXL to secure a multi-year subscription to the intervention tool for mathematics at CBK and CHS. IXL will also be available at CBK for English and Science. The subscription will commence at the start of the school year. Cheltenham was approved to participate in a pilot program for accessing IXL through Clever, which will simplify the login protocol. [Strategic Plan Pathway 2: Student Achievement]
  • Communication about seventh-grade mathematics placement was communicated to families in August. Placements were based on the criteria announced in November 2016. In order to prepare for the upcoming school year, and the elimination of pre-algebra at CBK, the Math 7 and Algebra 1 courses for seventh grade were revised with a particular emphasis on providing differentiation based on student’s individual needs. Students in both Math 7 and Algebra 1 will be monitored as they engage in this programmatic change. STEM Supervisor Dr. Brian Reilly will meet with the seventh-grade math teachers to gather feedback on the progression of the course and student success and to provide curricular support when needed. [Strategic Plan Pathway 1: Curriculum and Instruction]