District Initiatives

In an effort to "create the leaders of the next generation," Byram Hills continually seeks to improve current programs while finding new ways to engage our students in meaningful learning experiences. This page summarizes some of our current and ongoing initiatives as we strive to meet the Byram Hills District Mission:

In an environment of mutual respect, the Byram Hills School District and its community will provide students with the means, the knowledge, and the opportunity to excel in order to become productive and responsible CITIZENS AND LEADERS of the twenty-first century.


The District continually engages in continuous improvement of programs, courses, curriculum, instructional approaches, and assessments. The following framework guides our review and implementation of new initiatives. The framework was developed using the latest educational research and literature, business journals and writings, and studies of post-secondary colleges and universities. 

District Framework for Instructional Programs

The District utilizes a four-phase review cycle when implementing new courses and curricular programs, and when periodically reviewing existing programs, courses, or curricula. Each phase involves a design plan to best review and evaluate the programs and reflect upon the collected data when making decisions. 

Curriculum Review Cycle

The 2022-2023 curriculum review plan outlines the major curricular areas and programs under review. This is an ongoing cycle, and each phase may take one to three years, depending upon the depth of the review. Additionally, the building principals, directors, and academic chairpersons evaluate and review various aspects of their respective programs as well; you can view the academic program information under "Academic Departments" in the Curriculum and Instruction tab on our website. 


The District will convene a literacy study group during the 2022-2023 school year in order to study and learn from the latest research on reading and writing. More detailed information can be found on the literacy study group webpage.  

At the May 3, 2022 Board of Education meeting, I presented an update of our K-5 reading curriculum. At the start of the pandemic, the Board adopted a literacy program in order to ensure our students had access to a strong reading and writing curriculum with the option of digital access. We were studying our literacy curriculum during the 2019-2020 school year, and we will pick up the study in the fall of 2022. 

You can review a summary slide show here, and watch my presentation at the Board meeting here


The District adopted a set of core values with respect to character education over 20 years ago through surveys of parents, teachers, and students. From the survey data, we distilled the following character education principles: 

Respectful Dialogue
Respect for Self and Others
Service and Kindness

These principles are supported in a variety of ways in the classroom, throughout the school environment, and integrated within the curriculum and instructional strategies. Examples of where character education can be seen in Byram Hills include: 

  • Morning meetings and grade/school wide community meetings
  • Kelso's Choice (conflict resolution system)
  • Positive Behavior Interventions and Supports (PBIS) framework 
  • Physical education and athletics sportsmanship 
  • Student-faculty voice circles
  • The use of civil discourse in social studies and ELA classrooms
  • Digital citizenship curriculum
  • 9th grade mentor program
  • Students Acting in Leadership (SAIL at HCC)
  • #Kindness at HCC
  • Science ambassador program 
  • Various clubs and extracurricular programs (VIP; Mu Alpha Theta; Tri-M; Big Brother/Big Sister; etc)

All our interactions throughout the District are driven by these core principles.

Ultimately, we strive to create an environment where everyone feels they BELONG; that is, we feel appreciated, validated, accepted, and treated fairly within our school community. 

Character education remains a focus of the District Site-Based teams, and each year our schools review and revise current programs and create additional programs as needed. You can find more information on the District's Site Based Team webpage.


Additional ways we seek to cultivate the tenets of character education are noted below:

Cultural Proficiency

In 2005 the Byram Hills School District made a commitment to creating a culturally proficient school community by developing and promoting the skills and knowledge for respectful dialogue and respect for self and others. “Cultural Proficiency is a mindset, a way of being that esteems the culture of others as one esteems his/her own culture while positively engaging, adapting and responding” (Brenda and Franklin CampbellJones, 2006).

To this end, the District developed a training program and additional structures to continue its journey toward cultural proficiency. We trained administrators, faculty, parents, and students. Study groups were created at Coman Hill and Wampus, which resulted in new curriculum and programs to support the skill development of cultural proficiency. A Student Leadership Board was created to train high school students on the cultural proficiency framework; these high school students become leaders of efforts to promote a school climate built on respect for self and others.

The links below offer detailed information about this important initiative.


Wellness and Social-Emotional Learning
The District recognizes the importance of supporting the social, emotional and academic needs of students. We are deeply committed to addressing student wellness through all aspects of our school environment. Recent initiatives have proven successful, and we are finding ways to assess these programs and find data that demonstrates the degree to which we are successful at supporting students' emotional health.

Some recent initiatives include:

  • Studied social-emotional programs and will pilot a K-5 social-emotional curriculum in 2021-2022.
  • Created the flexible support program at the high school to help students succeed in our academic programs.
  • Provided training from the Yale Center of Emotional Intelligence, to help students become aware of emotions and learn to regulate them.
  • Collaborated with the University of Michigan Depression Center to train faculty and collaborate with District on programs to support students. 
  • Collaborated with Stanford University's Challenge Success, including surveying students and families, and establishing new programs and systems to support student wellness and emotional health.


Bullying Prevention / Internet Safety

The District seeks to create a positive school climate. In doing so, we implement programs on bullying prevention and cyberbullying throughout our K-12 curriculum in addition to the overall district-wide focus on creating a positive school climate. Additionally, the District collaborates with the Byram Hills PTSA for programming, outreach, and communication with families in the community to make our schools productive learning environments for all students.

Facing History and Ourselves
Since 2007, the District started to engage in teacher training and curriculum writing to integrate ideas and principles from the organization, Facing History and Ourselves, a non-profit group committed to improving the human condition around the world. We develop and use resources for lessons, activities and strategies to help young students take responsibility for the world in which we live. Our students experience these lessons throughout our curriculum and extracurricular programs.

A recent research study shows that "students of the Facing History teachers demonstrated significantly greater historical thinking skills, civic efficacy, and tolerance for others with different views than control students. They also reported that their classrooms were more inclusive, respectful, and tolerant of different points of view." (You can read the full report here, conducted by the Harvard Graduate School of Education.)


As we move deeper into the 21st Century, we have left the information age and entered the innovation age. People are connected in new ways and the new economies require new skills and knowledge. As a result of this shift, the District is exploring a new lens through which to view the world. We call this lens global competency.

The Asia Society Global Competence Framework is one model we use to guide our work, and more information can be found on the Asia Society website.

We launched a 3-year Global Scholars Program in 2017-2018, an interdisciplinary study of global issues and leadership for students in grades 10-12. This program was developed by our academic chairpersons, Ms. Jen Laden (social studies), Mr. Duane Smith (English), and Ms. Melissa Stahl (world languages.)

Visit the Global Scholars Program webpage for more details and examples of the curriculum and student work. 


For the past 20 years, the District has engaged in a focused and sustained effort to integrate technology into every classroom at all grade levels to support student learning. We continue to support the use of meaningful technology in our classrooms, and now, technology is ubiquitous to our curricular, instructional and assessment programs. Some highlights about technology include:

  • Updated our infrastructure starting in 2014.
  • Joined the Google environment in 2014.
  • Launched a mobile learning initiative in 2014-2015 with 1:1 Chromebooks in grades 3 through 8, and mobile devices throughout K-2 and 9-12.

You can view Bobcat TV programs on various technology and STEAM initiatives over the years:

Watch this discussion with the Board of Education on Robotics at the high school. (February 13, 2017)


The District seeks to "create the leaders of the next generation." To achieve this goal, all aspects of our curriculum, instruction, and assessments are designed provide students with skills and knowledge to be leaders of the 21st Century. Evidence of this includes a shift in a student-active learning process, self-assessment, goal setting, and decision-making.

Additionally, the District provides other ways for students to learn the skills of leadership and to become true leaders. Some examples are noted below.

Watch this Bobcat TV video on Student Leadership in Byram Hills.
Watch a discussion with student leaders at a Board of Education meeting. (Start at 19:45 into video.)

Teaching Assistant.
Initially started in one chemistry class, the high school created a "TA Program" where students take on the role of a teaching assistant by providing academic support in the classroom, conducting full class and small group demonstrations, and providing individual support during office hours. The TA program currently exists in Chemistry and Computer Science.

Watch this Bobcat TV show on the Chemistry TA Program.

Peer Leader.
All high school students are required to take a Health course, which includes important topics for students in the midst of transition to adulthood. To provide guidance, we offer a Peer Leadership program where high school seniors co-teach the Health course with the health teacher. These students provide a strong guide and important role models for young students learning to navigate high school.

A signature program at the high school is our 9th grade Mentor class, a one semester course to orient ninth grade students to the social, emotional, and academic life of the high school. The Guidance Department collaborate with the teachers of the Mentor course to provide a comprehensive program that prepares students for the important transition to adulthood. Each Mentor class is co-taught by two high school seniors, who teach lessons and become the role models for our young high school students.

Student Leadership Board.
Growing out of the District's initiative on cultural proficiency (see below for more information), we created the Student Leadership Board, a program for high school students in grades 9 - 12 to learn the skills of cultural proficiency, expand their view of global issues, and develop leadership skills to make a difference in their local and global communities.

  • View this presentation to the Board of Education on the Student Leadership Board. (coming soon)
  • Watch this Bobcat TV video on the Student Leadership Board.


The Byram Hills School District recognizes the importance of educating students, parents, faculty and community members about environmental responsibility. The District models best practices in the schools, develops a coordinated K-12 curriculum, integrates environmentally sustainable products and practices into the facilities and transportation departments, and finds partners with local, state and national communities and organizations.

"Educators for sustainability work to develop in young people and adults the knowledge, skills, attitudes, and enduring understandings required to individually and collectively contribute to a healthy and sustainable future." (Jaimie P. Cloud, Educating for a Sustainable Future, 2010, p. 168)


Since 2005, the District has provided extensive training in the development of high quality performance assessments. Various high-quality performance assessments exist throughout the district and the areas of focus are captured on our curriculum maps. While various study groups have attempted to create a structure for collecting longitudinal data on student performance, we have not yet found the best way to highlight this work. We continue to seek a method of tracking the important learning in authentic learning tasks.

Given the District focus on STEAM and Global Competency, we are entering a new era for assessing student learning. We are moving away from the term "performance assessment" and moving more toward an ongoing cycle of demonstrating learning through "authentic learning experiences." We will post more information as we make progress on this ambitious initiative.


The District strives to meet the learning needs of every child. Over the past ten years we have provided professional development at all grade levels to support teacher learning of the theories of differentiation and provide opportunities for collaboration on differentiated lessons, activities and assignments. Our efforts have been guided by the work of Carol Ann Tomlinson, and recently.

Most recently, we are approaching differentiation from a student-centered instructional model, based on the extensive research-based approach by Nancy Sulla.

We continue to add new information to our work in this area.