On Wednesday, October 17, a screening was held at Newman Elementary of the documentary "METCO: Yesterday. Today. Tomorrow." followed by a panel discussion. Made by Natalie Guthrie, Education producer for the Needham Channel and NHS teacher, the film provides a history of the METCO programming starting in the 1960s, its importance today in providing diverse experiences to both Needham and Boston students, and goals for the program in the coming years. Ms. Guthrie spent over a year making the film, and interviewed a wide range of historians, administrators, teachers, parents, and students.
After the screening, Ms. Guthrie, herself both a METCO alum and parent of current METCO students, moderated a panel with Superintendent Dr. Dan Gutekeanst, Needham METCO Director Dr. Joanne Allen-Willoughby, and two METCO students from Needham High School. Also present was new METCO CEO Milly Arbaje-Thomas, who discussed initiatives to increase both engagement across METCO districts and fundraising efforts to allow more students to participate in the program.
Common themes that emerged were Needham's wish to increase the number METCO students (though both space and funding are current limiting factors), and the importance of the program for ALL students in Needham schools, not just those who come from Boston. Also discussed was the ongoing need to strengthen the connection between Boston and Needham families, both by making it easier for Boston students to participate in Needham activities, and for Needham students and parents to make more of an effort to visit their peers in Boston. Students also spoke of the difficulties fitting in as people of color in a predominantly white school.