The 12/11 SC meeting focused primarily on the FY20 budget request, along with an update from the NHS Advisory Council to School Committee.
Needham High School Advisory to School Committee Report
Students reported a successful series of fall events as well as positive feedback on usage of the new space in the High School. They are looking to focus more on increasing participation both within the school and the community at large with their pep rally, bon fire and homecoming events.
Impact of Feb 2018 accident: students will be selling bracelets for $1 each with profits being distributed evenly across scholarships in memory of Talia Newfield and Adrienne Garrido.
Dr. Gutenkast commented on the recent graffiti incident in the High School. “Any sign of homophobia or anti-Semitism is unacceptable. If we can name the behavior and say that’s not who we are, it will go away.” Dr. Gutekanst continued to remark that students that have spoken up upon discovering the graffiti are appreciated and demonstrate how we are all leaders in our community.
Superintendent’s 2019-20 Budget Request
Superintendent Dan Gutenkast presented the FY20 budget proposal. It was a challenging budget year, requiring input from all, but the proposal outlines resources consistent with Needham’s goals, in particular the theme of Equity. The proposal will be voted upon by the School Committee and then the Town Meeting will finalize in May 2019. The budget proposal is on the NPS website for community members to access.
The FY20 proposal presented represents a 7.5% increase over FY19 in two components:
Level Service These are typical budget line items that include: contractual salary increases, level services, and some program improvements: $3,310,820.
Program Improvements These are unique to FY20 and include opening the Sunita L. Williams School and launching Full-Day Kindergarten: $2,048,354. This is a heavy lift and will need community support.
Benchmarks and Challenges
Current and projected enrollment numbers for Needham remain above the state average. Compared to its peers, Needham has a higher student:teacher ratio. While Needham enrollment numbers continue to grow, our peers are seeing decreasing enrollment numbers. This remains a challenge for Needham and projections indicate a one that we will have to continue to address. Benchmark data suggests Needham continues to be high performing in assessment outcomes (MCAS, AP, SAT) but not quite at the top of its peer group, while its tax rate is approximately in the middle of the pack, and lower than many of the higher performing districts.
Needham is one of the very few communities in the Commonwealth without full-day kindergarten. Per the 2016 Full Day Kindergarten Report to Needham School Committee, Full Day Kindergarten leads to higher academic achievement, school readiness, better long term attendance, social and emotional learning outcomes and actually decreases costs long-term by reducing retention and remediation. Aside from the overwhelming majority of Needham parents desiring it, Full-day Kindergarten is a matter of equity, inclusion, and access for all children. Only 60% of current Kindergarteners participate in KASE. Of the 40% who don’t— for some it’s a choice, but for many it’s about being able to afford the cost. The Full-Day Kindergarten committee presented the current work-in-progress on curriculum development, including a video which gives a sense of what the Needham full-day curriculum could look like in 2019-2020.
Needs Deferred from the FY20 Budget Proposal
Among the items listed under deferred needs are: guidance, literacy and coaching and middle school literacy, part-time High School staff for Latin, Mandarin and Pathways Science. Staff will continue to make due with current business software, though the need for improvement there remains. (See slide 27 of the budget proposal PPT for a complete list of deferred needs.)
Next Steps - The public hearing on the FY20 school budget proposal is on January 15. Community members are encouraged to attend.
January 15 - Town Manager Meets with SC on Budget, Public Hearing
January 16 - Finance Committee Reviews Budget
January 22 - School Committee Votes Budget
May 19 - Town Meeting Votes on Budget