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SC Meeting: February 26, 2019

The 2/26 SC meeting was held in Boston at the Jeremiah E. Burke High School. The majority of the meeting was devoted to the High School: school improvement plan, program of studies, and achievement highlights. In addition, the NEF submitted their winter grant awards for approval.

Superintendent's Comments

Dr. Gutekanst provided a list of five competencies to SC members developed through Portrait of a Needham Graduate work. The competencies will be made publicly available in approximately two weeks. Dr. Gutekanst also congratulated five National Merit Scholar finalists, and noted an upcoming meeting on math for Boston-resident families on Thursday, 2/28.

Needham Education Foundation (NEF) Winter Grants

In the second of three grant cycles for the year, the NEF awarded nine grants for a total of $28,992. SC members remarked on the number of grants related to wellness, mental health, and creating alternative learning environments, and thanked the NEF for their continued support of innovative and impactful programs in the schools.

NEF Winter Grants:

  • Planet Box (Pollard)

  • 8th Grade Experiential Education: Mindfulness-Based Stress Reduction Equipment (Pollard)

  • Pollard Low-Ropes Challenge Course (Pollard)

  • Differentiated Learning Station (Pollard)

  • Sensory Pathways (Broadmeadow)

  • Strategies to Prevent Bullying Responsive Classroom PD (Hillside)

  • Author Visit: Gloria Respress-Churchwell (Hillside)

  • Literacy Lounge (Eliot)

  • Sensory Toolkit (Eliot)

Also of note: several of the programs highlighted in the following discussion of the High School were funding by previous NEF grants, including:

  • Sons of Serendip Residency

  • Differentiated Learning Spaces @ NHS Library

  • Creating Virtual Reality (VR Goggles)

  • The Greater Boston Project / Interdisciplinary Learning

Needham High School - School Improvement Plan

Principal Aaron Sicotte was joined by NHS Council co-chair Lucy Rufo to provide an update on the 2016-19 School Improvement Plan (available in the SC packet). Highlights and discussion items included:

  • Successful 1 to 1 implementation for grades 9 and 10, with each student having their own school-provided device

  • Virtual Reality carts being used well in classrooms

  • All-school read of the book The Hate U Give and the event "One Day," which included 40 break-out sessions around the theme of "Finding the Power in Your Voice"

  • Good use being made of new space at the HS, especially collaboration spaces in hallways

  • X block, which was piloted last year, will be part of 2019-20 schedule. Further possible schedule changes will be assessed after that.

  • More off-campus opportunities for seniors are still being explored, though the current rotating schedule presents challenges.

Mr. Sicotte also mentioned two proposed policy changes which will come before the SC soon:

  1. Move to unweighted GPA A study of comparable towns who have already changed to an unweighted GPA revealed that it does NOT reduce student stress as hoped, but is also does not seem to have a detrimental affect on college acceptances. The HS feels moving to the unweighted GPA is an important statement of values.

  2. Revised Dress Code The current dress code is outdated and rarely enforced. Of more concern, it disproportionately targets the dress of female students. The revised code will address these issues.

Needham High School - Program of Studies Principal Aaron Sicotte was joined by Assistant principal Alison Coubrough-Argentieri to discuss changes to the 2019-20 Program of Studies, including a new Core Value Statement, inclusion of new reading material to represent more diverse experiences, and several new courses:

  • AP Capstone Seminar

  • History, Politics, and Popular Music

  • Courageous Conversations on Race

  • Storytelling with Numbers

  • Braver Newer World

  • Chamber Strings

  • Chamber Orchestra

  • Guitar Ensemble

  • Piano Lab 2

The full program of studies, with changes highlighted, can be found in the SC packet

Needham High School - Achievement Report

Needham students continue to perform well on standardized tests: above state and national averages, and in the middle when ranked against comparable towns. While the report contained a lot of data on standardized test scores, Mr. Sicotte and SC members preferred to focus on many of the non-academic achievements in the areas of fine and performing arts, robotics, community service, and more.

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