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Community Forum: Racial Equity in Action

On Wednesday, April 24, Needham Public Schools hosted a community forum at Needham High School on racial equity. Members of the community were invited to hear an update on the district's equity work from members of the REAL Coalition (Race, Equity, Access, Leadership), and to ask questions and share feedback.

After opening remarks by Superintendent Dan Gutekanst, attendees were led in a framing exercise by Leslie Smart (Middle School METCO Coordinator), and Johnny Cole (NHS Assistant Principal). Smart and Cole are both trained as IDEAS Facilitators, and have helped lead discussions about race and equity among staff in the district.

Dr. Joanne Allen-Willoughby, METCO Director moderated a panel of REAL Coalition members:

  • George Goneconto, Hillside Teacher

  • Leslie Smart, Middle School METCO Coordinator

  • Greg Bayse, Mitchell Principal

  • Johnny Cole, High School Assistant Principal

  • Chris Ginacola, parent

  • Giulia Rozzo, High School student

  • Mary Lammi, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services

  • Steve Plasko, High School History & Social Sciences Department Chair

After sharing why they were each interested and committed to the district's equity work, panelists addressed questions regarding the different elements of their work to date. Main ideas and initiatives discussed included:

  • Professional development for teachers at all levels to celebrate diversity, be culturally responsive, and navigate difficult conversations

  • Assessing and revamping curriculum to reflect a wider range of cultures and experiences

  • Recruiting and retaining more diverse staff

  • Student-created groups at the high school to support conversations around race and equity

The REAL Coalition plans to host more forums in the next school year, and invites community members to send questions or comments to Mary Lammi (, 781-455-0400 x11213).

Detailed information about the REAL Coalition's equity work can be found on the NPS website:


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