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SC Meeting: April 2, 2024

At the April 2 School Committee Meeting there was a discussion of the High Rock School Improvement Plan and a Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation: 9-12 English & Social Studies.

Superintendent Updates

  • Recognition of school staff (Units C, D, E and Bus Drivers). The School Committee, thanked school staff members for all of their hard work and efforts in supporting our schools and students. (e.g, office administrative staff, bussing staff, nutrition services, bookkeepers, IT staff and more)  

  • Discussion ensued and committee members added their personal thanks for school staff. 

High Rock School Improvement Plan

High Rock Speakers: Jessica Downey (High Rock Principal), John Cho (High Rock School Council Member) and his son Sam Cho, Eleanor Clark, and Venetia Bouchon and her father Vivil Bouchon (High Rock School Council Member)  

District Priorities and Corresponding High Rock School Goals (Roadmap for the next four years)

District Priority: All students are drivers of their own learning.

Corresponding High Rock Goals: 

  • Foster student agency, voice and choice in all aspects of learning

  • Establish equity and culturally proficient practices across all students’ experiences. 

District Priority: All students experience integrative teaching and learning.  

Corresponding High Rock Goals: 

  • Develop common understanding and intentional opportunities for interdisciplinary learning.

  • Embed SEL strategies and mental health supports across the school. 

  • Implement with fidelity Restorative Practices. 

District Priority: All students will learn and grow within adaptable environments. 

Corresponding High Rock Goals: 

  • Increase connections with businesses, organizations, and civic leaders to provide learning opportunities.

  • Provide learning access and opportunity across all students’ experiences. 

District Priority: Infrastructure that supports needs of all students. 

Corresponding High Rock Goal: 

  • Participate in the middle school reunification project to ensure a smooth transition for students and staff.

Voices of the Community:

  • Current High Rock students provided their perspectives on the Advisory block they have in their day, which focuses on social awareness and healthy social emotional development. Activities are focused on teaching students how to come together as a community to collaborate, and to ensure everyone feels supported in the group.

  • Students came up with slogans for High Rock and voted for their favorite. Each student will receive a pencil with the winning slogan.

  • Parents of High Rock students shared their perspectives on the school and their children’s positive experience as students at High Rock.  

Questions and discussion from the School Committee members ensued.

  • A common theme of the discussion is that High Rock is a special place from both the perspective of faculty/staff and the perspective of students/families and it should be a priority to retain the special community present at High Rock if/when the middle school reunification takes place. 

  • When the students were asked – if given a magic wand, what is one thing you would tweak at High Rock – the universal response was the opportunity for cohorts to cross mingle at some point during the day. 

Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation: 9-12 English and Social Studies

Speakers from the High School: Stephen Plasko (History Department Chair), Patrick Gallagher (English Department Chair), Karen McCauley (English Teacher), Rosie Calland (History Teacher), and three students from the High School 

Discussion was focused on some of the interesting English and Social Studies programs that were developed in alignment with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate. 

9IP Program Discussion

Program Components:

  • Pathway for students to learn in an interdisciplinary, collaborative and project based environment

  • Opportunity to make connections between disciplines and develop a deeper understanding of the world around us 

  • There are 5 thematic Units of Study through the year and all courses relate back to these themes

  • Unit 1: Observation and Patterns: How do we make sense of the work around us?

  • Unit 2: Systems: How does the structure of a system relate to its function?

  • Unit 3: Power and Influence: How does power create influence and how are we influenced by power?

  • Unit 4: Disease: How, and why, have infectious disease outbreaks through history impacted groups of people differently?

  • Unit 5: Revolutions: How have revolutionary ideas changed society?

  • Students also do projects throughout the year to tie this learning together. 

Collaborative Interdisciplinary Projects

  1. Farming Project (ties all subjects together)

Project Components: 

  • Students visit Natick Community Farm for a half-day experience

  • Research history, ecology and nutritional value of crops

  • Combine individual research with research of their team members to plan a sustainable farm at NHS  

  • Create a mathematical model for the cost of running the farm or graph of crop distribution (mathematical modeling)

  •  Designing a website for their farm (technological component)

  • All of this relates back to the PONG skills that are at the core of the interdisciplinary learning model underpinning 9IP. 

  • Examples of the students' websites can be found in the packet.

2. Castle Design using quadratic functions (History and Math)

3. Disease + Equity (creating a documentary film on an infectious disease and its impact on different groups – all subjects)

4. Combined research paper on a historical revolutionary figure (History and English)

9-12 English and Social Studies Goals/Curriculum

Structured to align student learning, approach and curriculum with Portrait of a Needham Graduate 

  • Learning opportunities that center students – prioritize their collaboration, foster student curiosity, empower their voice and expression of their ideas and learning

  • Universal design for learning concepts incorporated into approach – allowing students to reflect on the strategic choices they are making with respect to their learning to foster growth in making independent choices to shape their own learning in the future  

  • Leverage student’s personal identities and voice as essential elements of purposeful inquiries 

  • Integrate technology and digital tools/resources

  • Many of today’s students will have careers that haven’t been invented/envisioned yet – focus on flexibility, good judgment and responsible use with respect to digital assets and resources is a key focus 

  • Create a climate of inquiry – fluid process and something that gets revisited regularly

Sample Projects/Initiatives Supporting Portrait of a Needham Graduate Goals:

  • Partnership with League of Women Voters Aligns with the civics requirement for high school students and has benefited students greatly. Focus on learning about different types of advocacy, local government and related initiatives, etc. Culminates in a civics fair at Town Hall where over 200 NHS students present their advocacy projects to the public. 

  • Challenging the Single Story of Africa Historical narratives can be superficial in many ways and tell an incomplete story and can be destructive. Historical culture written in the western world regarding Africa has been particularly notorious for this particular problem. Students are challenged to consider these single stories and misconceptions embedded in them and learn to how challenge them to prove the single story is incorrect or inaccurate. They also work on projects where they think through ways they could convey their message to others. For example, one student group had the idea of making a podcast and built an fictional podcast program into which this single podcast would fit. 

Questions and discussion from the School Committee members ensued.

School Committee Comments 

  • Tuesday April 9 is the Annual Town Election; encourage all eligible community members to vote. 

  • Needham Community Council recently had a successful fundraiser. A number of community members and students volunteer with NCC to help support community members in Needham.

The next School Committee meeting will be Tuesday April 23 at 6:30pm.


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