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SC Meeting: April 4, 2023

At the April 4 School Committee meeting there was a discussion of the High Rock School Improvement Plan, a Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation highlighting the K-12 World Language Program, and a Theatrical Lighting and Sound Update.

Public Comments

Several High School students involved in the Performing Arts made statements about the conditions of the Needham Schools' auditoriums, theaters and lighting structures. The theaters noted are the High School, Newman Elementary School and Pollard Middle School theaters. The students feel these areas lack updated technology, the current equipment is unsafe, and in some cases the physical space is in disrepair. They feel there is a lack of support for our performing arts students and spaces versus Needham athletics. They also stated that Needham’s efforts in supporting the performing arts spaces is inferior to our surrounding towns.

School Committee Comments/Updates

Michael O’Brien as liaison to the Minuteman school was able to meet with their new Superintendent. They discussed projects, Needham recruitment, and how to join the Minuteman School Community.

Superintendent Comments

Dr Gutekanst wished a Happy Passover and Easter to those who are celebrating.

High Rock School Improvement Plan

High Rock Principal Jessica Downey, High Rock Students and Staff members presented about the benefits of Social Emotional Learning (SEL) in advisory.

There are 4 frames of SEL at High Rock:

  • The High Rock student representatives highlighted the benefits of SEL woven into the advisory period. It is a time where they can learn about things that are not a part of the current curriculum (such as March Madness, the Olympics, Community Outreach, Veteran’s Day, etc). During this time the students are also building on their adult connections and small group connections.

They also discussed the daily Structured Learning Support (SLS) Block at High Rock.

  • This is a time when students are given the time and space to focus on their learning needs in a structured way. The SLS block may include independent reading time, technology lessons, IXL- Math, cluster programming, and/or time working with teachers and guidance counselors.

  • SC Committee members asked questions and noted that "Having this SLS block will prepare you for the X block in High School as this teaches students time management and self advocacy.”

Portrait of a Needham Graduate: Spotlight on Needham World Languages

The Needham World Language Department cultivates the competencies of the Needham Portrait of a Needham Graduate in our K-12 world language program. A video was shared of the experiences of the NPS language program from across our district ranging from 1st grade thru NHS alumni. The continuous themes of the Needham World Language Department are:

  • Being communicators and collaborators

  • Being empowered learners

  • Develop empathy and perspective of local and global issues as they become socially and culturally responsible contributors

  • Responsible and resilient individuals

A new grading system was introduced in the Needham Language Department. The old (Traditional Grading) system was based on accuracy on homework, tests, quizzes, classwork and participation. The new grading system known as the Proficiency Based Grading better reflects improvement and actual language knowledge. The Proficiency Grading System values proficiency and mastery of each skill. At the start of each unit a student is provided with formative tasks, and receives feedback from teachers based on proficiency based rubrics where they can set goals and action plans prior to their assessments.

Needham Theater Sound and Lighting Study

Needham High School, Pollard Middle School and Newman Elementary School are the only three Needham Schools that have auditoriums and theatrical stages. Currently all need attention.

The three areas of interest in this study included:

  • Safety and Compliance

  • Theatrical System Upgrade

  • Architectural Lighting

In summary, there are 5 projects that need to be completed to reach benchmark standards in the 3 areas of interest above. Plus there are options for 2 upgrades. With all the projected costs for all items the total comes to $4.8 million. A detailed series of slides which reflect all projected costs and projects can be found in the SC packet starting on page 44.

School Committee noted that the Needham community is very proud of our performing arts programs and these improvements are a real need.

Immediate next steps in terms of completion of the first phase of this project (focusing on Safety & Compliance needs):

  1. SAC1 repairs at Pollard starting in April 2023 continuing through Summer 2023

  2. Create SAC1 Bid documents for Newman Elementary and the High School

  3. SAC1 Repairs at Newman Elementary and High School Summer 2023

School Committee Comments

Tuesday, April 11, 2023 is voting day so please get out and vote!

The next School Committee meeting will be April 25 at 6:30pm.


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