SC Meeting: April 5, 2022

At the April 5 School Committee Meeting there was a discussion of the Needham High School Student Advisory Report, Proposed 2022-2023 Elementary, Middle, and High School Handbook Changes, and the High Rock School Improvement Plan. School Committee also voted on the Facilities Master Plan Choices.


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School Committee & Superintendent Comments


The superintendent introduced Kiana Brunson, the new principal for Sunita Williams Elementary School, starting in June. Ms Brunson has previously worked for over 14 school years in Boston/Dorchester.


The chair recognized committee member Aaron Pressman for his service to the school committee over the past ten years, and he was lauded by his colleagues.


NHS Student Advisory Report


NHS student leaders presented on their spring activities and initiatives, including proposals to address student stress, study skills, and access to school counselors.


NHS Principal Aaron Sicotte spoke about newly drafted policies in the NHS Handbook. These policies will be voted upon on April 27th.


High Rock School Improvement Plan


Principal Jessica Downey and Liz Wellburn, ELA Chair 6-8, presented on the High Rock School Improvement Plan. Ms Wellburn discussed how they team chose a new novel for the core curriculum to replace The Breadwinner, which focused on Afghanistan but no longer felt relevant. Five books were chosen to pilot by cluster and students were surveyed about the choices. Connections to other areas of the curriculum were brought in to the unit, which students really enjoyed.


Ms. Downey noted that students returning to school after pandemic shutdowns demonstrated social/emotional gaps in learning.

  • Pivoted to a focus on personal interaction skills, not just accelerating academic growth.

  • Received funding for more guidance support. Needed to use a push-in model; old model of small lunch groups wasn’t practical with distancing protocols.

  • Current class had not been in school full time since fourth grade.


Vote on Facilities Master Plan choices


The Superintendent recommend that the committee narrow down the choices to two, which are the most educationally sound, the best overall for students and less expensive. He stated that these two plans will meet four goals:

  • address infrastructure, space and program needs 6-8 and Mitchell

  • allow for right sized Mitchell on its campus

  • will provide significant classroom capacity for the future. Elementary enrollment steady, but new zoning mandates (housing density near transportation hubs) and potential for universal preschool might cause enrollment to go up

  • less expensive options overall

School Committee members expressed strong support for options C and D, which include moving sixth grade to the Pollard campus, building a new 3-section Mitchell, and doing so in a timely fashion. The recommendation was passed unanimously.


The next School Committee meeting is April 26, 2022.