SC Meeting: April 6, 2021

School Committee met on April 6th to discuss the school calendar, the superintendent’s contract, the High Rock School Improvement Plan, and an update on student learning. Dr. Gutekanst also introduced Andrew (Andy) Garlick, the incoming Broadmeadow principal.


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Proposed Change to School Calendar

The committee heard a student proposal to change the name of the holiday on the second Monday in October on the district-wide school calendar to recognize Indigenous Peoples Day, instead of Columbus Day. School Committee will vote on the calendar at the next meeting. It is expected that the calendar will include an informational section highlighting the many observances in which families in our community participate.


Recognition of Departing SC Members

Dr. Gutekanst recognized Heidi Black (12 years) and Susan Neckes (9 years) as they retire from school committee. They have both made invaluable contributions to the Needham Public Schools during their tenures.


Action Item: Superintendent's Contract

The committee voted unanimously to renew Dr. Gutekanst's contract for three years. They separately voted to award a salary increase of 2.23% and to insert a longevity payment into the contract. Discussion on total compensation relative to his peers and his performance ensued, and his less than ½% increase last year was also noted. (5-1-0 vote)


High Rock School Improvement Plan

A High Rock student shared a poem that reflected on her experiences during the pandemic. The Equity Committee at High Rock shared their experiences and thoughts about the social and emotional learning that happens at High Rock and how the equity work has improved and developed over the years. They also discussed staff training on Nubia, its erased history, and how these learnings have impacted the science and social studies curriculum. The educators discussed how they are able to bring in representation of other cultures to the studies.


Update on Student Learning

Dr. Gutekanst gave an update on the return to full in-person learning for all elementary students and laid out the schedule for the rest of the district:

  • Middle school: 4/15

  • Preschool: 4/28

  • High School: 5/3 (with a staggered and modified schedule)

Sixty-eight remote learning students have returned to full in-person learning. Adjustments include students eating in performance centers, auditoriums and tents, an additional bus to Boston to accommodate more students, and new guidelines for transportation (two children per seat). While the state has changed its travel restriction to an advisory, the guidelines remain a requirement for Needham public schools. The district has sent an email to all families with the travel requirement information.


End-of-year events are being planned: there will be student-only events fro 5th and 8th grade graduations, but for high school they expect to allow a few guests for each student. There is also talk of a prom; all are being discussed with Department of Public Health and the school physician. Plans for summer programs are in place: ESY will run for 300 kids, Summer Bridge program will continue, boosting reading and math for all identified students, and Needham Community Ed Summer Explorations is happening. There will also be a credit recovery program for high school programs.


In closing, Dan recognized the help of the community in obtaining 400 appointments for staff to receive their Covid-19 vaccination.