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SC Meeting: December 10, 2019

The Needham School Committee meeting was held on December 10th, where Dr. Gutekanst presented the FY21 budget request. NHS Student Advisory to School Committee also provided an update.

Needham High School Student Advisory to School Committee (SASC) Report

  • 9th grade class sold class-branded sweatshirts for the year’s first-class fundraiser. They were pre-ordered, in manufacturing and aiming to have them delivered before winter-break. Local Needham Restaurants are being solicited as venues for next fundraiser—portion of that night’s proceeds will go to Art class

  • 10th grade class had a successful fund-raiser and sold around 100 blankets in and around Needham community. Continuing with the theme of raising Needham spirit, the recently held pep rally included pie-a-teacher fun event and distribution of winter goodie bags with candies in them in the same spirit of keeping up school morale.

  • 11th grade Halloween event was a success — over 200 kids from community trick-or-treated around one floor of the HS. Merchandise: sweatpants and phone wallets.

  • 12th grade class brainstorming merchandise to sell to all grades and generate a customizable logo, and a pre-prom idea. This time they will be taking buses, and looking into picture opportunities

At large and in Student council updates:

  • Pre-thanksgiving bonfire event was very successful in bringing teams and Needham families and students together through speeches by the Athletic Director Dan Lee and meet and greet with captains and team-members of all three Varsity teams. Pizza and baked goods were on sale and there were activities for kids.

  • Homecoming dance was held on Nov 22 at the gym, tickets sold for $5 each. This year almost 300 students came to event and the majority of students were freshmen suggesting future successes of the events by involving incoming student participation.

  • Pep Rally was held on the day of the bonfire during school. Seniors and Juniors sat on the bleachers at the gym, juniors sat on the floor and the freshmen watched the event broadcasted live, from the cafeteria. The event was hosted by three seniors and included performances by the Marching band, Cheer Team, the Dance Team and the Bomb Squad. There was recognition of sports teams, in particular, the boys’ soccer (state finalist) and the girls’ volleyball (state champions) teams, and some students received recognition for artistic achievements.

Questions and comments:

  • Message sent out to incoming students was received successfully and good communication and planning made the fund-raisers effective this year. Hopefully the trend continues. The High School acts as the focal point for the community.

  • Future Prom-logistical change — in terms of busing and transportation. Confirmation email sent out to High School students was effective in reducing resistance to change in tradition.

  • Clarification by student body and the Superintendent — Before and after prom, there is no mandatory visit needed to the A gym, and it is important to exercise caution and follow the laws when partying before or after prom.


FY21 Budget Priorities:

  • Implement Portrait of a Needham Graduate Strategic Priorities

  • Hire and retain highly qualified staff, teaching within established student/teacher ratio guidelines.

  • Continue the ongoing refinement of curriculum, instruction and assessment practices.

  • Develop and maintain educational resources and technology infrastructure that meet and support student needs and meets District Goals.

FY21 Proposed Budget Total: $80,943,823 This amount reflects a 6.5% increase over last year (FY20) or a total of $4,938,058. Requests from the schools totaled about $7 million, many requests had to be deferred.

Breakdown of Total:

  • Contractual salary Increases: $2,933,544

  • Level Service: $1,903,881

  • Program Improvements: $100,633

Main Budget Drivers:

1. Salaries/Contracts

  • Hired 54 new staff for this year (Sunita Williams & Full-Day K)

  • Mass Equal Pay Act is in effect.

  • Fewer retirements this year. Typically, about $250K for retirement saving, and but this year fewer retirements, so less savings (about $140K).

  • Lane Change are as expected: Lower Step to Higher Step change

  • Need to hire special education personnel

2. High Enrollment

  • Needham school enrollment continues to be a driver unlike some other comparable communities and despite year to year small changes within elementary projections, the trend is upward bound and needs attention. In the last 15 years, Needham has grown by 807 students (based on projections for next year)

  • We have higher — or highest — class size of comparable communities

  • We have one of the highest student : teacher ratios (In communities with decreasing enrollment, ratio is lower because staff is retained despite reduced need)

  • Proposed Staff Increases: 12.17 FTE Grade 1-12 Class room and SPED Teachers 4.8 FTE Paraprofessionals, Administration, Support 16.97 FTE TOTAL (2.4 FTE Grade 7-8 Classroom Teachers / 1.4 FTE Grade 9-12 Classroom Teachers )

3. Inclusive Learning:

  • Focus is on inclusive practices and learning. Budget outlines a need to pivot toward SPED, ELL learning, so as to accommodate teachers with smaller case-loads such that they can meet expectations and attend to developing more skills and interact with their peer. Guidance counselors and Nurses similarly need attention and support.

  • Proposed Student Support Increases: Increased Tuition Cost $1,339,787 Staff (Teachers/TA’s) 10.19 FTE

  • The Student Support Service budget request will be presented at the next SC meeting on 12/17.

  • Address inequities and imbalances in caseloads: - SPED Liasons - School Counselors - Speech Therapy - ELL staff

  • SPED Out of district percentage stable (OOD) Stabilized # of students and cost in collaboration with SC committee and finance committee and have built capacity to accommodate all students who cannot be part of the regular classroom offerings.

Deferred Needs

  • Da Vinci Lab Program Specialist — A part-time position to keep lab open throughout the day.

  • Administrative Support for Math intervention, Fine and Performing Arts, and World Languages — programs are growing, and need more support.

  • Clerical Support at Needham High School — existing administrators are doing clerical work.

  • Curriculum Materials and textbooks — Some dollar amount for Algebra and French, but not enough

  • Student Activity Stipends — critical to student leadership development.

  • Budget Development Tool — needed to make sure that all salary-payroll-budget is all in sync.

Next Steps

  • December/January - Finance Committee, School Committee & School Administration Review Budget

  • December 11 - Finance Committee/School Committee budget workshop

  • January 7 - Town Manager consults with School Committee

  • January 21 - Public Hearing on School Budget

  • January 22 - Finance Committee Reviews School Budget

  • January 28 - School Committee Votes School Budget

Comments and Questions

  • Glad to see emphasis on increased counseling

  • To balance enrollment at schools, incoming K students might be placed at schools with lower enrollment.

  • Needham Boosters struggling to fund athletic fee scholarships, AD had asked for district to cover, but request was deferred. May need to assists Boosters with their fundraising.

  • Increased development has benefitted Town. Revenue has helped finance full-day and other school programs.

  • Will receive additional state funding now that we have full-day K. (Chapter 70)

  • What is impact on Math Intervention Specialist? Additional .5 FTE at Newman, but not at High Rock.


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