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SC Meeting: December 19, 2023

At the December 19 School Committee meeting, there was an FY25 Budget Discussion about Student Support Services.

Public Comments

  • Caren Firger, President of the Needham Education Association, read a letter to the Needham community in which she expressed the group’s disagreement with a recent Massachusetts Teachers Association (MTA) letter directed to the Biden Administration in regards to the Hamas-Israel war.  Copies of the letter will be provided to the School Committee. 

School Committee Chair and Subcommittee Updates

  • Alisa Skatrud shared enrollment forecast information based on the 2020 Census. The results show a return to population growth over the next 15 years, with the primary driver being housing turnover and housing sales.  (Enrollment projections are presented in the packet).  

Superintendent’s Comments

  • Dr. Gutekanst expressed his thanks to the families, staff and students for their response to schedule changes yesterday due to the storm and its effects on road conditions and safety. 

FY25 Budget Discussion: Student Support Services

Mary Lammi, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services, along with Stephanie Weinman, Interim Executive Director of Special Education, Tricia Mullen, HS Director of Special Education, and Jamie Singelais, Director of English Language Learner Education presented the details of the Student Support Services budget request.  (Full slide presentation available in the packet)  

  • Student Support Services plays a role in many important services in the district, including Special Education, Counseling Services, METCO, Health Services, English Language Education, Home Hospital Tutoring, and educational stability for students in foster care of homeless situations.

  • The percentage of students enrolled in Special Education has remained stable and is below the state average.

  • Health is the largest enrollment category, encompassing students who have ADHD and other medical related issues that impact their education. Specific Learning Disabilities (SLD) in English, Reading, Writing and Math is the second largest category.

  • Almost 80% of Special education students are in full inclusion programs, in which support services may work with students in the classroom or bring them out of the classroom for different levels of support.

  • Related services include deaf/hard of hearing services, counseling, speech therapy, behavior support plans.

  • Specialized programs include Intensive Learning Centers from preschool through high school for students with Autism and Complex Learning profiles, Connections and Pathways Therapeutic Programs for students with significant emotional challenges, and the Post Graduate Program in the High School for students age 18-22 to learn life skills and vocational training.

  • Out of District Programs include Collaboratives and Approved Special Education Private Day Schools and Residential Programs.

  • ELL student enrollment has been fairly steady over the last few years, and numbers change throughout the school year as students move into the district.

  • An increasing number of students are starting at a beginner level of English.

  • Every year ELL students are evaluated to see if they are ready to exit the ELL program based on DESE exam scores. After exiting the program, students are monitored for 4 years as per state guidelines. About 40 students exit the program each year.

  • DESE estimates that students develop language and exit from supports in about 5-7 years and has standard targets to assess if students are progressing as expected. Social language develops first and academic language takes longer to develop.

  • About 70% of Needham students are reaching these targets every year, well above the state rate of 38%.

  • The district participated in a DESE review last year and was assessed on 12 criteria. DESE identified 3 areas in need of correction, and responding to these needs for increased staff and interpreter services contribute to the current budget request.

  • Budget request includes increased FTE staff to meet increased needs in the ILC and other Special Education & ELL needs.

  • They also highlighted such programs as Best Buddies, Unified Basketball and the Seal of Biliteracy, phone line interpreter services.  

Next steps in the Budget Process: 

  • Jan 2 - Town Manager will be at the SC Meeting to consult on the budget. School Committee and Finance Committee liasons will meet that morning.

  • Jan 16 - Public hearing for the budget

  • Jan 23 - School Committee vote on budget

The next School Committee meeting is scheduled for Tuesday January 2, 2024 at 6:30pm.


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