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SC Meeting: February 28, 2023

At the February 28 School Committee Meeting there was a presentation of the Needham Education Foundation Grant Awards and discussion of the Needham High School Improvement Plan and Report on Student Performance and Achievement.

School Committee Chair and Subcommittee Updates

  • Connie Barr congratulated a former town employee who recently got married in her 90’s.

  • Michael Greis reported on the special Select Board meeting about Claxton Field. Claxton was built on what used to be the Dump, and based on some concerns with DEP, the fields may not be opened this year. Therefore, contingency plans are being made to allow for teams to use alternate fields throughout town.

Superintendent’s Comments

  • This is the 2nd year in a row a Needham High School Student has won the state Diving Championship. Dr. Gutekanst recognized and welcomed sophomore Vann Hotchkiss and his coach Adam Cole. Coach Cole spoke about Vann’s dedication and effort and also spoke about the hard work of the boys swim team, which came in 6th in the state.

Consent Items

All consent items were adopted by unanimous consent:

  • Approve FY23 Grants

  • FY23 Budget Transfers

  • Approve Allocation of 2022/23 Student Activity Photo Commissions

  • Accept Donations

  • Disposal of Surplus Items

Needham Education Foundation Grant Awards

  • Caryn Conway and Aubrey Goodwin from the NEF discussed the 7 grants awarded for the winter session totaling approximately $45,000. A Sensory Path will be installed at Newman and author Ty Jackson will be going to Mitchell. American Sign Language will be returning to Pollard for a second year with the hopes that it can soon be incorporated in the curriculum. High School grants awarded include an upgrade to the fitness center, supporting an LGBTQIA+ English Elective, and a collaborative project to incorporate science, social studies, and art. The grants were unanimously accepted by the School Committee.

  • Andrea Longo Carter and Connie Barr thanked the NEF for their support of the DEI professional development program with Cornelius Minor.

  • The NEF Trivia Bee will be held on Thursday, March 9.

Needham High School Improvement Plan

  • Principal Aaron Sicotte and Catherine Brandish, NHS Class of 2024 Student and School Council Co-Chair presented the Needham High School Improvement plan. The school is currently in year 4 of the 5 year improvement plan. Due to the pandemic, the timeline to accomplish many of the goals had to be adjusted, and several goals will not be met.

  • Highlights: The Interdisciplinary Program began in the 2020-2021 school year and has continued to thrive. The Universal Design for Learning program has helped teachers design lessons so that all students can be successful and access the materials. The “We Got This” program with Cornelius Minor tied in well with lessons from the Universal Design for Learning Program, and his professional development course was extremely useful for teachers. Catherine highlighted the work in the school to support students’ social/emotional learning. In particular the X Block has been useful for students to allow for support from teachers and counselors during the school day. Mr. Sicotte highlighted the need for teachers to have more time together to collaborate and plan.

Needham High School Report on Student Performance & Achievement

  • Mr. Sicotte presented a slideshow of numerous student achievements and how many of the achievements align with the competencies of the Portrait of a Needham Graduate. Examples given included the art exhibit “Texture” at the High School, the Senior Art Show, the Physics Egg Drop, the Castle Scholars program, the SALSA program (which won the Norfolk County Peer Leadership Award for the 7th straight year), Students Acting to Make a Difference, Habitat for Humanity, the Environmental Club (which brought food waste recycling to the HS cafeteria), and National Merit Scholar finalists. The full slideshow can be found here.

  • Mr. Sicotte also talked briefly about the testing achievements of the students. During COVID some colleges did not require standardized tests so there was a dip in the number of students who participated, but those numbers are starting to rise once again. This past year 486 students took 972 Advanced Placement tests, and 88.3% of the scores were 3 or better, with 68.9% of the scores being 4 or 5. The full student testing performance report can be found here.

  • Mr. Sicotte discussed how recent graduates report feeling well prepared academically but wish the school had helped them develop better interpersonal and social skills. Colleges continue to be focused on academic achievements and test scores.

Action Items

  • School Committee Policies: passed 6-0-0

    • Approve Policy IJL Selection and Adoption of Library/Media Learning Resources

    • Rescind EHAA Acceptable Use Policy for the Internet and the Wide Area Network, IIAC Selection and Adoption of Library/Media Learning Resources and KNAM Relations With Conservation Commission – Nike Site

  • Approve FY24 Revolving Funds Fees – Preschool and Needham Community Education: Mr. Spengler, Ms. Longo Carter, Ms. Skatrud, and Mr. O’Brien recused themselves from voting due to a conflict of interest, and therefore there was not a quorum to vote on the item. The rule of necessity was invoked allowing all members, including those who recused themselves, to vote. Dr. Gutekanst highlighted that the fee for preschool will increase by approximately 24% to allow for an additional classroom and to meet the needs of the growing preschool population. Passed 6-0-0.

School Committee Comments:

  • The Needham Exchange Club will be hosting a Trivia Night on March 24, 6:00pm at the Knights of Columbus Hall to support the Exchange Club’s scholarship program.

  • The PPBC discussed the replacement of the rooftop units at Broadmeadow and Eliot.

  • The Great Hall Concert series will have their 3rd performance on Saturday, March 4 at Powers Hall.

  • Tickets are on sale for the High School musical “Beauty and the Beast,” which will take place on March 10-12th at Newman.

The next School Committee meeting will be on March 7 at 6:30pm.


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