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SC Meeting: February 6, 2024

At the February 6, 2024 School Committee meeting, there was a discussion of the School Improvement Plan for Pollard Middle School, as well as how wellness is addressed at the Needham Public Schools as a part of the Portrait of a Needham Graduate.

Superintendent’s Comments

Dr. Gutekanst expressed congratulations to Needham Fine & Performing Arts students, including: 

  • Middle School students for their recent performance of Frozen

  • NHS music students going to All-State festival

  • Elementary Honors Chorus sang National Anthem at recent Boston College hockey game

Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation: Wellness

Presentation by Denise Domnarski, Director of Physical Education, Health and Wellness; Jon Grant, High Rock Wellness Educator; Courtney Todesco, Pollard Wellness Educator; Cal Hammerstrand, Eighth Grade Student; Owen Hammerstrand, Eighth Grade Student highlighted:

  • Program strengths and contribution to student well-being

  • Importance of alignment with competencies of the Portrait of Needham Graduate

  • Student perspective

Panel gave overview of K-12 Wellness program: 


The presentation described how health and wellness is addressed at each school level with a focus on middle school. 



The panel spoke about middle school programming, physical and health education and experiential education:

High Rock / 6th grade focus - physical wellness and social / emotional wellness

  • Students engage in team challenges, reflection, decision making / solutions, evaluation, advocacy.

Pollard / 7th and 8th grade focus -- skills-based approach to teaching and learning, empowering students to engage in creative thinking and problem solving, and become responsible and resilient individuals and empowered learners, communicators, and collaborators. 

  • 7th Grade Project - examination of e-cigarette / vaping influences. 

  • 8th Grade Project - public service announcement regarding substance abuse.

  • Students reported to the School Committee about their projects

Questions from School Committee elicited further discussion on points including:

  • Sex education: Identity and sexuality, reproductive health and stereotypes are included in curriculum.  Curriculum focused on respect, inclusion. 

  • Providing developmentally appropriate lessons / collaboration (push in versus pull out).

  • Teaching meditation, other stress reduction skills such as mindfulness. 

  • Self-management, self-care skills. 

  • Collaboration and leadership skills fostered in projects; team work in identifying strengths; how project-skills transfer to “real world.” 

  • Continuity of skills across middle school years. 

  • How Needham's curriculum compares to state standards.   We’re “checking all the boxes” but may re-frame scope/sequence in some areas. 

Pollard Middle School Improvement Plan

Presentation by Tamatha Bibbo, Principal, and Pollard Middle School Council members discussed the school Improvement Plan Goals (All goals can be found in the packet) highlighting the following:

School Goal 2.3 - Enhance tier 1, 2, & 3 Restorative Practices to ensure consistency across all aspects of the school community

  • Tier 1 - Circles and Community Meetings: Involves what School is doing for all students.  Pollard uses Cluster Model - focuses on student finding own identity within whole school community, e.g., birthdays, shout outs.  Students learn how to be together, in a big group.  Also use Advisory Circles, almost every day, with different topics.  Advisory designed to meet student needs.  Purpose - to encourage students to understand and practice concepts of love and empathy for others.  Students see large group of teachers who are invested in them. 

  • Tier 2 - Small group focused on students who need more attention.  Councilors trained to help with peer conflict or any issues that students may wish to discuss in a small group.  Happens ad hoc.

  • Tier 3 - Meant to repair harm

  • Spoke about how School responds to suspensions - looking at a more restorative model for discipline; educational rather than punitive.  Focus is on prevention. 

  • Partnered with NEF for grant funding to enhance restorative practices.  Two staff members have developed modules for educational opportunity for students on Tier 3 discipline modules.

  • No repeat behaviors so far (2 years of data)

School Goal 1.1 - Foster student agency, voice and choice in all aspects of learning

  • Seventh Grade ELA Book Clubs and One Book, One School

  • Book clubs create culture of choice; students enjoy it and are engaged

  • Clubs promote choice, improve reading stamina and increase student voice

  • One Book, One School - whole school reads and engages in workshops, activities

  • Students spoke about positive experiences with both Book Clubs and One Book, One School

School Goal 5 - Enhance school-home communication and family/caregiver partnerships

  • Parent / caregiver chats on Zoom for accessibility, monthly.  Have guests, topics for discussion.  50-100 attendees versus 10-20 in person.  Meeting is not recorded to preserve spontaneity. 

  • Introduced a newsletter, compilation of what’s going on in School.  Received 600 views.  Can be translated.

  • Slide show given to students in advisory to show students what’s going on for the day.

  • Pollard has a TV show, includes 40-50 students. 

School Committee Policies

Presentation on revisions of Draft Policy UNDB-1 Revision 1 Staff Responsible Use of Digital Resources

Committee discussed rescission of outdated policies; Committee did not vote. 

Action Items

  • Approved Middle School and High School Programs of Studies

  • Approved Fees for FY25 Revolving Funds: Preschool, Transportation, Community Education, Athletics and Nutrition Services


The next School Committee Meeting will be February 27, 2024. 


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