At the January 16th School Committee meeting, there was a public hearing on the FY25 Budget, a Discussion of the Apple Distinguished Schools Designation, a NHS Student Advisory to the School Committee Report, and a FY25 Budget Discussion: Information Technology/Warrant Article.
Chair, Andrea Longo Carter, reminded the public of what a public comment is and guidelines for making a public comment.
Public Hearing on the FY25 Budget
Dr. Gutekanst presented on the current draft FY25 Budget.
Most of the budget increases go to providing level services and contract obligations.
Special Education Programming – significant increase in out of district cost, 6.01% increase overall; Will need to fit within the town manager's overall budget.
Increase in staffing – 9 new positions, some already filled due to need, will only continue if approved at Town Meeting
Other ideas may be considered next Tuesday
$176K in reductions: Reallocation of current funds
Other goals will have to be deferred due to budgetary constraints as noted below:
Public Comments on the FY25 Budget Hearing:
Julia Goldman, senior at NHS and Lily Katz, a junior at NHS commented on the Performing Arts and the current needs for lighting and sound at both NHS & Newman. These deficiencies are not in line with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate Goals.
Kathy Memory, 2 children Needham NHS & High Rock – Friends of Music Secretary – requests budget in order to reinstate Technical Director position to facilitate maintenance of equipment and locations. Auditoriums are for all, performing arts produce inclusiveness. Pollard new auditorium should be in the plan from start.
Karen Firger – president of the Needham Education Association spoke in support of the FY25 budget request.
School Committee Questions/Comments about the FY25 Budget:
Elizabeth Lee inquired about the .2 FTE counselor reduction; Response: 1.8 counselors at Broadmeadow – counselor for Connections program, Creative scheduling of current resources.
Michael Greis inquired about the postponement of purchasing another Bus; Response: an additional bus won’t be necessary, most likely for at least 2 years.
Matt Spengler asked about Theatre and Arts deficiencies and bringing them up to benchmark, what is the status of the cut; Response: code compliance and $225K possibility of design work at Newman would then provide information to bring Newman – work would continue into 2025 and summer of summer 2026. Pollard feasibility study underbudget and will help with future.
What is the impact of completion date by delaying? Newman remains the same – design work being considered in the next FY and construction work the following. High School undetermined.
Minutes of the of December 19th Meeting – Pulled from Consent items, will return at a later date
FY24 Grant Approval - approved by unanimous consent
New Grants High Quality Instructional Materials/ 185 $173,500
Comprehensive School Health Services $100,000
Special Education Circuit Breaker $3,024,710
Teacher Diversification/ 253 $23,729
Grant funds totaling $3,321,939.
Apple Distinguished Schools Designation for Pollard and High Rock
Chris Gosselin, Interim Director of Media and Digital Learning, joined by Jessica Downey, Tamatha Bibbo, Erin Mack, and Peter Alexopolous, presented on the recent Apple Distinguished Schools Designation for Pollard and High Rock.
"Apple Distinguished Schools are centers of leadership and educational excellence that demonstrate Apple's vision for learning with technology -- and we believe they are some of the most innovative schools in the world."
This Program is by invitation only, schools must meet qualification and eligibility requirements – it shows “leadership and educational excellence, with a clear vision for how technology-rich environments support learning goals”.
The three pillars of the program are to “Inspire, imagine and Impact”. Videos presented here.
Pollard and High Rock School have both been recognized as an Apple Distinguished School, the designation is for three years – 2023-2026. The designation will open doors with Apple for professional development and to partner with other schools.
High Rock and Pollard are the only public schools in MA to have this designation and are now model schools for MA. Other districts are interested in learning about what we are doing here.
Several staff members went to the Apple Leadership Academy in November 2023.
In the future, they will continue to build capacity, work with Apple to take advantage of what this program has to offer. Sharing within school community and continue to network.
Needham High School Student Advisory to the School Committee Report
Lea Gruen, Max Scott, Otis Tsingos, Zufash Khan, and Danielle Sockol gave an update on NHS.
9th grade - settling in well, innovative fundraising
10th grade - food drive across the 10th grade classrooms
11th grade – excited for 2nd half year. Bakesale, Chipotle fundraiser, Parents night out – to fund jr. harbor cruise
12th grade - Senior class fundraiser, flocked fundraiser, bake sale, for prom.
At large updates- first pep rally in 4 years on Oct 27th, school spirit
Homecoming dance was cancelled due to lack of expected attendance due to a conflict with football playoffs. Other opportunities being looked at: cultural fair, basketball game
Policy changes Student Council is discussing: only 127 responses to anonymous survey – 2/3rd of those students want to increase to a 30 min tardy period, complaining that they are late to school due to traffic. concerns about parking lot safety – need for crossing guard outside of the lot. Students want to prioritize mental health with excused mental health days, want increased lunch options especially for special diets, gluten free, kosher, etc.
FY25 Budget Discussion: Information Technology Reorganization/Warrant Article – Consolidation of services
Dr Gutekanst presented on possible IT reorganization and a possible warrant article to submit to May Town Meeting.
About a year ago the town experienced a staffing shortage. Due to this shortage, the school IT department helped to support the town's needs, keeping networks, services, and hardware running. This was birth of the idea to study the way we work.
Dr Gutekanst is in support of this consolidation if it would be run by the School Department. He would not recommend outsourcing school needs to the town, as NPS departments are currently already providing these services.
Will take a few years to make reality. Collective Bargaining agreements in place that would have to be considered. Practical matters of budgeting and locations will need to be sorted out. Changes would be primarily on the town side as school departments already have a robust Technology Department.
Dr. Gutekanst recommends that the School Committee consider a Warrant Article for the May Town Meeting for an appropriation of $934,000 to provide for services and salaries for the first phase of this consolidation. SC will vote on this at the next meeting.
School Committee Comments
DEI performance in celebration of Martin Luther King Jr. Day
Housing event – MBTA multi-family zoning Meeting on January 18th
Next meeting is January 23rd and will include vote on FY25 budget. Additional comments about the budget should be sent to School Committee via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The next School Committee meeting will be Tuesday, January 23 at 6:30pm.