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SC Meeting: January 24, 2023

At the January 24 School Committee Meeting there was a Student Presentation on the Portrait of a Needham Graduate, a presentation on the 2023-2024 Middle & High School Program of Studies, and an Athletic Program Update.

Student Presentation: Portrait of a Needham Graduate

There have been several previous presentations to School Committee to highlight the various attributes that the Portrait of a Needham Graduate outlines and how it is being implemented in our schools. Today, NHS Students and teachers currently involved in the 9th & 10th grade interdisciplinary program (IP) presented about their experience with the IP Program. The IP Program is a project based approach to English, Math, Science and History for 9th & 10th grade designed to meet the goals of the Portrait of a Needham Graduate.

  • Designed to be heterogenous grouping so students of all levels can enroll in the program, but all classes are at the Honors Level

  • Curriculum content is essentially the same as traditional classes

  • Cluster-like classes have shared units, themes and multidisciplinary projects

  • Participating in 9IP is not a prerequisite for 10IP and students are not required to continue into 10IP if they take 9IP.

  • Teachers expressed excitement at the opportunity to work closely with other teachers and really get to know students well.

  • Teachers collaborate to manage student workload and have a focused team approach for student support

  • Focus on collaboration in 9IP and presentations and communication in 10IP

  • Hands on activities and projects connected to real-world situations in authentic interdisciplinary applications

  • 9IP units: Observations and Patterns, Systems, Power and Influence, Disease and Equity, Revolutions. Projects include: Designing a Sustainable Farm at NHS, Design a Castle Challenge with Quadratic Functions, Equity and Historical Pandemics, Combined end of the year Research Paper, Using Math to analyze Data

  • 10IP units: Making an Argument, Change, Force, Inquiry and Investigation, Insights and Analysis, Fear and Hope. Projects include: Digital Portfolio connecting the courses, Designing and Building a Memorial, Weapons Project – National Safety Measures, Rights and Rebellion, Nationalism, Propaganda, Urban Planning, Gerrymandering, Curling, The Solar System

  • Portrait of IP students: intellectually curious, envision learning as a collaborative experience, build connections across school subjects, gravitate towards project based learning, participate in their community and school culture

  • 8th grade teachers discuss the program with their students and recommend it to those who they think would be a good fit; families need to opt-in to the program. Students on IEPs can participate in the program and it is often a very good fit for them.

  • One limitation that keeps students from enrolling in this program, or causes them to switch out of IP after 9th grade, is the Honors-only leveling. Students who want to take an Accelerated or CP level class for English, Math, Science, or History cannot enroll in IP at this point.

Future Goals for the IP program:

  • Expand 9IP & 10IP to be multi-level

  • Explore starting a smaller 11th grade History/Literature IP program

  • This program requires a lot of extra time from teachers; common planning time is essential. More work must be done to make this feasible moving forward, this will need to be looked at in both scheduling and budgeting.

2023-2024 Middle School & High School Program of Studies

Jessica Downey, High Rock Principal, Tamatha Bibbo, Pollard Principal, and Aaron Sicotte, NHS Principal presented the Middle & High School Program of Studies to the School Committee for questions and comments. School Committee will vote to approve the Program of Studies at a future meeting. Details can be found in the packet.

Highlights of the discussion:

  • At the Middle School level there are no new courses proposed. There were some descriptive changes to the Program of Studies to ensure that the language is aligned with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate.

  • World Languages was previously expanded to include Beginning Spanish in 7th grade for students with no previous Spanish experience; American Sign Language offered in 8th grade, and these classes will continue.

  • At the High School level they have realigned and reformatted the explanation of the class levels to make it easier for students and families to determine the best level for them.

  • NHS proposed new classes: Introduction to International Relations in the 21st Century, LGBTQIA literature, Accelerated Jazz Ensemble, Upperclass Teacher Aide internship for students interested in Education, Explorations in Art

Athletic Program Update

Athletic Director Dan Lee and Assistant Athletic Director Ricardo Andrade presented an update on the Athletic Program. They presented a video of highlights of the last year. Dr. Gutekanst acknowledged the great work of Director Lee who will be leaving at the end of the year to become the Athletic Director in his hometown of Lincoln-Sudbury.

Highlights of the discussion:

  • Needham has the largest athletic program in the state for grades 6-12. Between club and interscholastic programs we have the most offerings in MA of any public high school, almost 100 different teams.

  • Emphasis on sportsmanship

  • Club sports program has significantly increased over the last 10 years

  • The athletic department is especially proud of the Unified Sports program

  • On average there are 1200-1300 individual athletes at NHS each year

  • It is challenging to find coaches for all of the variety of offerings

Action Item

After several discussions with the Town Manager, Finance Committee, School Committee and a Public Hearing over the last few months, tonight Dr Gutekanst presented the FY24 Budget to the School Committee for a vote.

  • School Committee voted to approve the proposed FY24 budget in the amount of $92,155,973. This budget proposal will now be presented for a vote at the next Town Meeting along with the rest of the Town Budget requests.

School Committee Comments

  • METCO is looking for both volunteer and paid Tutors to work with 4th-6th graders

  • A NHS alum is making a film called Black Ice, based on his experiences at NHS and has asked to film some scenes using the High School facade and some classrooms this spring.

  • NHS French Club will be having a French Cultural Night on Friday Feb 3 from 7-8:30pm to raise money for The Power of Education Foundation which sponsors children in Haiti

The Next School Committee meeting will be on February 7, 2023 at 6:30pm


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