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SC Meeting: January 28, 2020

The January 28th School Committee meeting included a presentation from the Athletic Director, and the Middle and High School programs of Study. The School Committee also voted to approve the FY21 Budget Request and Town Meeting Warrant articles.

School Committee Updates

  • PPPC updates: reviewed School Facility master plan, discussed critical pathways, will look at what is viable 

  • Emory Grover building needs significant updates, will look at options to be discussed further

  • Financial Committee reviewed proposed budget

Superintendent’s Comments

Dr. Gutekanst presented a certificate of recognition to Joe Connolly of Connolly Busing to honor the company’s 34 years of dedicated service to the students of Needham.  He recognized the drivers and the company and thanked them for providing safe, reliable, affordable busing for the students.

Athletic Program Update

Athletic Director Dan Lee, provided an update on the Athletic programs.

  • Needham has the largest high school athletic program in the state, with over 2300 spots available for students

  • There will be a vote next month to possibly switch to a state-wide tournament championship model, in contrast to the current sectional division model

  • A video was presented highlighting the athletic programs and accomplishments

Several coaches/teachers and students were also on hand to provide information on the Unified Sports Program, which allows any student who wants to play to be part of the team. 

  • Students have the option to play and participate as much or as little as they want, and it is open to all.

  • Currently the Unified Program offers basketball and track at the high school level. 

  • There is hope to bring a basketball pilot program to the middle school this spring

  • Student participants highlighted how this program has positively impacted their lives, instilling pride, confidence, and a sense of community. 

  • Needham was recently recognized as a National Unified Champion School, one of only 143 in the country

Middle and High School Program of Studies for FY 2020-2021

Tamatha Bibbo, Principal of Pollard,  presented updates on the Middle School Program of Studies for next year:

  • World Language Program will now include the choice of Spanish, French, or Mandarin for 7th and 8th graders. There will also be the addition of Spanish 7A for students entering Pollard with no prior Spanish class experience

  • Social Studies programs have been updated to meet state requirements.  7th grade curriculum will include the study of Indigenous peoples and religions from around the world.  8th grade curriculum will focus on government and civics, including the study of race in our history, the history of women’s suffrage, and the possibility of a mock election in the fall

  • The 8th grade Washington DC trip will not happen next year due to cost constraints as well as logistical difficulty surrounding the national election in the fall.  A task force of parents and students will be held to brainstorm other locations for a class trip that connects to the curriculum and is also accessible for those students who may be unable to spend a night away.

  • The Math Support class at High Rock and Pollard has been very successful.  It is offered as an elective in addition to regular math class, and has allowed students to have greater success and increased confidence across all their classes.

  • 7th and 8th grade engineering electives have been very popular and rewarding for students.  Due to schedule limitations, 8th graders do not have as much time in engineering as 7th graders, but they are attempting to add more

Aaron Sicotte, Principal of Needham High School, presented updates on the High School Program of Studies for next year:

  • There will be the addition of a 9th grade interdisciplinary program, that will focus on working on concepts across areas of study.  It will be offered at the honors level, and is limited to 48 students. According to Mr. Sicotte and Dr. Gutekanst, college admissions officers have stated that they value this kind of program, and it is well-aligned with the goals stated in the Portrait of a Needham Graduate. There is hope to expand this program into 10th grade in the near future but it is not feasible for next year

  • A Special Education internship opportunity will be offered

  • Additional Performing Arts classes, including sequential art elements such as comic books, as well as a class focused on how art provides a narrative from around the world will be offered

  • Math additions: Multivariable Calculus will be offered for those students who have completed BC Calculus, preventing them from having to take advanced classes at local colleges

  • Media: AP Capstone Research provides research skills and allows students to take a deep dive into a research project of their choosing

  • World Language: Spanish and French 5 will be offered at an honors level to provide for students who do not wish to be in accelerated or AP language but still wish to further their language skills

  • The DaVinci Workshop at the High School allows students and teachers to access amazing technology.  There is not currently the budget to allow full-time additional staffing, but that is the hope for the near future

2020-2021 School Calendar

Dr. Gutekanst presented a proposed 2020-2021 school calendar which will be voted on next week. School will start before Labor Day on 9/2 and end on 6/17 (assuming no snow days). Early release days will continue to be on Wednesday afternoons.

School Committee Policy Updates

Updates include minor revisions to curriculum to meet new state standards and Updated Financial policies, including the fact that families are not required to participate in fundraising for schools or sports teams

Action Items

Town Meeting warrant article requests were approved, including foster care transportation reimbursement and the creation of a Special Education reserve fund.

FY2020-2021 Budget

  • Several updates have been made to the proposed budget since last School Committee meeting, including adjusting some FTE’s for teachers and eliminating the permanent substitute position that was unable to be filled

  • Dr. Gutekanst stressed how difficult it was to come to this budget and how strongly he believes it is needed

  • The School Committee approved the budget as submitted and will send it to the Finance Committee to be reviewed before Town Meeting in the spring


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