At the 6/16 School Committee meeting, Dr. Gutekanst gave an update on COVID-19 health crisis and planning for reopening schools in the fall, and received his annual evaluation by School Committee. The Mitchell School Improvement Plan was included in the meeting packet.
SC unanimously approved collective bargaining agreements for units C,D, and E that will provide parental leave, sick days, and domestic partnership bereavement leave comparable to what was given to teachers (units A&B)
School Committee Comments
The recent student-led Black Lives Matter Rally had strong turnout. SC members thanked students who organized the event and who spoke about their experiences. Chair Andrea Longo Carter shared that hearing the stories of racism experience by NPS students was difficult, but glad she heard them. She acknowledged that district needs to do more and do better.
Staff and students have been inspiring in addressing issues of racism and violence against Black people. Staff in grades K-12 have jumped in to talk about racism in developmentally appropriate ways. In the past teachers would wait for children to raise an issue or ask questions, but this was proactively addressed at all levels.
A virtual Town Hall to discuss racism was attended by about 200 staff members. Another meeting with Black staff was held to hear how they are feeling and concerns they might have.
Dr. Gutekanst acknowledged issues with Transportation registration for 2020-21 year, but registration is now back online. In response to questions he's received from parents, he stated that there will not be refunds for this spring's bus because the vendor still needed to be paid.
COVID-19 Health Emergency: School Update
The district is seeking input via a survey from for families and students in grades 3-12 though to help improve remote learning moving forward.
Summer Bridge will run July 6-31 for recommended students in grades K-5.
Extended School Year for eligible Special Education students will be mostly remote, with possible onsite components at SWES
Curriculum development will take place over the summer — a recalibration for the fall is necessary given the students have been out for about six months
The Meals to Go Program will continue through summer (~300 students picked up meals today)
School Reopening (View full presentation)
The Reopening Advisory Committee has met twice
Five tasks forces have been created: Teaching & Learning, Operations & Human Resources, Technology Infrastructure, Student Support Services (SEL wellness), Health & Safety
Each group is working from the CDC model, which contains five scenarios:
Needham's plan will track with both DESE guidance (expected in late June) and neighboring school districts (30 area supers are meeting next week to coordinate).
Dr. Gutekanst stated that it is the district's strong preference to return to schools in the fall
Professional Development for teachers this summer include multiple workshops on remote learning
SC Policy - Admission of METCO Students
Revised language for Needham's METCO admission policy was presented for a first reading. The policy has not been updated since 1995, and much of the language is out of date and does not reflect current practices. Additionally, the METCO admission process changed this spring — students will now be admitted by lottery, which will make the program more inclusive for students with a wider range of needs. The policy change will be voted on at an upcoming meeting. Both the previous and revised policies are included in the meeting packet.
Michael Greis presented a narrative review that incorporated feedback from teachers, staff, SC members, and a self-evaluation by Dr. Gutekanst. Following the practice of DESE, the Superintendent's performance is rated annually in five major areas:
Instructional Leadership - between proficient and exemplary
Management and Operations - exemplary
Family and Community Engagement - proficient
Professional Culture - exemplary
School Committee Relations - exemplary
The work of Portrait on a Needham Graduate and around equity were cited as contributions to a strong professional culture. Issues in the initial roll-out of remote learning and early communication to families were noted, as well as SC members concerns that they were not more involved in early remote learning decisions. But generally SC praised Dr. Gutekanst's performance during an extremely challenging year, and he was given an overall rating on "Exemplary."
Dr. Gutekanst's recent interview on WBUR was also mentioned, where he discussed how Needham is addressing racism.
SC voted unanimously to adopt the following resolution, which has been adopted by 21 other School Committees across the state so far, and is under consideration by at least 20 more.
Resolution: Covid-19 State Funding
WHEREAS, if schools are to re-open this fall in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, it is the responsibility of each school district to do so safely and responsibly; and
WHEREAS, it is the responsibility of the state to ensure that each school district is able to pay for the enormous additional staffing, transportation and material expenses required to do this; and
WHEREAS, the state cannot expect mandatory COVID-19 safety guidelines to be followed without also ensuring that each school district has the funds required to implement these guidelines; therefore, let it be
RESOLVED: that the state must guarantee every school district full reimbursement for whatever COVID-19 expenses are required to follow state mandates.
We must ensure a statewide school re-opening that is safe, responsible and equitable.