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SC Meeting: June 18, 2024

At the June 18 School Committee Meeting, there was a discussion that included a Portrait of a Needham Graduate strategic update, the revised tutoring for pay policy, and the superintendent’s 2023-24 summative performance evaluation. Action items included voting on a number of items related to the superintendent – his performance evaluation, merit award, and  employment contract – a cost of living adjustment for non-contracted, non-unionized contracted employees, the appointment of Dr. Karen Sadler as the school physician, and the appointment of Kate Black as student representative to the Needham Youth and Family Services Board of Directors.

Public Comment 

  • A parent discussed 1st graders who are struggling with reading and dyslexia and encouraged more research and engagement on the new literacy curriculum

  • A Needham High School math teacher discussed cell phone use in school.

School Committee Comments

  • Introduction of Max Scott, a rising senior at Needham High School, as the new student representative to the School Committee.


Portrait of Needham Graduate (PONG) Strategic Plan Update

Dr. Gutekanst and Diane Simmons, Director of Strategic Planning and Community Engagement, gave an update on the PONG strategic plan, focusing on highlights from the past year, plans for next year, as well as looking forward past next year. The detailed presentation and slides about the PONG Strategic Plan Update can be found in the packet.

  • The focus of the 2023-24 school year within the framework of PONG was on coherence and how the district was meeting each PONG priority with coherence in mind. Some highlights of progress in each priority are as follows:

  • Priority 1 – Students Are Drivers of Their Own Learning

    • There has been an increase in student success in advanced courses

  • Priority 2 – Students Experience Integrative Teaching and Learning

    • There has been an expansion and development of the Social Emotional Learning and Mental Health framework with a focus on 5 key elements

1. Social Emotional Learning 

2. Schoolwide Positive Behavior Expectations 

3. Restorative Practices 

4. Staff Wellbeing 

5. Mental Health Practices

  • Priority 3 – Students Learn and Grow Within Adaptable Environments

    • The pilot of the Talking Points app at Eliot as a way for families to communicate with the school, including using translation services within the app

    • The planned opening of a Welcome Center for families at the new Emery Grover building when it opens in the fall

  • Priority 4 – Infrastructure Supports Needs of All Students 

    • Being accepted into the eligibility period for the Massachusetts State Building Authority for possible partnership on the Pollard renovation project

    • Increasing the number of staff of color from 90.8 FTE in FY23 to 109 FTE in FY 24

  • The school district will be implementing a Portrait of a Needham Educator beginning with the 2024-25 school year and continuing through the 2026-27 school year with a focus on pedagogy, culture and climate, and accountability.

  • The goal for the 2024-25 school year is to take the coherence that was worked on in 2023-24 and work on building systems.

  • In developing the PONG strategic plan for 2025-26 and beyond, the district plans to invite representatives from all constituent groups to a Day of Learning about future trends. They will then take what is learned and host a Day of Planning to build consensus, grounded in equity, that reflects our shared vision. All of this will be done by early December 2024 so that the School Committee can vote on a new plan.

  • School Committee members asked questions and engaged in a robust discussion.

Revised Tutoring for Pay Policy

  • The new policy replaces a brief and outdated policy from 1990.

  • It was noted that the new policy does not address families who cannot afford to pay, but the School Committee was encouraged to look at that issue in the future.

  • Detailed information about the new policy can be found in the draft memo.

  • The policy will be voted on at a future School Committee meeting so that it is in place for the start of the 2024-25 school year.

Superintendent’s SY 2023-24 Summative Performance Evaluation

  • Presented by Andrea Longo Carter, most recent past School Committee chairperson.

  • Dr. Gutekanst has been Superintendent of Needham Public Schools for 18 years. 

  • Out of 147 ratings within the state evaluation system, Dr. Gutekanst received 110 “exemplary” ratings, the highest possible rating. The remaining ratings were all “proficient,” the second highest rating.

  • Within the School Committee ratings, he obtained near unanimous “exemplary” ratings. Out of 56 ratings, only 4 of them were “proficient,” instead of “exemplary.”


  • Superintendent’s SY 2023-24 Summative Performance Evaluation

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

  • Superintendent’s Merit Award

    • Based on the Summative Performance Evaluation, a merit award of 1% of his salary was approved to be given to Dr. Gutekanst

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

  • Superintendent’s Employment Contract

    • Extends Dr. Gutekanst’s employment contract for three more years, with the first year beginning on July 1, 2024 with a 2.7% cost of living increase.

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

  • Cost of Living Adjustment for Non-Contracted, Non-Unionized Contracted Employees

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

  • Appointment of School Physician Dr. Karen Sadler

    • Dr. Sadler will replace Dr. Alan Stern as school physician for Needham Public Schools

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

  • Appointment of Kate Black as Student Representative to the Needham Youth and Family Services Board of Directors

    • Approved unanimously by a 7-0-0 vote

School Committee Comments

  • A number of School Committee members recently attended the event at Sunita Williams Elementary School when Sunita Williams spoke from the International Space Station with students at the school. School Committee members were impressed and amazed at how she interacted with the students.

The next School Committee Meeting will be July 15, 2024 at 10AM at the former Hillside School.


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