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SC Meeting: June 20, 2023

At the June 20 School Committee Meeting there was discussion of the Portrait of a Needham Graduate Strategic Plan Update and the Superintendent's Evaluation.

Action Item

Dr Gutekanst recommends that that the School Committee adopt the Unit C Contract as detailed in the packet. This new contract is the result of negotiations between the School Committee and the NEA on pay-scale restructuring for teaching assistants, who will now be referred to as "instructional assistants." They feel this new agreement benefits staff, administration, families and students and will also help with hiring and retention. Unit C contract was approved unanimously.

School Committee & Superintendent Updates

  • School Committee recognizes the contributions of recent NHS graduate Dilin Meloni, who has been the student representative on the SC for the last two years.

  • SC recognizes the June 19th celebration of Juneteenth.

  • Liz Lee thanked the participants of last week's community meeting at Broadmeadow for their open and honest conversations about race in Needham.

  • Dr. Gutekanst noted that we have successfully completed the school year in Needham.

  • The NHS Boys Volleyball team are MA State Champions for the 3rd year in a row, defeating Newton North.

  • Dr Gutekanst introduced Lea Gruen, a rising senior at NHS, who will be the new student representative on the SC.

Portrait of a Needham Graduate Strategic Plan Update

Dr Gutekanst presented an update on the Portrait of a Needham Graduate Strategic Plan and thanked the many administrators and staff members who have worked on developing and implementing this plan. Detailed slides can be found in the packet.

  • This year the focus has been trying to scale & optimize many of the actions

  • Next year's focus will be on coherence and alignment throughout the district

FY 23 Progress

Priority 1: Students are Drivers of their Own Learning

  • Applying principles of Universal Design for Learning (UDL) to ensure that classroom spaces are accessible to all kinds of learners

  • Providing broad opportunities for student voice & choice

  • New 5th grade Social Studies curriculum (Investigating History)

  • New elementary Math program

Priority 2: Students Experience Interdisciplinary Learning

  • Focus on interdisciplinary learning throughout the district

  • Launched the 10-IP program at NHS this past year

  • Pollard team is developing programs to integrate ELA and Social Studies

  • Developing a Social, Emotional and Mental Health (SELMH) Framework

  • Kickoff of the Mental Health Task Force

  • Implementing Restorative Practices to think differently about how to get along, solve problems, and build community

  • Adopting an Early Literacy Screener for all kindergarten students

Priority 3: Students Learn within Adaptable Environments

  • Collaborative learning experiences with Olin College Mentors

  • Looking to expand these collaborative projects with Babson College as well in the future

  • Looking at schedules at preschool and NHS to better serve students & staff

  • Thinking about how to partner more with the community (Students presenting Civics Learning to League of Women Voters, Students Take Action Day, Belonging Day)

  • Commitment to getting feedback from the community through surveys.

Priority 4: Infrastructure Supports Needs of All Students

  • FY 24 Budget approved in support of equity and the Portrait plan

  • Statement of Interest submitted to the MSBA for funding to renovate Pollard & Mitchell Schools

  • Emery Grover School Administration and Operations Building renovation is in progress

  • Working hard to recruit & support a qualified and diverse staff. Hiring in education has been a challenge in all districts. Needham is targeting many different pipelines and thinking outside the box to recruit talented staff.

  • Professional learning opportunity with Cornelius Minor to help improve the conditions for learning in the classrooms for all students

FY 24 Actions

Dr Gutekanst proposed some draft action steps for School Committee to review and vote on in a future meeting. Some highlights:

  • Continue to expand Universal Design for Learning (UDL) in every classroom

  • Continue rollout of Investigating History curriculum in 5th grade

  • Increase the number of NHS students completing advanced coursework

  • Prepare for implementation of the district's SELMH Framework

  • Develop a framework for a Portrait of a Needham Graduate Portfolio in grades 3-12 that will become a graduation requirement and empower each student to document progress toward Portrait competencies. Initially will focus on the secondary level.

  • Establish a plan to address growing enrollment and programmatic needs of the Preschool

  • Partner with Babson College's Blank School graduate students on assessments of how the district communicates and engages with families to improve effectiveness

  • Implement the recommendations of the School Facilities Master Plan

  • Town-School IT Services

  • Assessment of how the district is supporting staff through the Supervision/Evaluation Model

Superintendent's Evaluation

One of the School Committee's key responsibilities is to evaluate the Superintendent each year according to specific SC policies. This process is overseen by the immediate past chair of the SC; this year that is Matt Spengler.

Matt Spengler notes that the SC recognizes the quality and excellence of the entire administrative team.

Two components of the formal evaluation:

1) Statewide Evaluation instrument created by DESE with 5 standards of practice for Superintendents. Each SC member assigns a rating of 1-4 in 29 subcategories of the 5 standards of practice (1-unsatisfactory, 2-needs improvement, 3-proficient, 4-exemplary, serves as a model of practice regionally or statewide) as well as providing written comments.

  • Dr Gutekanst received an overwhelmingly positive rating, with ratings of 3 or higher from every SC member in ALL of the 29 subcategories (lowest average rating was 3.7, highest was 4.0).

  • "In sum, the School Committee recognizes the depth, commitment, and complexity of Dr Gutekanst's work and the lasting impact he is making on students, parents, staff and our community."

  • Matt Spengler reviewed all categories and read some sample comments. Details can be found in the packet.

2) Individual Goals Provided by the Superintendent, encompassing Development and Use of Data, Portrait of A Needham Graduate, Communication and Engagement with Families and the Community, Facilities Master Plan, Successful Collective Bargaining and Negotiation

  • Overall rating on Goals (3.6/4)

  • "It is difficult to understand how Dan improves on his already superb performance year after year. After the oft acknowledged bumpy ride of Covid, hiring excellent senior leaders, leading the charge on students' recoveries from learning and SEL losses of Covid, keeping drama and fanfare to a minimum while never ignoring needs, concerns and conflict, using humor often, improving the diversity of our leaders and staff, modeling the acknowledgement of imperfection while continuing to strive, maintaining excellent and effective communication with Town official and the community, all while placing equitable student and staff welfare and learning as well as equity, inclusion and diversity, as the highest priorities."

Dr Gutekanst thanked the SC members and said he was humbled by their evaluation and comments. He also thanked the many members of his administrative team and all the district staff.

The SC wishes the Needham community a joyous and relaxing summer. The first meeting of the 23-24 school year will be July 14 at 11am at 28 Glen Gary Rd.


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