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SC Meeting: March 1, 2022

At the March 1 School Committee Meeting, there was a Needham High School Advisory Committee Report, the Newman School Improvement Plan presentation, and discussion of School Committee policy revisions.

Superintendent Comments

Dr. Gutekanst introduced NHS senior, Pietro Rozzo, and recognized him for winning the state D1 diving championship the previous weekend.

Needham High School Advisory Committee Report

Members of the NHS advisory committee presented an update on recent and upcoming events and activities. School Committee members asked questions about the student mental health outreach survey that was recently distributed by the student council and about the upcoming changes to the masking policy.

Newman School Improvement Plan

Principal Jessica Peterson, Assistant Principal Andrea Vargas, and members of the Newman school council presented the school improvement plan. During the presentation, Ms. Peterson used the Portrait of a Needham Graduate as a framework to highlight some of the main focus areas of the improvement plan.

1. Creative Thinkers and Problem Solvers

  • The school (and district) utilize the Second Step program for teaching social-emotional learning and addressing mental health. The program teachers students to use language and skills to communicate when they encounter problems.

2. Communicators and Collaborators

  • The school recognizes the need to be partners with families.

  • The PTC’s new Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion committee is working on providing resources to parents to support the racial literacy curriculum and to contribute toward making the school more inclusive through working with families.

3. Socially and Culturally Responsive Contributors

  • The racial literacy curriculum has brought the need for the home/school partnership to the forefront. It is not just about the lessons being taught through the curriculum, but allows us to understand how experiences we are having all the time relate to it. There is more focus on how to be a more inclusive community as a whole – in gender, religion, etc.

  • This is leading to a look at the overlap in the curriculum in all subjects.

4. Responsible and Resilient Individuals

  • Through the use of Inner Explorer (an online, interactive mindfulness guide), classroom teachers are helping students learn how to focus and how to ignore distractions around them.

5. Empowered Learners

  • When looking at the MCAS report, it shows an increase of 10-15 points for a number of subgroups. In trying to determine the reason for this, it appears the smaller class sizes last year, due to Covid restrictions, as well as the consistent curriculum across classes district-wide, led to this increase.

  • Math coaches are working more with individual teachers, doing data meetings, as well as helping pilot the Illustrative Math program, which provides more visual math learning rather than verbal, in an attempt to not lose as many students to long explanations of math problems. By asking students “what do you notice? What do you wonder?,” this program provides lots of entry points for students, and encourages them to ask these questions across all areas of life.

School Committee Policies Discussion

The School Committee Policy Subcommittee presented their recommendations of updates to a number of policies that are outdated, redundant, or need revisions. Some edits were suggested by School Committee members. The new changes will be presented at the next School Committee meeting to be voted upon at that point.

Next School Committee meeting is Tuesday, March 15, 2022


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