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SC Meeting: March 19, 2019

At the 3/19/19 School Committee meeting, discussion items included an open hearing on school choice; a presentation on Needham’s English Language Learner Program; a report from the NHS Student Advisory; a vote to approve two revised policies: 1) JFABC Assignment of Elementary Students to Schools, and 2) IKE Promotion and Retention of Elementary Students; and a vote to rescind the policy entitled JECBB Admission of Interdistrict Transfer Students.

School Committee Updates

Vice Chair Michael Greis acknowledged that the SC’s team won the NEF Spelling Bee this year by correctly spelling “kakistocracy.” The Smaht Spellahs from Broadmeadow Elementary won the elementary round.

Superintendent’s Comments

Superintendent Gutekanst noted the upcoming School Committee Open House on Saturday, April 6th from 9am to 10:30am at Pollard Middle School Library. The purpose of the Open House is to invite the community to interact informally with the School Committee, particularly with regard to the draft of the “Portrait of a Needham Graduate” competencies. The superintendent announced a formal presentation of the competencies will be made on Tuesday, April 23rd.

The superintendent also congratulated Pollard’s National History Day Team for its first place finish at the Boston National History Day Regional Competition. The team will now advance to the State Finals on Saturday, April 6th.

Public Hearing on School Choice

Chair Aaron Pressman invited members of the community to offer their comments on the School Choice Program, which allows non-residents to attend the Needham public school of their choosing (if the School Committee determines there is space available).

A resident inquired as to whether neighboring districts were required to offer reciprocity if one of their residents attended Needham Public Schools. The superintendent was not aware of any such expectation or practice.

Presentation: English Language Learner Program

Jamie Singelais, ELL Coordinator for Needham Public Schools, gave an overview of the successful program and its participants within Town schools. Approximately 2.7% of the student population (157 students) currently qualify for participation, most of whom were born in the U.S., but speak another language at home. The highest concentration of participants attend the elementary schools.

Six students then spoke about how their ELL experiences positively impacted their education here in Needham and later answered questions from Committee members.

Report from the NHS Student Advisory

Class representatives from the NHS Student Council reported on upcoming spring fundraisers, events (including the Underclassmen Semiformal, the Junior Harbor Cruise, and the Senior Prom and BBQ) and April elections. Students noted the need for additional transgender safe restrooms and are working with NHS administration to determine how to meet that need.

Students representatives also offered their thoughts on prevailing opinions regarding the high school’s transition to a non-weighted GPA.

Action Items:

Based on the superintendent’s recommendations, the Committee voted unanimously to approve the JFABC Assignment of Elementary Students to Schools and the IKE Promotion and Retention of Elementary Students. Likewise, JECBB Admission of Interdistrict Transfer Students was unanimously rescinded.


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