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SC Meeting: March 19, 2024

At the March 19 School Committee Meeting there was a discussion of the Mitchell School Improvement Plan, Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation: 9-12 Math, and the NHS Student Advisory to the School Committee Report.

School Committee Chair and Subcommittee Updates

Chair Andrea Longo-Carter announced new School Committee appointments to various town committees

  • School Wellness Advisory Council: Connie Barr

  • Climate Action Committee: Michael Greis

  • Pollard School Building project: Tamatha Bibbo (Pollard Principal) and Alisa Skatrud

Superintendent’s Comments

Dr Gutekanst welcomed students from the Mitchell School Fifth Grade Chorus to perform "True Colors" with teacher Laura Young and accompanist Christy Lau.

Mitchell School Improvement Plan

Mr. Bayse, Principal of Mitchell School, along with Gabrielle Olivera (Mitchell parent and college professor on the School Council) and Leo Helman (5th grader, school safety patrol and student council) presented the Mitchell School Improvement Plan

FY 22-23: difficult staffing, academic, morale and culture led to these focused goals for improvement

FY 23-24

  • Almost completely staffed this school year which has had a positive impact on morale and student services

  • increased special ed funding, collected and used more data to inform instruction with district staff support.

  • SEL Growth from increased FTE K-5.

  • Tech has poorly affected older student behavior. Beginning in April, Mitchell piloting “Securely” on devices (PC software) that allows monitoring of what students are doing on their devices in the classroom, with immediate alerts to principal and counselors if concerning or unsafe behavior.

Goals for next year:

  • Foster Student Agency, voice and choice in all aspects of learning

  • Provide learning access and opportunity across all students experiences

  • Use student data cooperatively among teachers to help with an inquiry-based model for student and teacher growth

  • Develop a Lab classroom model for the fall

Gabriella Olivera shared some examples of how the Mitchell curriculum is meeting the Portrait of A Needham Graduate goals from a parent perspective.

  • Independence and flexibility in thinking curriculum (math) student agency and feels more equitable. The increased staff has helped with taking better care of kids.

  • "What I Need" (WIN) blocks for extra help, allows students to work with other students and teachers outside of their classroom

  • Enrichment activities born in classroom travel outside (theater, 1st graders, Mr. Popper’s penguins - Peabody museum, 4th graders, learned about indigenous people)

  • Battle of the books, 3rd-5th reading competitively.

  • Continued work on responsive classroom

MCAS met or exceeded all growth targets except science which they will focus on in future years.

Leo Helman, current 5th grader spoke about his experiences at Mitchell.

  • Highlights: from K-5th grade, loves his teachers! Kind staff, tight community. Inclusive spelling Bee. Met ST-MATH goal, dunked Mr. Bayes. Little red schoolhouse. Learned to be a good friend and how to pick friends who are kind. OK, to be unique. Go at your own pace, do your best work, and don’t fit in!

School Committee engaged in a robust Q&A with the panelists on a number of topics including:

  • supporting teachers and staff goal: Last year there was a lot of teacher burnout and low staff morale. Small groups for conversations with staff to talk about stress and burnout. Leadership 360 survey. Trying to gain traction to move values and expectations forward. Holiday party popular.

  • Leo’s involvement in school safety patrol: open doors for kids and helps with bags from drop-off/pickup. Student council (every Friday is fun Friday, school store, money raised to support school)

  • reorienting goals around the Portrait of Needham Graduate. Structural pieces difficult to gain traction.

  • How can we better communicate to the community how complicated the day is for teachers/admins at school?

  • Until the School rebuild, what are the biggest challenges? The hardest part of being at Mitchell is lack of space. Gym, cafeteria and classrooms are used for PE/Wellness, outdoor options are used as much as possible. Have created additional wellness lessons for days when bad weather keeps them inside. Offices are cramped and divided among many staff. Heating has been a challenge, new furnace in November, rotted steam pipes have been repaired regularly when steam leaks occur. However families and students are very fond of the current building's warmth and community.

  • WIN Block/Intervention block, Mitchell initially piloted a few years ago in just two grades, increased to grades 1-5 this year. Each grade has WIN block three times a week for half an hour, all at the same time per grade, allowing creation of cohorts among the whole grade. Data gathering and flexible intervention cycle.

Portrait of a Needham Graduate Presentation: 9-12 Math

John Shea, chair of math at Needham High, and students Austin Williams (9th grade), Lacey Williams (9th grade), Aidan Williams (11th grade), presented on the NHS Math Program.

  • They have made a lot of progress in incorporating the Portrait of a Needham Graduate into their Math competencies

  • Math competencies incorporate into their curriculum -Building, Thinking Classroom

  • Even prior to the PONG, they were trying different modalities and teaching practice to engage students with math and improve math education. Have worked with consultants to help with math engagement in the classroom.

PONG competencies in Math

  • Students work in randomly chosen groups to encourage them to work with others

  • Students choose real life topics to analyze with math

  • Resiliency doesn't mean you can't ask for help! Mistakes are celebrated because we can learn from them.

  • Student reflection on learning and assessments

  • Creating digital portfolios

The Williams family discussed their experiences with Math at NHS: 

  • Communicators and Collaborators: good at getting other ideas to work together collectively. Helpful to be able to explain problems to others

  • Empowered Learners - Digital Notebooks: Can support learning and navigate the digital world

  • Teacher support and Quiz Corrections: Have the option of going to peers but teachers too, help build relationships. Quiz Corrections not only helps grades, but also helps actual understanding, promote collaboration with teachers and students

School Committee asked many questions about the Math Program. Highlights of discussion:

  • There is tension between traditional and new ways of teaching math. Teachers sometimes need persuasion in new strategies. Sometimes, students get frustrated because they feel like they can just use technology to solve problems. 

  • Goal is for students feel safe making mistakes, especially in the classroom. There is pressure to get good grades, but not understanding concepts at first is part of the growth process.

  • Consistency around assessment practices between teachers

  • A variety of different math levels are supported. 

Needham High School Student Advisory to School Committee Report

The NHS Student Advisory to the School Committee presented an update on Class activities.

  • Freshman: Class selection process. Hoodies for sale. Comella's fundraiser. Bakesale. March 20/21 March Madness at school.

  • Sophomore: Flash merch sale. Field trip to top golf. Parents Night Out April 27th Highschool

  • Junior: Junior Harbor Cruise mid-May: The ticket price increased, and sales are going well. NHS students are creating new merch for their senior year. NHS students took the SAT at Needham High on March 9. They are preparing for AP testing & junior research projects.

  • Senior: Future decisions, college commitments. Raising funds. Flamingos on people's yards. Prom ticket sales. Chaperones for dances.

  • At large updates: Don't want Semi Formal, low attendance, will try to reintroduce in a few years

  • Policy discussions: Attendance, wellness requirement, library sign-ins

  • Working to improve communication through Needham News

Approve Student Opportunity Act Plan

Dr Gutekanst discussed the Student Opportunity Act Plan. This provides $30-40 per student minimum aid (in addition to chapter 70 funds) per legislative action from Governor Baker. The state asks how will you use funds to move student learning forward? Needham's plan report is due April 1 and needs to be approved by the School Committee. Document can be found in the packet.

Approved 7-0-0

Approve Creation of Transportation Reimbursement Fund

Dr. Gutekanst introduced the Transportation Reimbursement Fund which would allow the School Committee to reallocate leftover dollars to transportation needs. Chapter 198 Law, currently don't have extra funds but this creates the vehicle to allow for receiving funds in the future.

Approved 7-0-0

The Next School Committee Meeting will be April 2nd at 6:30pm.


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