Because of mandated meeting rules due to COVID-19, the School Committee Meeting took place in Powers Hall, with the Committee Chair Michael Greis, Vice-Chair Andrea Longo Carter, and Superintendent Dr. Dan Gutekanst physically in attendance, while the remaining Committee members called in via Zoom. The meeting was broadcast live on the Needham Channel for community members to view.
School Committee Updates
A PPBC (Permanent Public Building Committee) meeting occurred on March 23, and Susan Neckes provided an update. The focus was on school projects, including school master plans and updates. They are reviewing the capacity needs of pre K-8 schools as well as the building and code needs. Updates or improvements are needed in particular at High Rock, Mitchell, and Pollard, and there will be an upcoming presentation that outlines options and costs.
The Superintendent and Committee Chair met with members from Children’s Hospital Boston regarding a proposed ambulatory care facility they want to build in Needham. Part of their plan includes collaboration between the hospital and Needham schools and the greater community.
Dr. Gutekanst provided a brief update regarding the COVID-19 school closures. Staff and faculty are working very hard behind the scenes to provide enrichment opportunities for students to practice and engage while not physically in school. Per the advice from the Commissioner of Education for the Commonwealth of MA, at this time they are not moving the curriculum forward at this time. As the situation evolves, however, this plan may need to be adjusted. If families have specific questions or concerns they are encouraged to email their teachers or principals.
Portrait of a Needham Graduate District Action Plan
Dr. Gutekanst provided an update on the Portrait of a Needham Graduate after the first year of implementation. The Portrait outlines four priority areas with Action Steps under each. Every Action Step has an assigned Facilitator to help move it forward. This is the first year in a five-year roll-out. Some activities have occurred already and will be carried forward, while others will be dropped. There is a long way to go, but Dr. Gutekanst is pleased with what has happened so far, especially in regards to the areas of equity and interdisciplinary work, citing the forthcoming 9th grade interdisciplinary track as an example. He anticipates a year two plan to be in place by the end of this school year.
The Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan
The plan is provided in the packet but was not discussed in detail given the constraints of the meeting. Dr. Gutekanst is pleased with the plan and how it aligns with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate.
Naming of the Sunita L. Williams Sensory Garden
There has been a request to name the beautiful Sensory Garden at the Sunita L. Williams school in memory of longstanding and beloved member of the Hillside Community, Andrea Wright Thornton. If this is supported the current plan is to dedicate the garden in June.
The Committee voted to approve the Student Opportunity Act Plan, which outlines how approximately $80-85,000 in funds from the Student Opportunity Act will be used. This plan echoes the District Strategic Plan.
Student member Aidan Michelow provided a personal update on how the online enrichment materials from his teachers have been working. Committee member Matthew Spengler and Chair Michael Greis reminded the community to be patient in this uncertain time, and that the teachers and staff are doing their best to provide for students during this unprecedented time.