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SC Meeting: May 10, 2022

At the May 10 School Committee meeting there was a report on Needham High School performance and achievement, and the Mitchell School Improvement Plan was presented.

Public Hearing on School Choice

The state requires an annual public discussion to see if the School Committee would allow students from other towns to choose to come to Needham Schools (tuition would be provided by other towns). There were no public comments, and the issue will be voted on at the next meeting.

Public Comments

  • An 8th grader commented in favor of allowing summer community service of rising 9th graders to be allowed to count towards the community service graduation requirement.

  • A parent expressed concerned about the procedure for a suspension hearing for a NHS student.

School Committee Updates

  • Chair Matthew Spengler thanked Town Meeting for support of the articles related to NPS, especially the appropriation of construction funds for the Emery Grover project.

Superintendent’s Comments

  • Dr. Gutekanst acknowledged that Covid cases are increasing in schools, impacting student attendance. About 80% of families are filling out the daily attestation form, but that should be 100%. Those in the home-testing program should continue to test twice a week. The Joint Committee will meet next Monday, May 16.

NHS Report on Performance & Achievement

Needham High School Principal Aaron Sicotte provided an update on performance and achievement, including information about SAT, the ACT, and Advanced Placement exams as well as artistic, athletic, and co-curricular student accomplishments. A detailed report is included in the meeting packet, starting on page 13.

  • NHS students showed continued strong performances on SATs, ACTs, and APs. Overall the number of students taking the tests is a bit lower due to many colleges being test-optional during Covid.

  • There are over 150 clubs at NHS. There was recognition in areas including fundraising, Unified Sports, music (MICCA), art (Gold Key), academics (AP and National Merit Finalists), speech & debate, science & robotics, and Best Buddies.

Mitchell School Improvement Plan

Mitchell School Principal Greg Bayse, along with parent Joelle Schatz, presented the Mitchell School Improvement plan. A detailed report can be found in the meeting packet starting on page 31. The plan looks at four major areas, identifying areas of high leverage and areas for growth:

  1. Academic Growth

  2. Cultural Responsiveness

  3. Social Emotional Learning

  4. Family Engagement

The make-up of students and families at Mitchell has evolved. Currently, 13% of students are not Needham residents: 30 are part of the METCO program and 30 are children of employees. In addition, Mitchell receives students who live in group homes in Needham. These leads to a strong focus on family engagement, community building, and fostering a sense of belonging for all students and families.

Areas of High leverage

  1. Academic Growth

    1. Implementation of Early Bird Dyslexia screener

    2. Re-launch of individual teacher data meetings

    3. Redeveloped MTSS Child Study Team (TAT)

  2. Cultural Responsiveness

    1. Equity work has become part of the social fabric of Mitchell

    2. Mitchell staff diversity continues to increase

    3. Expansion of formal racial literacy curriculum

  3. Social Emotional Learning

    1. Developed SEL curriculum scope and sequence

    2. Extensive programming targeted towards our Boston-resident families and students

  4. Family Engagement

    1. Launch of BReal Parent Group to work on issues of representation and belonging

    2. Restructuring of the PTC board to increase representation and engagement

Areas of Growth

  1. Academic Growth

    1. School-wide launch of new math curriculum

    2. Continued reinforcement of Tiered interventions for all academic areas

  2. Cultural Responsiveness

    1. MEquity will be focusing on equity “problems of practice”

    2. Increase mentoring programs for new BIPOC staff

    3. Increase support for BIPOC students

    4. Increase forums for talking about diversity and equity

  3. Social Emotional Learning

    1. Evaluation of SEL and guidance programming to ensure models meet student needs

    2. Roll-out of enhanced 2nd Step Curriculum

  4. Family Engagement

    1. Evaluate communication protocols for efficacy

    2. Review parent programming to ensure access points for a diverse group

School Committee Policies

Revisions to several School Committee policies were reviewed. The majority focused on updating transportation policies. Of note is a policy that allows students with two households on different bus routes to pay just one bus fee instead of two— the existing policy requires payment for each bus route.

Superintendent Evaluation Process

The evaluation will be led by previous SC Chair Connie Barr. It will be based on feedback from current and outgoing SC members based on standards from both DESE and the Superintendent's goals, and will also include a self-reflection from Dr. Gutekanst.

School Committee Comments

  • The SEPAC Awards will be held on Thursday, May 12

  • Free tours are being given of Nubian Square in Roxbury, ending at METCO headquarters. The district leadership team's August meeting will also take place in Nubian Square

  • Gallery 450, a student art gallery, opened at NHS, supported by an NEF grant

The next School Committee meeting is May 17 at 6:30pm.


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