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SC Meeting: May 14, 2024

At the May 14 School Committee Meeting, there was a discussion of the Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan and the 2024-2025 Elementary, Middle School & High School Handbooks.

The meeting began with a required Public Hearing on the Massachusetts School Choice Program. There were no public comments.  Next week will include an action item for approval.

Public Comments

Marina Yamapolski, a 7th grader, submitted a recorded presentation with a description of the Connect to Community with Virtual Connections program for people with aphasia.

School Committee Updates

  • Liz Lee acknowledged Teacher Appreciation week and all school staff, and encouraged families to send emails and cards to thank school staff.

  • Michael O'Brien highlighted the recent event Creative Conversations on Race, and thanked the many students and community members who participated.  

Superintendent Updates

  • Dr. Gutekanst thanked Town Meeting members for passing the school related items including the school budget , the funding for the Pollard feasibility study,  the final repairs to the auditorium and the design work for Newman School.

Broadmeadow School Improvement Plan

Principal Garlick introduced the School Improvement Plan, along with School Council members and the Student presenters, who outlined the details of the Broadmeadow school community. 

Students presented on some of the highlights of the year at Broadmeadow including school celebrations, the creation of a new school song, and the Fifth Grade Giving Project.

Anne Cline-Scott, Special Education Coordinator, shared the details of the Connections Program at their school over the past 4 years.  This includes crisis response and support, a curated team of professionals, their use of data based decision making, communication and consultations,  therapeutic interventions, referral process,  step by step data, amongst other topics.  

Melissa Camhi, 3rd grade teacher, explained the social emotional data around the Panorama Survey, how surveys are adjusted for different grade levels, and compared results to national data.   Students responded favorably to the survey, with a noted improvement in a sense of belonging at school.

Principal Garlick also shared some MCAS data. He is happy to share that they have met or exceeded the progress expectations set by DESE.

Broadmeadow School next steps include upcoming surveys and data collection.

A robust discussion ensued with questions from School Committee relating to family response rate, students feeling part of the community, and sharing of ideas amongst educators.

2024-2025 Elementary, Middle School, and High School Handbooks

Dr Gutekanst, Dr. Downey, Principal of High Rock School, and Mr Sicotte, Principal of Needham High School presented on the Handbooks. Handbooks help set the tone for learning, provide key expectations for students and families, and reflect state and federal laws. Trying to have greater cohesion between levels.

  • 5 documents, 1 for each school, request SC approval next Tuesday

  • Documents are available on district website.  Four key areas of revision: language around 504/IEP, updated student nutrition services, school safety drills and they reflect feedback from students and families.  

  • HS handbook includes expanded information about how the school responds to incidents of bias or discrimination

School Committee had extensive discussion of changes to High School attendance policy including: 

  • tardy policy and loss of credit

  • questions about excessive absences at the HS and potential consequences, especially to subgroups of students.

  • Concern that students will come to school sick as illness is considered an unexcused absence without a doctor's note.

  • Student SC Member Lea Gruen relayed some student responses related to attendance policies

  • approved absences related to college visits

  • Principal Sicotte explained how the district came to develop policies around attendance, the importance of students being in school, what options students may have related to attendance issues and compared data to previous years.

  • Attendance policies now focus on attendance metrics each quarter not total absences in a year (lose credit if 6 unexcused absences in a quarter).

  • Most students take advantage of opportunities to earn credits back and don't ultimately lose credits due to attendance policies

Other discussion questions were related to:

  • Free and reduced lunch applications are down now that school meals are free for all.  Families who would qualify for free/reduced lunch should still apply to get funding for other services.

  • Clarification of the armed intruder awareness information in the elementary school handbooks. Dr. Downey explained and reviewed the Alice protocol and how schools foster emergency scenario skills. 

  • Clarification about dual enrollment and earning credit outside of the HS. Principal Sicotte explained the HS policy of taking 2 classes outside of the HS curriculum.  

Waiver of Policy EEAE: School Bus Safety Program Sections 3 & 4 for SY2024-2025

Dr Gutekanst request a waiver of a portion of the busing policy to allow a 1 year pilot with YMCA which will allow school buses to drop off students at the YMCA for after school care. Suggested waiver policy can be found in the packet.

  • Will be a limited amount of students to start : 6 students at Sunita Williams and Broadmeadow. This limit is related to bus capacity

  • During Covid the YMCA stopped having their own van transportation and do not have the ability to reinstate it now. They approached the school system to see if they could provide transportation.

  • Hopefully will help with the need for aftercare as NEDP enrollment is often full

  • SC will vote on this waiver at next week's meeting

Action Items

  • Appointment of Dr. Gutekanst 2024-2025  to the ACCEPT Collaborative Board, approved

  • Yellow bus contract extension with Connolly Bus Company, approved

SC comments

  • June 8 at Powers Hall, League of Women’s Voters showcase will display NHS students’ civics projects

The next School Committee Meeting will be May 21, 2024 at 6:30pm


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