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SC Meeting: May 18, 2021

The May 18 SC meeting included a presentation from SEPAC, NEF Spring Grant Awards, a discussion of K-5 Literacy and Math performance, and updating the face covering policy.

Public Comments

A few community members made comments regarding mask mandates, expressing concerns about DESE recommendations to loosen mask mandates outdoors.

Needham Education Foundation Spring Grant Awards

The NEF awarded three spring grants totaling $30,782:

  • The second year of a two-year grant in which educators from High Rock, Pollard, and Needham High School participate in a three-day professional development workshop on Project Based Learning (PBL).

  • Cardio-fitness equipment for Pollard, including two treadmills, two recumbent bikes, two elliptical machines, and two suspension trainers.

  • Sixteen new Finch 2.0 robots that will allow Needham High School students to program and interact with a physical device, giving them the ability to see their coding come to life.

More information about the grants can be found on the NEF website.

Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC)

SEPAC Co-Chairs Jenn Scheck-Kahn and Jennifer Kaddy presented an update to the SC. There are over 1000 families of children receiving special education, representing 17.9% of the students. The presentation highlighted SEPACs goals for the year, and progress that has been made in three areas of focus:

  1. Expand outreach — Ask who is missing from SEPAC? Stronger ties with groups that represent the intersectionality of SPED and ELL and METCO.

  2. Deepen community engagement and strengthen relationships — achieved in part by participating in the superintendent’s meeting with school PTC leaders.

  3. Bolster Advocacy Skills by Examining Biases — including forming a White Fragility book club and engaging in a Centered on Equity leadership training

SEPAC also recently presented their annuals awards — this year 16 NPS staff members were recognized. More information about the winners can be found on the SEPAC website.

Update on Student Learning: Student Performance in Literacy and Math k-5

Lisa Messina, Literacy Coordinator and Kathleen Hubbard, Math Coordinator, joined Assistant Superintendent Terry Duggan to present information about the impact of the hybrid model on student learning, how it compares to historical data, if there are variations among subgroups, and what steps will be taken for next year. Detailed information can be found in the meeting packet.

In reading, students in grades 1 and 2 are maintaining increases first seen in winter 2020 of students at or above benchmark. But among older students fewer students are meeting the benchmarks than were a year ago. In math, the rate of growth was higher this year than in previous years. 80-92% of students are performing at or above benchmark, with increases in the number of students at grades 1, 2, and 5.

But certain subgroups of students are not seeing the same increases as the overall student population, including Black, Hispanic, Special Education, and ELL students. This is a small enough number of students that they can really target assistance and interventions such as:

  • Summer Bridge program that will include literacy and math

  • Providing small group intervention next fall

  • Aligning with equity goals and neuroscience research

  • Enhanced screening tools and early fall assessments

  • Communicating vertically (grade to grade) so that kids’ stories follow them

Action Items

  • NUARI Statement — Needham Select Board requested that all town committees adopt the Vision & Principles of Needham United Against Racism Initiative (NUARI). SC discussed its intersection with the district’s REAL coalition, and voted to adopt.

  • School Choice — per the recommendation of the Superintendent, SC voted NOT to participate due to space and programmatic limitations.

  • ACCEPT Collaborative — Dr. Gutekanst was appointed to the ACCEPT collaborative board of directors for his eleventh year.

Policy Update: Face Coverings

The Governor has relaxed the mask mandate and has asked DESE to consider relaxing mask mandate for students. The DESE recommendation is that outdoor masks are no longer needed, regardless of the ability to distance.

Dr. Gutekanst consulted with the Joint Committee on Health and Safety, Director of Public Health, and administrators. He is requesting to revise face covering policy effective May 20th in two small ways:

  1. Mask won’t be required in school-sponsored outdoor activities, while still adhering to any additional criteria for those activities, eg. sports-related criteria that may remain in place.

  2. Social distancing will still be observed during these times.

After discussion, and minor changes to improve the clarity of the policy changes, the committee voted to approve the changes. Communication to families, teachers and administrators and students will begin as early as Wednesday, May 19th.

The next School Committee meeting will be June 1, 2021


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