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SC Meeting: May 21, 2024

At the May 21 School Committee Meeting there was discussion of the Newman School Improvement Plan, an update from the Student Advisory to the School Committee, and the Spring NEF Grants.

School Committee Comments

  • Thanks from School Committee to Lea Gruen, NHS Senior & student member of the SC for her work this year.

  • Michael Greis gave an update on the Permanent Public Building Committee (PPBC). Currently have multiple projects in progress. Alisa Skatrud joined to be a SC rep on PPBC. Replacement of rooftop AC units on Eliot and Broadmeadow (Eliot complete, broadmeadow next). Work in school theater auditoriums. Pollard study beginning.

Superintendent Comments

  • Pollard and NHS: Multiple Scholastic Writing Award recipients

  • MICCA festival: Gold medals awarded to NHS String Orchestra, NHS Chamber Orchestra, NHS Symphonic Band, NHS Concert Band, NHS Chorale, Middle School Wind Ensemble, 8th Grade Band, Middle School Town Orchestra. Silver medals awarded to NHS Chorus, middle School Select Choir, 8th grade Chorus

  • NHS Seniors received recognition in the Mathworks math modeling challenge

  • Reminder to Seniors - Enjoy celebrating graduation responsibly

Newman School Improvement Plan

Principal Jessica Peterson and some members of the Newman School Advisory Council, along with Newman Students presented about the Newman School Improvement Plan.

  • Good progress has been made so far this year.

  • Principal Peterson and others review data to be on top of any need for changes, all teachers participate in data reviews regularly

  • Student Achievement reviewed - generally much higher than state, tremendous growth seen in many areas

  • New curriculum pilots will be expanded next year

  • Scope and Sequence Sociolearning - clear curriculum map being constructed to be used across district

  • Ms. Gelinis presented on the work they are doing for SELMH focusing on Staff Wellbeing

  • Supporting Wellness and Community

  • Working to make sure Staff are familiar with each other (~150 staff at Newman), building relationships

  • Staff made collective resumes to see where personal and professional experience and expertise is available.

  • Made a community rock art project that included students.

  • Beth Tuck of the PTC spoke about the School Home Connection

  • School working on Sense of belonging - when students feel like they belong, they achieve more

  • Still work to do to improve non-Needham resident, Black and Non-Binary students sense of belonging

  • New welcome activities to welcome students who are new to Needham or to Newman School.

  • New Newman Song created by Alastair Mook and Newman 5th Graders “Go Newman Pride!”

  • Still working on communication and sharing academic progress better - survey is coming

NHS Student Advisory to the School Committee Update

This is the last presentation from the Student Advisory to the School Committee for the School Year.

Update on Current events:

  • Freshman - Science MCAS and Final Exams (June 7th-12th)

  • Sophomore - Last MCAS exams and Final Exams - Ice cream social coming up

  • Juniors - Bussed to Boston for the Junior Harbor Cruise on the Spirit of Boston, some are taking their first AP tests, Junior Reality Fair

  • Seniors - Awards and Scholarships - Senior picnic - Clap out at their elementary schools - Prom at Gillette Graduation June 2nd

At Large:

  • New council members elected and will be introduced

  • No homework over break for next year will include AP classes for the first time; will continue to monitor

  • June 4th - Club & Athletics Fair

  • June 10th - Step Up Day for rising 9th graders

  • Ambassador program to familiarize new Freshmen with other students and school in general.

  • Executive functioning and organizing program would be helpful.

School Committee engaged in discussion and questions including:

  • Cell phone ban? Student suggestions: Phone holders/jail maybe? Technology part of curriculum and teaching. Phone free zones might feel too intrusive for students. 

  • One thing NHS excels at and one that needs work? Students like X-block and Advising. They want more scheduling clarity; some students are taking AP classes earlier than the usual junior/senior track but most do not know this is an option. There is a lot of academic pressure.

Needham Education Foundation (NEF) Spring Grants

NEF recommends 6 grants totaling $41,407 including funds for:

  • 50 playaway audiobook devices for Newman library

  • Dramatic play structures and items for 5 Newman kindergarten classrooms

  • Establishment of a Community garden at High Rock

  • Launch new YA English elective at high school

  • High Rock wellness: purchase 60 polar e-units wrist heart monitors to give feedback on the intensity of exercise

  • Series of picture books for every classroom that address each of the 5 Portrait of a Needham Graduate competencies

  • More information can be found on the NEF website.

  • Thank you cards for teachers are available to purchase to support the NEF.

All grants were unanimously approved and School Committee thanked the NEF for their continued support of the Needham Public Schools.


Withdrawal from Massachusetts School Choice for SY24-25 - Unanimously accepted (7-0-0)

  • Due to programmatic and space limitations

Approve the 2024-2025 School Handbooks

  • Unanimously accepted for Elementary and Middle School (7-0-0)

  • Some language added for attendance policy to incorporate a statement of belief about absences

  • HS Pilot attendance policy continues for one more year

  • School Committee had another extensive discussion about the attendance policy. Chronic absenteeism in state is more than 18 days - Current policy would allow them to exceed and go up to 20. Distinction should be made between illness and unexplained absence. More than 200 at high school have 18 or more unexcused absences, higher in lower income students. Parent sending a note for a missed day at school for college visit is excused, while a student missing school with fever that hasn't gone to the doctor is unexcused, this feels wrong.

  • Discussion of postponing the vote today to modify the attendance policy vs approval today with modification of the policy as needed at a later date

  • HS Handbook had a motion to remove attendance policy, failed 3-4-0, Handbook passed 5-2-0 with caveat that the discussion of the attendance policy language will continue. Superintendent will relay more information about the HS handling of this issue and the School Committee has the opportunity to make a change to the handbook if necessary in the future.

Waiver of Bus Policy EEAE Sections 2 & 3 to support the NPS/YMCA transportation pilot

  • This policy waiver was discussed at the last meeting

  • Waiver was unanimously approved (7-0-0)

School Committee Comments

  • SC thanks Dr. Gutekanst for submitting his self evaluation

  • SC needs to complete their own Superintendent evaluations by their final meeting on June 18th

  • School Committee will keep working on a variety of issues even as the school year winds down

The Next School Committee Meeting will be June 4, 2024 at 6:30pm.


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