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SC Meeting: November 15, 2022

At the November 15 School Committee meeting, Broadmeadow students discussed what it means to be empowered learners, The NEF announced the newest grant awardees, and the 2023-24 school calendar was presented for review.

School Committee Chair and Subcommittee Comments

  • Michael Greis gave a Permanent Public Building Committee update stating that the Emery Grover project is moving along as scheduled, and Hillside is move-in ready. School administration's move to Hillside will likely occur over the holiday break.

  • The Auditorium Sound and Lights study is underway with a consultant who specializes in this work.

  • The Eliot and Broadmeadow HVAC systems are also being evaluated to determine the most energy efficient approach once the work is ready to be done.

Superintendent Comments

  • Dr. Gutekanst mentioned that while the NHS Boys Soccer team was currently playing in the final four tournament, all the Needham High School teams have performed well this year.

  • He also reminded people about his monthly coffees. Times may change depending on attendance, but each meeting will have a topic of discussion followed by open conversation.

Unit B Contract Update and Vote

  • The Unit B administrators have ratified the contract with the school committee.

  • Anne Gulati, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations, said it was an amicable agreement that was focused on a sustainable and meaningful financial settlement.

  • Dr. Gutekanst said this is the second agreement the School Committee has come to with the Needham Education Association. Teachers and administrators have come into these conversations in a fair-minded way to work hard and serve students well in a sustainable way. This isn’t happening everywhere, and he appreciates that it is happening in Needham.

  • Connie Barr said that this was not only designed to attract new staff, but also to reward the longevity of current staff.

  • Town Manager Kate Fitzpatrick commended the staff and the association for retaining this agreement.

  • The School Committee voted unanimously in favor of the contract.

Portrait of a Needham Graduate – Student Presentations on Being Empowered Learners

  • Dr. Gutekanst said that among other things, the School Committee has prioritized engaging families and keeping them informed so they can be an active part of the life of the schools. He wants people to understand the Portrait of a Needham Graduate and have it shared broadly as the foundation of everything that is done in the Needham Public Schools.

  • Throughout the year, students and staff will be invited to share how they are living the attributes within the Portrait and the five competencies the schools strive to achieve.

  • Broadmeadow Principal Andy Garlick introduced two fifth grade students and the concept of Empowered Learning, or “Do you feel you have the power to make a real impact on your learning?”

  • The two students talked about times when they felt empowered and were able to make choices about their learning. They showed pictures to highlight their examples. Some examples they gave were a pixelated self portrait that integrated math and art, writing many endings to a story to determine which was best, and the State Fair project that combined research and art.

  • School Committee members asked the students questions and agreed with the sentiments they presented about this choice-based learning model.

Needham Education Foundation Fall 2022 Grant Awards

This fall, the Needham Education Foundation awarded ten fall grants totaling $30,142, an increase from three grants in the spring.

  • Maggie Shapiro and Aubrey Goodman talked about the different themes linked to the grants, including supporting inclusive practices, impactful experiences, and supporting innovative practices.

  • The NEF is seeing pre-pandemic numbers of grant requests, which is great but will also mean fundraising will be critical.

  • To learn how to support the NEF or for help writing a grant, people can visit

  • The School Committee voted unanimously to accept the awards.

Proposed 2023-2024 School Calendar

The School Committee received a packet that included the proposed calendar for the 2023-2024 school year as well as a calendar of religious and cultural holidays that are celebrated in our community beyond those federally and locally recognized. The 2023-2024 calendar will follow the same framework as the current calendar.

  • The school committee will vote on the proposed calendar in December.

  • Matt Spengler clarified that snow days will not be remote learning days by State law.

  • The calendar of religious and cultural holidays and traditions was compiled with input from members of the community.

  • The early release days are determined by the daily school schedule and the mandated number of instruction hours for both the elementary (900 hours) and the secondary (990 hours) levels.

  • Early release days are an important time for teachers and staff to do professional learning and development and collaborate with colleagues across the district. One example is the guidance department coming together to calibrate how they provide services to children.

  • On November 23, staff will have a professional development morning with keynote speaker Cornelius Minor to talk about setting the conditions for learning in all classrooms.

School Committee Comments

  • Connie Barr commented on how many sportsmanship awards Needham athletes and teams have won over the years.

  • Mike O’Brien announced the SEPAC roundtable about Alternatives to Needham High on Dec. 12 via Zoom. He also announced the Needham Housing Plan working group meeting to present their proposal to the community at Powers Hall on November 16.

  • Liz Lee commended the performances of the JV and the Varsity dance teams at their competition over the past weekend. Their coach Jess Arruda won a best choreography award.

  • Michael Greis praised the performance of the high school brass quintet at the second Great Hall concert of the season.

  • Connie Barr talked about the importance of the Needham Diversity Summit the previous weekend where Liz Lee and Dr. Gutekanst participated in breakout sessions.

The next School Committee Meeting will be December 13, 2022 at 6:30pm.


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