At the November 7 School Committee meeting, there was a discussion of the Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Certificate of Academic Excellence Awards, a Nutrition Services Report, a Legislative Update and the Proposed 2024-2025 School Calendar.
Several Needham residents and parents spoke in support of Needham’s dedication to cultural acceptance and celebration of diversity, and asked for support of this vision to extend to all students in Massachusetts by supporting House Bill 542 and Senate Bill 288. These Bills support and promote racially inclusive curriculum in schools across the Commonwealth and reflect accurate histories in educational curriculum highlighting various ethnic groups and historically marginalized groups. The Bills also provide funding for implementing culturally responsive curriculum more broadly in Massachusetts.
Thanked Needham Diversity Initiative for sponsoring a program to discuss belonging in the Needham community. Additional activities are being planned by NDI for future dates.
Several Needham High School athletic teams have qualified for post-season playoffs – field hockey, girls soccer, boys soccer, volleyball, girls swim/diving, cross country. We wish them all well in their endeavors.
Congratulations to the newest inductees into the National Chinese Honor Society.
Massachusetts Association of School Superintendents Certificate of Academic Excellence Awards
Nevan Sujit and Ray Winig, students at Needham High School, were recognized as the recipients of the Superintendents Certificate of Academic Excellence Award.
Ray is both a model student and a model citizen in the Needham High School community, with a dedication to academics and serving as a role model in furthering the conversation of equity, cultural proficiency and inclusivity in the school community.
Nevan is both a dedicated student and a well-balanced person, who is drawn to the STEM field. Last year, for example, he tried to independently develop microbial fuel cells (MFCs) that can turn wastewater into electricity.
Nutrition Services Report
Emily Murphy, Nutrition Services Director and Jen Tuttelman presented an update on Nutrition Services in Needham Public Schools. They also brought samples of some of the healthy foods they are serving in school for the SC members to taste. Highlights of the presentation include:
Universal free meal program has become permanent as of the 2023-2024 school year.
Reviewing departmental practice to determine how they can be improved.
Trying to materially reduce consumption of single use and plastic products. For example, introduced boxed water in lieu of plastic bottled water.
Partnering with re: dish to reduce waste from single use items. For example, the school district would purchase reusable trays and the company would pick-up/wash/sanitize/return the trays for re-use. Hoping to implement next school year.
Received additional funding from the Commonwealth, which is being used to increase local purchasing and offer local food on the NPS menu.
Considering changes to the menus to make the entrees more nutritious and incorporating more whole ingredients/from scratch recipes.
Implementing employee training to more effectively integrate local food into purchasing practices and menus, and to help students make healthy choices in the foods they are selecting for their lunch trays.
Creating and testing new recipes each month to expand the healthy and delicious menu options.
Needham’s meal participation has increased by 13% since last year.
Average daily participation is approx. 67% of the student population. (last year was 53%)
Revamped adult meal program and catering program as well. Adult meal participation is up 38% and catering revenue has increased by 47% this year.
Continues to be difficult this year. Nutrition is part of a collective bargaining group, and there has been some disruption this year due to inconsistencies in the group following mandated regulations.
Staffing Recruitment & Retention
It has been difficult to fill all positions. Currently 4 open positions for nutrition staff.
There was a recent increase in starting salaries for staff coming out of collective bargaining discussions, which along with an existing bonus program, will hopefully improve recruiting and retention efforts.
State Representative Denise Garlick presented a Legislative Update on MA Issues. Details can be found in the packet. Representative Garlick is the current chair of the MA House Education Committee and the Chair of a commission on the status of individuals with disabilities. Highlights of the presentation include:
Legislative focus on:
student mental health and finding avenues for providing additional support services
early literacy curriculum.
Focus on supporting Needham residents:
secured $100k for Charles River Center Accessibility Adaptations
secured $75K for Needham Housing Authority for Community Center Upgrade
secured $40k for Community Behavioral Health Services at Beth Israel Deaconess in Needham
School Committee was very appreciative of Representative Garlick's presentation and expressed how lucky we are to have her as Needham's representative in the State House. Questions and discussion from the School Committee members ensued.
Proposed 2024-2025 School Calendar
Dr. Gutekanst presented a proposed calendar for the 2024-2025 School year.
A key change from prior years is a proposal to move the teacher learning day to November 5th instead of the Wednesday prior to Thanksgiving.
Next year is a Federal election year, with expected high voter turnout on November 5th. Newman is a polling site and the Superintendent’s view is that the environment won’t be safe for students, faculty and staff to be conducting business.
Obviates the need for a second early release day in November. All teacher learning will be consolidated into a single day on the 5th.
Assuming no snow days, the last day of school would be Monday, June 16th. Other than the above noted change, the proposed calendar follows a similar format as prior years.
School Committee discussion ensued, with certain members of the Committee expressing concern over (i) closing all Needham schools on November 5th and (ii) having an early release day in the same week as a holiday (which occurs twice in October in the current proposed schedule). A vote on the proposed calendar will occur at the next SC meeting.
School Committee Comments
Expressed appreciation for the NDI event.
SEPAC has a parent support group that is meeting on a monthly basis. Information is available on the SEPAC website.
Pollard 8th grade student previously sent a letter to the School Committee expressing her concern over the amount of waste she was seeing produced by her and her peers.
The next School Committee meeting will be on November 21 at 6:30pm.