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SC Meeting: September 6, 2022

At the September 6 School Committee meeting there was a Transportation Report and an Opening of School Update. School Committee also approved the FY24 Budget Guidelines and an October 2022 Special Town Meeting Warrant Article Funding Request for Emery Grover Construction.

Approve 2023-2025 Unit A Collective Bargaining Agreement

School Committee is excited to launch the year with a new contract with the Needham Education Association. SC really appreciates all the input and collaboration from the negotiation participants. Details can be found in the SC packet. The Collective Bargaining Agreement was approved unanimously.

Superintendent’s Comments

  • On 9/28 at 6:30 pm Dr. Gutekanst will participate in a gun violence prevention panel with representatives from the MGH Center for Gun Violence Prevention. Further info will be sent by email.

  • Dr. Gutekanst thanks MA State Representative Denise Garlick for championing a statewide bill (H 596) that will allow for school operations savings and efficiencies. This bill finally passed after many years of work with Anne Gulati, Assistant Superintendent for Finance and Operations and other NPS staff.

Transportation Report

Shane Marchand, Director of Transportation presented an update about school transportation.

  • The same number of buses are running this year but a few routes have been consolidated at Sunita Williams to free up a driver to allow for coverage during illness. Hiring bus drivers continues to be a struggle but they have 4 new drivers who are off to a good start.

  • Buses are running with the windows open for improved air flow.

  • A few hiccups from the first couple days: One Bus didn’t start on the first day of school even though it passed inspection the week before. Some runs are taking longer due to consolidated routes and more stops, but the typical bus route is less than 30 minutes. Some runs are running behind in the afternoons. They are working on streamlining these issues and expect improvement.

  • Some variation in ridership for individual schools but essentially flat ridership overall compared to previous years.

  • They are bringing back the Middle School Late Bus starting Sept 20, on Tues/Wed/Thurs for High Rock/Pollard. There will be one bus that will travel the whole town starting at 2:50pm. This will allow students who normally ride the bus to stay for extra help after school and still take a bus home. Further communication will be forthcoming about the route and where late stops will be located. Most students will need to get off the bus at a different stop from their usual one. In the past, this bus has been well utilized throughout the town, with 25-55 kids each day. It can be challenging for students and drivers to figure out where to stop as each day has different riders.

  • Currently there is no waitlist for any bus route, but students are still signing up and some routes are full. Primarily using MySchoolBucks for registrations, but can still register with paper forms.

  • New this year: implementing a multifunctional school activity bus (MFSAB) that can be used for smaller athletic groups or school clubs that do not require a full school bus & bus driver. This is a minibus that will be driven by staff who have been trained by the transportation department. Only coaches and NPS faculty/staff can apply for approval to drive the bus. This minibus can only hold 14 students and driver. They are currently registering and training drivers and working out final logistics of this program.

Opening of School Update

  • Teachers arrived on Monday 8/29 for 2 days of meetings and classes began on Wednesday 8/31. Central administration has visited all the schools and many classrooms over the last week and things are off to a great start; students are engaged and busy throughout the district.

  • Dr Gutekanst feels the school buildings were well prepared for the start of school this year; the Town Manager’s planning and increased staffing has allowed for improved maintenance & custodial services.

  • Nutrition Services has a new director, Danielle Collins. This year, NPS is providing free breakfast and lunch for all students through a state sponsored program.

  • Over 100 new staff, 70 are professional staff (teachers & administrators).

  • Enrollment as of today is 5600 students, increased from last fall, and a bit higher than projections. Most of this increase is in Kindergarten. Kindergarten enrollment is up 51 students from last year, which is significantly higher than projected. Students continue to enroll as new families move into the district, official enrollment numbers will be available in October.

  • Staff and students are still getting ill with COVID-19. Please stay home if you have symptoms. Schools are a Mask Friendly environment, some students and staff are still choosing to wear masks but they are not required. Staff will continue to monitor & follow state COVID-19 guidelines.

  • NEDP has a waiting list at every school.

Action Items

  • Approve FY24 Budget Guidelines – approved in unanimous vote

  • Approve October 2022 Special Town Meeting Warrant Article Funding Request for Emery Grover Construction – Estimators anticipate a funding shortfall despite what was approved for the Emery Grover Project at the May Town Meeting. SC intends to request additional funds to meet any shortfall. Exact amount to be requested is not yet known as construction bids are due October 6th; the final amount will be added to the article prior to Town Meeting – approved in a unanimous vote.

School Committee Comments

  • SC Members toured Nubian Square in Roxbury with METCO leaders last month and encourage interested community members to visit and learn more about this very interesting area of Boston.

The next School Committee meeting is September 20 at 6:30pm.


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