Wednesday, July 30, 2014

METCO Program Review

Needham recently completed a METCO program review to learn more about the opportunities and challenges facing our school community as we strive to meet the needs of all students, including our 155 Boston resident students who participate in METCO.

The review highlighted the many strengths of our METCO program, including the success of our METCO students, parent satisfaction, and staff involvement in student growth and achievement.

The program review also provided recommendations for improvement, including strengthening student support services for Boston students; increasing cultural proficiency and sensitivity within the district; and ensuring all students perform at high levels, especially at the secondary level.

Please check out the entire report on our website.  Click on this link 2013-14 Reports  and select 2014 METCO Program Review Report.

Additionally, please take a few minutes to watch the video of a recent Needham Schools Spotlight and hear the voices of several Needham High School students talking about their experiences with race and culture in the Needham Schools:   Student Voices:  Race and Empowerment in the Needham Schools

Friday, May 23, 2014

Memorial Day 2014: Needham's Fallen Brave

This morning, on the eve of Memorial Day, a beautiful new bronze plaque honoring Needham’s young men who died in service to our great country was dedicated in the high school’s foyer.  Dr. Jonathan Pizzi, Needham High School principal, shared the following remarks at the solemn ceremony:
WWII Vets unveil new memorial
Students read off names of the 97 Fallen Brave

Ladies and Gentlemen, Honored Guests, Town Officials, Colleagues, students, and most importantly, Veterans of Our Armed Forces:

It is with great pride and honor, as well as with a deep sense of sorrow, gratitude, and respect that Needham High School is able to provide once again a rightful and conspicuous place with which to honor our community’s Fallen Brave.  These individuals answered a call and lived and died knowing that they were fighting for a set of ideals and a cause that transcended their own individual interests.  They knew that the creation and then the very existence of this great nation depended upon their acting against human nature and advancing toward situations from which others fled in terror.

In many ways today’s enemies of freedom are not as readily identifiable as a Confederate Raider or a Panzer tank.  Of course the omnipresent threats of war and terrorism force us to live in a state of constant vigilance and anxiety regarding our personal safety.  To my students especially, however, I offer this: pervasive individualism, moral relativism, indeed the intrusive practices of our own government agencies, threaten the very freedoms for which the 97 individuals named here fought and gave their lives.  The ideals of our Founding Fathers as spelled out in our Constitution are ours to study, to practice, and above all, to protect.   Consequently, and more so than the acquisition of any amount of material wealth, the education you receive here bestows upon each of you the responsibility to grow your intelligence, your critical thinking, and your participation in our democracy so that the new enemies of our way of life – and there are many - can be defeated at every turn.

In his memoirs, Winston Churchill penned the following words to describe the deluge of emotion that swept over him after learning of the Japanese Imperial Navy’s surprise attack on Pearl Harbor on December 7, 1941: “Saturated and satiated with emotion and sensation, I went to bed and slept the sleep of the saved and thankful, for I knew I was now on the winning side.”

Long after this dedication ceremony has concluded and as we gaze and reflect upon this memorial to the 97 Fallen Brave, let us remember our quintessential responsibility to protect our basic American ideals and rights and allow ourselves to be swept up in the same emotions of sadness, relief, and gratitude as Britain’s then Prime Minister, and never, ever take for granted that whether at Bunker Hill, Antietam, Meuse-Argonne, the Ardennes Forest, the Pussan Perimeter, or Khe San, these soldiers and sailors made the ultimate sacrifice that we may ever sleep the sleep of the saved and thankful.   Thank you.

James H. Powers, USMC and WWII Veteran, honors his brother Pete who died in the Battle of the Bulge

Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Thank You, Needham! Next Steps!

On April 8th, Needham voters, once again, stepped up to support the community’s students and schools by passing an override to extend the school day and provide new and innovative programming for elementary students. 

I want to commend and thank parents and the community for their incredible and ongoing support of the Needham Public Schools!  I am honored to work in a community where citizens, including neighbors, parents, staff, and Town Boards—especially the School Committee, Finance Committee, and Selectmen—work so hard to understand the issues and collaborate closely to identify creative solutions, especially when it comes to addressing the needs and aspirations of our young people.  Thank you for providing the resources we will need to extend the school day at the elementary and middle school levels and offer additional elementary programs, including the arts, technology, and Spanish. 

Now the hard work begins if we are to be prepared for the opening of a new school year in September! 

In the weeks and months ahead I will share with parents, students, and staff the details around programs and schedules as they become available.  Currently administrators and teachers are working to plan new programs, hire the teachers required at the elementary level, and plan for the teacher and staff training needed to implement the extended day program in a meaningful and successful way.  We are excited to tackle this work, knowing that we have a unique opportunity to infuse innovation and new levels of collaboration into our school day for all students and staff.

One significant change that parents and students must prepare for at all levels is a change in the daily schedule, particularly at the elementary and middle school levels.  Please refer to the new time schedule below:

Needham Public Schools 2014-2015 School Start & End Times

8:45 - 3:10
8:20 - 2:45
8:20 - 2:45
8:20 - 2:45
8:20 - 2:45
8:45 - 3:10
Broadmeadow, Eliot, Hillside, Mitchell Kindergarten a.m./ p.m.
8:20 - 11:03/12:02 -2:45
Newman Kindergarten a.m./ p.m.
8:45 - 11:28/12:27 - 3:10
High Rock
7:40 - 2:10
7:50 - 2:20
Needham High School

8:00 - 2:35
Needham High School

 8:35 - 2:35

Beginning in September 2014 the elementary school day will be 25 minutes longer, and the middle school day will end ten minutes later.  In addition, each Friday morning at Needham High School, classes will begin at 8:35 a.m. to give teachers and staff time to meet and plan together.  And while NHS will only participate in a few early release professional development days, the elementary and middle schools will continue to have scheduled early release and delayed opening professional development.  This means that while elementary and middle school students will be dismissed early on some days, high school students will remain in classes until the conclusion of the school day, 2:35 p.m.

Over the summer principals will send out additional information about schedules and meetings.  If you have specific questions, please contact your child’s school directly for more information. Thanks again to a generous and involved community that invests wisely in our most precious resource:  Needham’s young people!

Monday, March 31, 2014

Owning Your Peace/Piece at Needham High School

Recently, several Needham High School students shared their personal stories as part of the high school’s Own Your Peace/Own Your Piece assembly. The assembly is part of a student initiative focused on building student activism, voice, resiliency, and a broad sense of community and respect.

Courageous students stood in front of hundreds and hundreds of their peers to share their personal stories and challenges. Their poignant anecdotes about their struggles with emotional and mental health issues, sexual orientation, racism, or learning issues were thoughtful, articulate, and inspiring. I came away captivated by their mature words and their powerful perspectives that demonstrated a willingness to stand up, take a risk, and  model what we value and how we want students to act.

Of course, it is no accident that the Own Your Peace/Own Your Piece assembly can thrive in a caring community like Needham High. The school's staff, parents, and students value and appreciate one another, and this speak out was yet another example of how the school strives to empower young people and their learning.

Thanks to the brave young men and women at Needham High School who encouraged each one of us to Own Your Peace/Own Your Piece!

Check out the student video that kicked off the week’s activities:  Youtube: NHS Own Your Peace/Own Your Piece

Friday, February 28, 2014

School Committee Endorses Override to Provide More Innovation and Time on Learning

At the request of the School Committee, the Needham Selectmen have voted unanimously to place the following override question on the April 8, 2014 ballot:

Shall the Town of Needham be allowed to assess an additional $1,548,410 in real estate and personal property taxes for the purposes of funding operating expenses for the Public Schools for the fiscal year beginning July first two thousand fourteen?

The School Committee is requesting the additional funding to provide for innovative and extended learning in the Needham Schools.  The additional funds, if approved by the voters in April, will:

a)    Restore previously cut school programs like elementary Spanish, music and PE;
b)    Provide for innovative learning opportunities for our elementary students, including technology and increased arts;
c)     Extend the school day to optimize learning for all K-8 students and;
d)    Ensure the K-12 professional staff has sufficient time to meet during and after the school day to improve and strengthen instruction.

This request is the result of numerous, ongoing, and public discussions over the last several years about the need to improve programs and provide sufficient time for our students.  Over the last ten years the District’s curriculum review process has detailed the need for additional time to address instructional concerns and develop programs that will enhance and empower student learning.  Additionally, data from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) is compelling and shows that Needham has more students per teacher than all but one of our 20 comparable communities, and our students have less time on learning in the classroom in grades K-8 than many of those same towns.  Finally, Needham’s teachers require additional time before, during, and after school hours to address state mandates and meet, collaborate, and plan to tackle the many and diverse learning needs of all our students.

Over the last several months the School Committee worked collaboratively with School and Town officials, especially the Finance Committee, to develop a request that is reasonable and minimizes the impact on taxpayers.  My original proposal to the School Committee was for a $2.1 million supplemental plan; however, focused and detailed discussion with the Finance Committee resulted in the request being lowered to $1.5 million.  The resulting School Committee plan is comprehensive, innovative, and will allow Needham’s elementary and middle school students more time to learn and grow—up to 75 hours of additional elementary instruction is part of the School Committee’s plan!

To learn more about the plan and to share your ideas with the School Committee, please visit the district’s website: Innovation and Extended Learning in the Needham Schools

Friday, January 31, 2014

Personalizing Learning at the Middle School: Launch of the 1 to 1 Initiative

 Needham middle schoolers working with their iPads

I am excited to announce that the Needham Public Schools 1 to 1 Personalized Learning Committee is recommending the implementation of an iPad initiative at the middle school level, beginning next September in the 6th grade.  After successful and ongoing 1 to 1 iPad pilots in the 7th, 8th, and 12th grades, the committee presented its recommendation to the School Committee for consideration and action.

We seek to create and sustain an environment that is responsive to ever changing technology in a way that enriches student achievement and encourages frequent and high levels of human interaction and collaboration—whether that is through electronic medium or in person.  We believe the iPad 1 to 1 program will strengthen student learning; increase student organization and confidence; and ensure personalized learning experiences become routine rather than random and occasional—for struggling students and for students requiring more challenging curriculum. 

The Committee believes a full implementation at High Rock and the following year in the 7th grade will strengthen teaching and learning and is consistent with the district’s values and goals:

·      Transform the current instructional model so that teachers are better able to help students master concepts that are frequently challenging for them to learn;
·      Provide personalized learning experiences for our students;
·      Empower students and help them take ownership of their learning;
·      Provide opportunities for students to create, communicate and collaborate.  In short, to prepare students as 21st century learners.

The plan calls for parents and students to purchase, lease, or bring an iPad to school with a limited number of loaner iPads available for those who are unable to participate in a purchase/lease program.  It will be critical to have at least 85% participation of students who either purchase/lease or bring a specified iPad if the implementation is to occur.  The District simply does not have the resources to purchase an iPad for each student at the middle school level; we need to depend on 85% of sixth grade students and their families to purchase/lease or bring their own device if we are to improve and enhance the educational experience for our middle school students.

While parents and families are being asked to assume financial responsibility for providing a device the District will meet the infrastructure, personnel and professional development needs to support the 1 to 1 initiative.

If the School Committee votes to adopt the plan, Needham will join several other communities, including Weston, Shrewsbury, Burlington, Wellesley, Millis, and Bedford, all of whom have integrated (or will next fall) the use of iPads into the educational program to engage students and improve the academic environment.

For more information, including the full report and implementation timeline, check out: 1 to 1 Personalized Learning Initiative Report

Monday, December 30, 2013

FY15 Budget Proposal: The resources required to meet student needs and provide innovative and creative learning opportunities

The Needham School Committee is reviewing a budget proposal for next school year (2014-15/FY15) that addresses growing enrollment at the secondary level, meets increased student needs, and offers innovative opportunities for teaching and learning. 

Based on the School Committee’s identified priorities, the budget proposal includes resources for teachers at the middle and high schools, as well as funds to support student activities, athletics, and technology implementation, including the integration of iPads beginning in the 6th grade for each student.  At the elementary level resources for curriculum programs and the funds needed to make up for Federal budget cuts to special education and Title I (literacy and math support) are also included.

Key highlights of the proposed budget:

  The FY15 budget plan represents a 5.24% increase of $2.8 million over the current fiscal year.
  Contractual salary costs account for about $1.5 million of the overall increase.
  The budget plan assumes elementary enrollment will decline slightly but secondary enrollment will increase with total PreK-12 enrollment growing from 5,586 to 5,595.
  Overall staffing is increased by a net of 20 staff members, including 16 teachers, most required for growing secondary enrollment and to meet special education and English Language Learner (ELL) needs.
  Targeted improvements in technology training, curriculum improvements, transportation, and student activities account for $736,000 of the budget plan.

In addition, the School Committee is considering a supplemental budget proposal of $1.8 million to provide for innovation, creativity, and extended learning in the Needham Schools.  These funds would provide the necessary resources to offer Needham’s students 21st Century learning opportunities that enrich each child’s education. The additional funds would:

  Introduce Spanish, Technology, the Arts, and expanded Health and Physical Education at the elementary level in grades 1 to 5 for all students and Music in Kindergarten.
  Provide an additional 75 hours or three weeks elementary instruction; an additional week or 30 hours of instruction at High Rock and Pollard.
  Ensure teachers and administrators have additional time to create dynamic and innovative learning experiences and collaborate to improve student growth, success, and achievement.

The supplemental budget request ensures Needham’s students have the resources and tools they need to learn, grow, create, and compete in an increasingly complex and interconnected global community—one that requires enhanced learning experiences and skill development in foreign language, technology, the arts, and health and wellness. 

The preliminary budget has been thoughtfully considered and is consistent with the School Committee and community’s high expectations for its young people.  The plan addresses growing middle and high school enrollment, meets the increasing demands of State and Federal governments, and strengthens teaching and learning. 

The School Committee invites the community to provide feedback about the budget at the FY15 Budget Public Hearing scheduled for 7:00 p.m. on Tuesday, January 21, 2013 at Broadmeadow.  You can also email comments to: 

For more information about the FY15 Budget Proposal, please visit the Needham Public Schools website: FY15 NPS Proposed Budget Information