The Needham School Committee recently heard a report on the status and progress of the 2010-11 district goals. The administration was pleased to share the good news about the many goal accomplishments based on our four core values of Scholarship (Learning), Personal Growth (Acting Courageously), Community (Contributing), and Citizenship (Acting Responsibly).
Goal One: Advance Standards-Based Learning
• Professional Learning Communities evolve in the elementary schools. Principals continue to work to provide structured and scheduled time for teachers to collaborate, review student work, and refine classroom practice and instruction.
• Common assessments developed and implemented at each grade level and school. Teachers will use the results of these assessments to collaborate on best practices, refine curriculum goals, and ensure the implementation of a consistent and high quality academic program.
• Grade Two standards-based report card takes shape. A standards-based report card has successfully been implemented in grades, three, four, and five; the grade two report card will complement that work. Additionally, a Sixth grade team will work this summer on the development of the Sixth grade report card.
• New elementary math program implemented in grades one and two. The Think Math! Curriculum will be introduced to grades three, four, and five next year. Teachers and parents have commented on the success of the program thus far in first and second grades.
• Special education program review completed. A much-needed review of special education services, including resource allocation and teacher professional development, will inform our practices and programs. The completed report will be shared with the community in the fall.
• Pilot sex education program developed for students in grades five through twelve. A newly developed ninth grade program was implemented in the spring after significant thought and community input.
Goal Two: Develop the Social and Emotional Skills of All Students
• Bullying Prevention Plan adopted. The district’s plan is rigorous and comprehensive and a new website detailing school and district efforts provides parent and student information and resources. The district also received a $58,000 Metro West Health Foundation grant to develop additional bullying prevention programs.
• Positive Coaching Alliance instituted. High school coaches will be trained in the fundamentals of developing and supporting athletes with positive messages, sportsmanship, and skills that complement the district’s efforts around social and emotional learning and health.
• Social and Emotional Learning (SEL) steering committee formed to ensure consistent and high quality programs throughout the school system. The committee met regularly to review parent programming, discuss school efforts around SEL, and to develop additional SEL staff orientation and training. The committee also oversaw the implementation of the 2nd Step elementary and middle school advisory programs.
• Disability awareness program takes shape in the elementary schools. Parents and staff have partnered to introduce the disabilities program to elementary schools in Needham.
Goal Three: Promote Active Citizenship
• Service Learning (SL) steering committee formed and SL leadership positions identified and funded at each school. Teachers and principals are taking a renewed look at community service as it relates to learning goals in each school. The goal is to complement worthwhile and traditional community service and community service fundraisers already occurring in all schools with specific service learning activities tied to the existing curriculum.
• Service learning activities increase at each grade level and school. Mitchell’s Food for Thought program integrates the school’s garden with food production and science as well as the local food pantry. Hillside’s Water Tap Project brings the science of water and developing countries into a local service project. The high school’s Senior-to-Senior Program, a partnership between 12th graders and senior citizens around fitness and exercise, was honored at a national conference.
• The Diversity Planning Team met to discuss and plan initiatives designed to promote equity for all students. One result of their work will be the development of a comprehensive student mentoring program for all METCO students.
• STEM initiatives explored. Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math (STEM) programs are quickly catching the attention of students, staff, and members of the community through new partnerships with local corporation PTC, Olin College, and parent volunteers. An EPA grant entitled Eco-Explorers provides additional learning opportunities for elementary and middle school students around environmental issues.
• New exchange program with Beijing school district formed. Over 30 elementary students and a dozen school administrators from the Daxing School District (Beijing) visited our schools this past year. This summer, five teachers will visit Daxing as part of a growing relationship between the two school districts.
Goal Four: Ensure infrastructure supports district values and learning goals.
• Newman repairs and renovations on track. Detailed planning for the relocation of PreK and K Newman students and staff to the Pollard campus in the fall continued throughout the year. Additionally, the Newman community readied for the delivery of 38 modular classrooms and the relocation of grades one through five to these modulars while the building undergoes repairs and renovations this summer and into the 2011-12 school year.
• Facilities Assessment for Mitchell, Hillside, and Pollard prepared. The School Committee reviewed a draft report of the building assessment and the building committee will review a final document in August. The report details the immediate and long-term maintenance needs at all three school buildings. The Town will next decide how it will fund these important projects.
• Collective bargaining contracts signed with four employee groups. Along with last year’s new contract with teachers, employees are afforded sustainable and competitive raises, and they will also shoulder greater responsibility for health insurance premiums, which had previously been funded by the Town. All in all, the Town will save the equivalent of approximately $700,000 in health insurance costs as a result of the new agreements.
• Introduction of new technology systems serves students, parents, staff, and community. New web-based and software applications along with hardware purchases benefited students with disabilities, tracked employee absences and professional development, and provided additional opportunities for advanced communications between the schools and home.
While challenges remain and much work has yet to be tackled, we look forward to recharging our batteries over the summer break and moving forward in the new school year. Thanks to the Needham School Committee for supporting our work, asking us tough questions, and holding us accountable for our efforts.
For detailed information about all of our work in the Needham Schools, please check out the district’s website: http://www.needham.k12.ma.us/ and look under the “News” section.
Here’s to a successful past year and great summer ahead!