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School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

This debrief includes an update on negotiations with the Newton Teachers Association as well as a debrief of the 10/21/2019 Newton School Committee meeting.

Many of you responded to our last newsletter asking for an update on our contract negotiations with the teacher’s union. We have been meeting regularly and more meetings are scheduled in the next few weeks. While the details are confidential until the terms of a new contract are ratified by both sides, we are able to share the following information:

  • Timeline:  The current negotiation process began 15 months ago when the union and the School Committee negotiating teams came together to develop a new contract. The goal and the sincere hope was to settle a new contract before the current one expired in August 2019.

  • Unions: Newton Public Schools has 3 unions: The Newton Teachers’ Association, which includes approximately 2,000 members comprised of teachers, all school administrators (except principals and central administration), classroom and special education aides, and IT professionals. Unlike many of our peer districts, the NTA is a very large and diverse group which makes the negotiating process longer and more complex. The Custodial Association (approximately 90 members, all custodians) and the Secretaries Union (approximately 60 administrative professionals) are smaller and less complex.

  • Budget: The NPS budget is developed in partnership with the Superintendent, central administration and principals and approved by the School Committee. The budget allocation for NPS comes from the City.

  • Contract: When a contract expires, its terms remain in full effect until replaced by a successor contract. While negotiations are ongoing, all NTA employees continue to receive salaries, step increases (unless they are at top step), healthcare, longevity pay, and all other benefits, except cost of living adjustment. NTA members will receive the cost of living adjustment (COLA) once the contract is settled.

  • Complexity: Public school contracts address many issues beyond salaries, health insurance and other benefits, such as stipends for work outside the school day, parental leave, sick time, prep time in school, to name a few.

  • Hard work: The negotiating team and the union have been working hard and creatively to settle the contract. We have made progress, working through many of the 60+ items that have been identified as priorities, including an early agreement last winter to begin full day kindergarten this fall.

Like many of you, the members of the School Committee decided to live and serve in Newton because of its wonderful school system. We have enormous respect for our skilled and dedicated educators who come to school every day excited about working with our children and passionate about education.  We look forward to continuing our work with the NTA and settling the contract soon.

10/21/19 School Committee Meeting:

NPS Updates

  • The Preliminary Enrollment Report showed that overall, enrollment dropped slightly for the second year, though there is variation among individual schools.

  • The Youth Risk Behavior Survey (YRBS) and School Connectedness surveys illustrated student reports of substance use, violence and safety, physical activity, and mental health. Materials included a 3-page summary, a full summary of resultsConnectedness findings, and additional Connectedness summary graphs. Brief headlines: alcohol and tobacco use have declined, vaping has increased, concern about safety at school has increased; anxiety, depression, self-harm, and suicidality levels have not declined, and condom use has declined. The schools and city will continue to work collaboratively on these issues.

Other Updates and Second Readings

  • Second Reading, Discussion: NPS FY20 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP). The next major school building projects should be Franklin, Countryside, and Ward. The scope of work at Ward is to be determined, with community input.

Consent Agenda

  • The School Committee voted unanimously to approve the 10-7-19 Minutes, Overnight/Out-of-State Field Trips, and School Committee Secretary Appointment (renewing the appointment of Lisa Mazzola.)

Next Meeting

On Monday, November 4th at 7:00pm, we will receive an update from the Equity Working Group and Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ). In addition, the Irwin Blumer Book Awards will be made.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org. On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

Sincerely,

The Newton School Committee

School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 10/7/2019 Newton School Committee meeting:

Superintendent Update:

  • Staff training during the first early release of the year went smoothly.

  • On October 22nd, 5:30-7pm at Newton North, State Senators Cindy Creem and Jason Lewis, Senate Chair on the Joint Committee of Education, will be presenting information about the Student Opportunity Act. The public is welcome.

  • The Boston Globe published an article about civics education, which featured students and faculty from Bigelow Middle School.

NPS Updates

  • Liam Hurley, Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial & Administrative Officer, presented a draft of the updates to the FY20 Capital Improvement Plan (CIP), which included, among other things:

    • A higher estimate of construction costs for the Countryside and Franklin schools due to construction cost escalation.

    • Recommendation for Oak Hill Addition to accommodate higher enrollment projections. Currently, $3,000,000 of that funding would be requested in the CIP, with an addition $500,000 from NPS over three years.

  • EDCO Update: School Committee Member Diana Fisher Gomberg presented a summary of updates.

Other Updates

Consent Agenda

Next Meeting

Our next meeting will be Monday, October 21st at 6:00pm.  Please note this meeting begins at 6pm instead of 7pm.  There will be no public comment at this meeting to ensure that the Committee members can address the agenda items and leave promptly at 7:45pm to attend the Mayor’s Budget and CIP meeting at City Hall at 8:00pm. Extended public comment time will be available at the following meeting (November 4.)

At the meeting, we will receive the Preliminary Enrollment Report as well as data from our Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (www.newton.k12.ma.us/schoolcommittee). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org. On the district Facebook page, you can find videos of past “Virtual Office Hours,” which are held once a month and provide the community with the opportunity to ask questions through the FB Live format.

As always, we are very happy to answer any questions or discuss any concerns you may have. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

Sincerely,

The Newton School Committee

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear NPS Families,

I write to you to share information on the precautions we are taking in the Newton Public Schools related to EEE and West Nile Virus. Newton remains a LOW risk community in the state for both EEE and WNV. Given the LOW risk level, the Newton Health and Human Services Department advises precautions as listed in the attached fact sheet.

NPS has taken the following actions given the elevated risk levels in other parts of the state:

  • Outdoor field trips to locations in “high” or “critical” risk areas have been cancelled.
  • Planned outdoor evening activities will be moved indoors if possible. If held outside, the Newton Health and Human Services Department advises wearing insect repellant and long sleeves/pants. (Parents/caregivers should apply/provide repellant.)
  • At this time, the Newton Health and Human Services Department is not advising cancelling outdoor evening activities.
  • At this time, outdoor activities during the day (recess and physical education) do not require modification.
  • Should the risk level change, these actions will be re-evaluated.

For more information, please visit:

http://www.newtonma.gov/news/displaynews.asp?NewsID=1124&TargetID=31

https://www.mass.gov/guides/eee-in-massachusetts

We will continue to work closely with our partners in the Newton Health and Human Services Department to monitor the situation and will make adjustments as necessary. Newton HHS is working together with the Massachusetts Department of Public Health and the East Middlesex Mosquito Control Project to assess the situation in our community. We will keep you updated as new information becomes available.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman

FAQ Mosquitoes 9.10.19.pdf

Bus Transportation Update

Dear NPS Families,

The first two days of school have presented some significant challenges for our bus transportation. We apologize to those of you who have experienced delays, frustrations, and anxiety related to transportation on these first days of school.

Please know that we are receiving your voicemails and emails and will respond as soon as possible. There will be some delay in response given the extremely high volume of communications we are receiving. Our first priority is to resolve the issues related to bus routes so as to ensure your student’s timely transportation to and from school. Eastern Bus, our transportation vendor, has shared with us that the shortage of bus drivers is impacting operations. They are working diligently to get all drivers up to speed as soon as possible.

We know that many families have not received their bus passes and significant numbers of applications are still being submitted. All applications submitted prior to the August 16th deadline were processed, printed, and mailed. Please know that bus passes WILL NOT be checked until several weeks into the school year. This information has been communicated to all schools.

For families utilizing special education transportation, we are resolving issues on an individual basis as each student and ride is unique.

Given the significant construction projects in process throughout the City of Newton, additional bus delays may occur throughout the year. Because our buses operate on a tiered system (same buses are used for high school, middle school, elementary school), delays in one tier impact schools throughout the system.

Next year, we plan to implement changes to the registration process and timing to address the challenges we have experienced this year. Please look for additional information later this year.

We know this is a time of transition for all families. Lack of certainty in transportation makes that transition more difficult. Please know we are working hard to resolve these issues as quickly as possible. Thank you for your understanding and patience.

Sincerely,

Liam Hurley, Assistant Superintendent/Chief Financial and Administrative Officer

Regina Moody, Director of Transportation

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear NPS Families,

I hope you have enjoyed the summer. It is a great pleasure to welcome both our returning families and those new to our schools.

The start of a school year is a wonderful time for anyone involved in education because it represents a new beginning. It is an opportunity to share our experience and our skills with new colleagues, new families, and new students. There is also a special excitement knowing how much we will learn from each other and from our students over the course of the year.

Summer is an important time for adult learning in Newton. We began this summer again with a powerful conference on race and achievement for Newton Educators. Among the many terrific sessions led by Newton faculty and staff, were workshops on Culturally Responsive Teaching and the Brain and Tackling Implicit Bias. We are committed to creating welcoming and inclusive classrooms and school communities, and we will continue this work with faculty and staff, as well as students throughout the year.

After a year of careful planning, we are proud to finally offer full-day kindergarten in the Newton Public Schools. Our kindergarten teams, support staff, and administrators have worked over the course of this spring and summer to develop a schedule for our kindergarteners that balances academic learning with age-appropriate social and emotional structures and activities.

In our continuous effort to personalize learning and leverage the use of technology, this year we are expanding our 1:1 initiative to grades 9-11 at both high schools. Students will receive a Chromebook for academic work both in school and at home. We will continue to support our faculty in incorporating best practices for technology use in their classrooms.

While academic achievement is a hallmark of the Newton Public Schools, we are just as firmly committed to the physical and social/emotional health of our students. We seek to work in partnership with you in supporting students as they navigate the pre-K – 12 years. To that end, last year we hosted a well-attended community forum on vaping, the most recent health epidemic to impact our youth. We will continue to address this issue through our health curriculum and through our school support systems. It is our plan this year to host another community forum on a topic that is relevant, timely, and useful to you as parents and caregivers. We look forward to this opportunity and will share more information once it is available.

We continue to achieve milestones on our long-term strategic plan for our school buildings. Our Cabot students will begin the year in their renovated and expanded facility. Horace Mann students will start the year in their new, permanent home at 225 Nevada St. We will continue to keep you apprised of progress as we strive to renovate and update our buildings.

One of the most important parts of my job is to be in our schools on a regular basis working with staff and students. Together with School Committee members, and working closely with our PTOs, I will again visit each of our 22 schools to speak with you about district initiatives and listen to your ideas, questions, and concerns. In addition, I will use my superintendent newsletter and social media to share more with you about all the good work happening in our district. Be sure to follow the Newton Public Schools on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.

As I enter my tenth year as superintendent of the Newton Public Schools, I know how important your support is to the success and well-being of our students. Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful school year.

Sincerely,
David Fleishman

For a video message, please follow this link: https://youtu.be/RiMFrrp9MAQ