Category Archives: From Newton Public Schools

News from Newton Public Schools

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update covers the 6/8/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, we wanted to draw your attention to news regarding Unit C staffing for next year. While most NPS staff are permanent and long-term employees, we do have a number of staff contracted annually. For the coming year, NPS will not renew the yearly contract of approximately 100 of our roughly 700 Unit C paraprofessionals. Unit C includes special education aides, behavior therapists, classroom aides, and other educational assistants. In a typical year, the district examines these contracts to determine which positions to renew. Over the past 5 years, about 50 positions on average have not been renewed. This is no typical year as schools navigate the disruption to educational models and budgets caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.

The fact that we are still uncertain what school will look like next year, infinitely complicates NPS’s staffing decisions. Non-renewal of these contracts allows the district the flexibility to hire the highly qualified, differentiated skilled team we will need to provide the services all of our students require for both special and general education. Please know that NPS is planning for a range of scenarios with a variety of educational models, working hard to meet the academic, social, emotional, health and safety needs of all of our students.

Lastly, please know that NPS has no plans to alter the staffing models of our employees in Unit A, teachers or Unit B, administrators, curriculum coordinators, deans, department heads and assistant principals.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • Congratulations to the Class of 2020! Sunday, June 7th’s Celebration Lanes event at both Newton North and Newton South was a fun celebration for students, parents, teachers and staff.
  • We have received state guidance regarding summer programs. We typically serve around 900 students during summer for our Extended School Year (ESY) program. This will be done remotely, factoring in safety and social distance.
  • Parents and guardians should have received an email sharing information about our plans for the fall. The state has a 42-person team made up of various stakeholders including parents, educators, superintends and mayors all working to create guidelines for remote learning or safe in person school for next year.
  • Unit C special education aids, who pay a critical role in our educational system, are facing uncertainty in staffing for next year. We are inviting back 80% of our Unit C paraprofessionals. We are unable to hire everyone back due to the uncertainty of knowing what school will look like next year.


  • Distance Learning Plan Update: Highlights, Challenges & Lessons Learned. “In general, school districts spend 2-4 years creating distance learning programs. We’ve had to create a crisis distance learning plan in a matter of weeks.”—David Fleishman
    • Elementary Schools
      • Highlights – increased creativity, problem solving, and growth in utilizing technology as a tool for learning, increased interdisciplinary teacher collaboration, relentless faculty commitment to students and families and consistent and helpful communication from district leadership.
      • Challenges – delivering virtual learning in a way that K-2 students can access independently and mitigate time impact on families, providing consistent feedback and holding students accountable, magnified inequities among students/families, teachers’ capacity to work from home and manage their own families, gauging the extent to which students are making academic and social emotional progress, social connections for students and supporting students/families in crisis.
      • Lessons Learned – Need to use the skillsets of our support staff to provide additional direct support to students, need to use technology platforms that are developmentally appropriate for grade levels, increased rigor and time on learning (live virtual classes/small groups) will benefit student learning, growth, and connection.
    • Middle Schools
      • Highlights – Technology platforms to help organize students and enable parents to provide support, online instruction with peer-to-peer conference, padlet, virtual bulletin boards for teachers to share promising practices and in the moment PD and dialogue. Also recreating Transitions & Traditions with classroom visit screencasts and Step-up Day virtual tours.
      • Challenges – Creating a technological platform for distance learning, developing a variety of engaging activities for online live sessions, responding to students social and emotional needs, widening achievement gap, providing academic, organizational, and technical support and reaching out to individual students. Also, transitioning students from one school to the next, especially preparing them socially and emotionally for the shift.
      • Lessons Learned – Need for robust technology platform, professional development for teachers to: create engaging online learning sessions with increased instruction, develop means to meet students social and emotional needs in a distance format and integrate online and onsite learning experiences.
    • High Schools
      • Highlights – Continued focus on relationships and culturally responsive instruction, focus on equity, mental health & connecting with ALL students, strong collaboration, bonding and creativity among teacher teams and with all educators in the building, cohesiveness of leadership teams, experimentation with new tools and ways of teaching, collaborative response to crisis and demonstration of student leadership as part of that response.
      • Challenges – Student Perspective: lack of social contact for students and teachers, supporting students/families in crisis and students who struggle, responding to inequities that are now more magnified and addressing them more immediately, supporting our students when incidents occur in our school and in our world, and student accountability and learning from feedback rather than using grades/GPA as motivators. Teacher/Leadership Perspective: everything takes longer and requires more top-down leadership at times, teachers’ capacity to work from home and manage their own families, how to teach electives, managing information flow/frequency, supporting educators when incidents occur in our school and in our world and taking action to be anti-racist schools and keeping that at the forefront with any other work.
      • Lessons Learned – Simplicity is better, share lesson plans, use the hive mind of departments, won’t be able to do everything, need clear, effective communication from everyone, how we build on this experiment in intrinsic motivation, how to use this moment to deepen our conversations about race and justice. Also, equity must remain our focus and students need time to connect with each other and their teachers.
    • Equity Committee Recommendations:
      • Remove CAS from Annual Elementary Equity Cap.
      • The Elementary CAS Limit is three “experiences” per classroom.
      • Change Annual Elementary Equity Cap to $40/student.
      • Defer implementation of recommendations to FY22 (effective July 1st 2021).
      • Committee set to vote on the suggested policy recommendations during the Monday, June 22nd meeting.

Consent Agenda

  • The School Committee voted Tamika Olszewski as EDCO Board Member, 7 voted in favor with 1 absence (Ray-Canada).
  • Approved 5-11-2020 and 5-18-2020 Draft Minutes, 7 voted in favor with 1 absence (Ray-Canada).

Next Meeting

On Monday, June 22nd at 7:00 PM the School Committee will have the last meeting of the school year. It will be a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website ( Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via 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. Feel free to contact us via email at

The Newton School Committee

Updated Learning Plan and Summer/Fall Plans

Dear NPS Families,

I write to share two important updates with you. The first is an update on our distance learning plan based upon both updated guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and survey feedback from families, staff, and high school students. The second update is on planning for summer and the 2020-21 school year.

Distance Learning

Thank you to all families who took the time to provide feedback on our distance learning plan. Below are some key takeaways from the staff, family, and high school student surveys:

Key Survey Findings

  • For staff, one of the significant challenges of distance learning is concern for vulnerable students and ensuring equitable access and engagement for all students.
  • The majority of parents/guardians responded that the amount of time that their child is interacting with teachers in real time is not enough.
  • The majority of parents/guardians at elementary and middle school responded that the amount of time their child is doing work or activities provided by teachers is just right. At preschool, the majority said it is not enough. High school parents/guardians were closely split between not enough and just right.
  • For high school students, 84% found the amount of work being provided as either just right or a bit too much. 58% of students are spending 2-4 hours per day “doing school.” 76% of all students find the challenge level of learning activities just right.

Updates to Distance Learning Plan

Given the state guidance, along with the feedback above, and working closely with our NTA partners, below is a list of the key changes that will be implemented as we proceed with our distance learning plan:

  • As many have already begun, teachers and staff will give students opportunities to learn new content and skills, while continuing to review and reinforce key concepts. The focus will be on a limited number of key topics and skills to prepare students for the next grade.
  • In our elementary schools, weekly schedules will be revised so that students will have at least four opportunities per week to connect live with a staff member, one of whom will be a specialist.
  • In our middle schools, we will add a weekly advisory or community meeting of 30 minutes at all schools to promote engagement and connection and to support students as they organize their work for the week.
  • At the high school level, the class schedule will be adjusted to allow classes to run for up to 30 minutes as educationally appropriate.

Our distance learning plan continues to place connection with school and social emotional support for students as a top priority. We know that families continue to experience this pandemic very differently and we seek to respect those differences. Providing regular connections with teachers and staff, as well as meaningful academic work, will be the focus of our plan for the remainder of the academic year. 

Summer and Fall Planning

We know that you have many questions about plans for both summer programming and the 2020-21 school year. While there are more questions than answers at this point, please know that our primary consideration will be the health and wellness of our students, staff, and school communities. We will be working closely with health officials to plan for school opening, while understanding that our plans will need to be flexible given the unknown duration of this public health crisis.

For the summer, we are awaiting state guidance on school programs, camps, and other services. We expect that some of our programs will need to be remote, with potentially some opportunity for in person interaction. We will provide you updates and information as we receive guidance and determine what is possible.

For the fall, we are creating planning teams to prepare for the many possible scenarios. One area of focus will be operations, including building cleaning protocols, bussing, food service, social distancing protocols, among many others. A second key area of focus will be our educational model and how public health considerations will impact scheduling, course content, and social-emotional support for our students. This team will develop a range of scenarios to accommodate the various guidelines that may be put in place to protect public health. We will continue to keep you updated as our planning moves forward.

As we embark upon the final six weeks of this truly unprecedented school year, I am struck by the creativity of our staff, the resilience of our students, and the kindness of our school community. While the past 8 weeks have been incredibly stressful, sometimes frustrating and sad, and always uncertain, I am hopeful that some of the life lessons learned by our children will serve them well. I hope you and your family are healthy and well.


David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 5/11/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. This meeting was largely focused on examining the results of the Distance Learning Survey, conducted over the last several weeks. We will continue to study and analyze the feedback to allow us to improve the Distance Learning experience. To paraphrase our Superintendent, these surveys are about learning from our families, staff and students so that we can improve our Distance Learning Plan, making it better and more effective for all of our students and their families.

As a result, a number of changes to the Distance Learning Plan will soon take effect including:

  • Elementary – Each student will have 4 opportunities per week to connect live with a staff member.
  • Middle – An advisory or community meeting will occur weekly for 30 minutes to both connect and prepare for the week.
  • High – Classes will be scheduled for up to 30 minutes (increase of 10 minutes).

Superintendent’s Update:

  • Teams are currently working on planning for summer programming and awaiting state guidance within the next couple of weeks to help inform our efforts. The district is planning professional development around distance learning tools and best practices, in addition to equipping educators with the skills to address students’ emotional trauma due to COVID-19. The administrative team will soon move to planning for the possibility of distance learning in the fall and considering what school might look like at that time.


  • Distance Learning Surveys Summary of Data shows that “crisis teaching,” our emergency response to a global health pandemic, requires significant time and planning to recreate public education and presents numerous challenges. State guidance continues to focus on equity—the greatest challenge in our current environment. Families have a range of perspectives on distance learning depending on their circumstances.
    • Staff Survey Analysis:
      • Staff cited “not having enough hours in the day” and working constantly, through weekends, to plan and implement distance learning.
      • Across grade levels, the most frequent challenge staff are experiencing with live sessions or whole class meetings is students not attending.
      • Concern for vulnerable students and concern for ensuring equity for all students was their biggest challenge.
    • Distance Learning Family Survey Analysis:
      • For parents/guardians who reported challenges accessing live sessions or whole class meetings, younger students (preschool and elementary) more frequently had trouble engaging during this time, while older students (middle and high school) more frequently had difficulty logging in and technological problems with the virtual platform(s).
      • Analysis of open responses questions, around 3,000 responses for each question, is still underway. A majority of those providing suggestions would like more time with teachers teaching new content as a suggested way to help children manage distance learning. Parents/guardians also suggested small group projects and/or social interactions over Zoom, as well as more simplified and centralized directions for their students each week.
    • High School Student Feedback:
      • Most high school students (58%) report “doing school” between 2-4 hours per day; 43% say the amount of work is a bit much and 41% say it’s just right.
      • 31% of students say missing the social aspect of school is the hardest part.
    • Resources for Growing Student and Family Needs:
      • Device Loan – 1,000+
      • Meals – 2,340+ a day
      • District Response Team in Partnership with HHS
        • Phone: (617) 559-6021
  • Equity Working Group Update:
    • Suggested Annual Elementary Equity Cap of $40, determined by multiplying $40 by the number of students at each school, reviewed every 2 years.
    • The Elementary CAS Limit is three “experiences” per classroom. Annual Concert Series and Preview performances will not count as an “experience” towards the Elementary CAS Limit. Large Periodic Events, such as a Ruby Bridges visit or a mural prepared with the assistance of an artist, will not count as an “experience” towards the Elementary CAS Limit, if they happen no more than once every 5 school years.
    • Recommendations reflect a switch from measuring how much is spent per pupil to how many CAS experiences each student receives. It allows a better balance between the role Creative Arts and Sciences programming plays within a student’s overall educational experience.
  • First Reading Policy Updates (BEDH-Public Comment), IGB (Student Services), JH (Student Absences/Excuses), JICH (Tobacco/Alcohol Use), JLCB (Inoculation of Students):
    • Addresses minor amendments to update changes in the law or eliminate duplicate policies. Additional updates will be upcoming in the next group of policy updates.

Consent Agenda

  • Unanimously voted against participation in School Choice for the FY21 school year.
  • Unanimously approved 4-6-20 and 4-27-20 Draft Minutes.

Next Meeting
On Wednesday, May 27th at 7:00PM the School Committee will have a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting.

We hope you found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website ( Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via 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.

The Newton School Committee

Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 4/27/2020 and 4/30/2020 Newton School Committee meetings. We have combined these two meetings into one newsletter as they both examined the significant impacts COVID-19 will have on our proposed 2020-2021 Annual Budget. During the 4/27/2020 meeting, Mayor Fuller and Maureen Lemieux, Newton’s Chief Financial Officer addressed the Committee to describe the “deep changes in revenue assumptions,” to ask the district to reduce its FY21 budget by $1,500,000, and to plan accordingly for even greater reductions in FY22. Superintendent Fleishman and Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, recommended a number of adjustments to immediately ddress this request and begin the process of carrying funds forward.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • In positive news, the Newton South Global Community’s program received a Green Difference Award, recognizing their outstanding energy, environmental and STEAM efforts.
  • Distance Learning Update: Received Phase 3 Guidance from DESE focusing on 4 key areas of distance learning: prioritizing meaningful connections with educators and peers, providing engaging core instruction focused on the content standards most critical to student success, moving to new content material, offering opportunities for enrichment exercise and play and ensuring that programming is accessible. DESE has also prioritized asynchronous learning as opposed to live lessons where many students may not be able to join lessons.
  • Reviewing Feedback on Distance Learning: We’ve already received high school surveys and had very good response rate from staff survey. Next week we’ll begin to analyze the NPS Distance Learning: Family Survey to try to triangulate that data and think about how it compares with the specific guidance we are getting from DESE. The results will be shared during the Monday, May 11th School Committee Meeting.


  • The Last Day of School: The last day of school for students will be Tuesday, June 18, 2019, and the last day for teachers will be Wednesday, June 19, 2019.
  • FY20 Fiscal and Operational Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, presented our third Fiscal and Operations Update of the school year. As of March 31, 2020, the district has spent and encumbered $157.2 million, or 66% of the annual budget of $237,022,312. The current financial forecast includes projections for all areas of spending for the year, with a projected positive balance of $2.8 million.
    • New assumptions made because of school closure for the remainder of the year due to COVID-19:
      • Salaries, benefits, utilities, maintenance, contracted services, tuition, transportation and spending on supplies and equipment are all projected to end the year under budget.
      • Food Service, however, will require a $359,000 subsidy in FY20 due to the district’s contract with food service vendor Whitsons, contingent upon 180 service days, and expanded food service operations during the district-wide shutdown to provide students with nutritious meals at three school sites, 150 Jackson Road, North High, and South High. Coordination is underway with City Officials to open serving sites to all residents regardless of age. Also, negotiations will take place to determine Whitsons management fees for the year.
  • Facilities Update:
    • Chief Financial Officer, Liam Hurley, provided an update on several projects currently underway including:
      • Newton Early Childhood Program (NECP) – project has now been put out to bid and we expect to receive bids in May.
      • Lincoln-Eliot at 150 Jackson Road- the working group is recommending that the space program be revised for an enrollment of 396 students and 18 classrooms, plus an expanded scope including the existing auditorium.
      • Continue reading

Update from the School Committee


Dear Friends,

By now you’ve received loads of information from Superintendent David Fleishman, from the principals and the teachers regarding the NPS Distance Learning Plan. It’s a lot of information to process and we’ve heard from numerous parents and guardians who have shared feedback. During the Monday April 6th meeting, David Fleishman and the NPS administrative team offered us a “window into their thinking” for creating this plan and why the team believes it is the best solution for shifting instruction to an online model. We strongly encourage you to watch the recorded broadcast to hear directly from the team. Alternatively, you may review the Distance Learning Report to the School Committee.

The School Committee would like to provide you a window into our support for the district’s plan and will share some answers to commonly asked questions before we conclude the update with Monday’s Consent Agenda.

  • Why did NPS wait until April 6th to start distance learning? The district took a careful and thoughtful approach to readying our families for distance learning and supporting teachers and other learning specialists with the necessary planning time to create materials, curriculum, and weekly schedules. It was also important for Newton to obtain state guidance. On March 26th the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) established a number of guiding principles for distance learning and set equity as a top priority. To enable access and support equity, the district swiftly coordinated the distribution of over 900 Chromebooks to families and provided Grab N’ Go meals for all students.
  • Did the School Committee negotiate a Distance Learning Plan with the Newton Teachers Association? Yes, because distance learning is a significant change in working conditions, we had to discuss the terms of our new reality.  We were able to reach a mutually agreeable arrangement once our learning plans were created. On March 29th, the School Committee executed a Memorandum of Understanding with the NTA.
  • Why cancel April vacation? Simply put, now that the distance learning plan is in effect, cancelling vacation allows students to continue their learning without further interruption.
  • Will this school year be extended? That’s a great question and at this time one that is still being evaluated. We can share that the SC will meet in Executive Session on April 13th to discuss the last day of school.
  • Is summer school on the table to catch students up? We’ll follow guidance from the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The NPS administrative team will conduct a thorough analysis of this option.
  • Why did other districts start distance learning earlier? It’s true that some area schools made early shifts to remote services, but these efforts largely suffered from a lack of coordination or didn’t provide technology assistance to families. Some districts were much smaller than Newton with fewer stakeholders to negotiate. Many districts have since revised and modified their plans in order to implement greater coordination. Newton has taken the time to benefit from state guidance, minimize student disruption and maximize our ability to provide a coordinated effort. Newton also prioritized providing basic services to students, such as meals and technology.
  • Why did we have to wait for students to get technology access? Newton’s values of equity and excellence demand that our district leave no student behind in our shift to remote learning. We are grateful to the Newton Schools Foundation for their generous grant to purchase an additional 300 Chromebooks.
  • How are we providing service to students with special needs? Supporting the needs of all learners required the district to craft a plan respecting students’ IEPs and 504 plans. NPS took the time to carefully plan our distance learning model so that students of all abilities feel connected to their teachers and can access materials.
  • Why are we only having 3 – 3.5 hours of learning a day? This was the guidance the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education provided to each school district in the state. It rests in the premise that remote learning is not synonymous with online learning. Remote learning promotes “balance between learning through technology and remote learning that happens offline to support students’ curiosity and understanding.”
  • Will there be opportunity for parent and student feedback?  The short answer is ABSOLUTELY!  Principals and senior administration will be working on a survey to go out to all parents (likely by level – elementary, middle, high) in the next week or two.  Additionally, teachers and principals will survey older students as well.  Parents are also encouraged to let their classroom teachers know how activities are working for their child/family – both what works well and what is missing the mark.
  • Why is the School Committee voting on the FY21 Budget before knowing the full financial impact of the school closure for next year?  The School Committee completed the budget cycle as set out because it is an important marker in planning for next year and while we suspect there will be new information in the coming months, we did not have that new information in hand.  Budgets often shift during the year in a “typical” situation.  However, we recognize that assumptions in the current FY21 budget have a great likelihood of changing and we have scheduled an updated review for the April 27th School Committee meeting and added an additional meeting on Thursday April 30th.

Last, we understand your anxiety and concern. We share your fears, your frustrations, and that sense of loss for our normal routines and traditional activities. We need your help to make this work because what the students need now, more than anything, is to maintain connection with each other and their teachers. We appreciate your help making this distance learning plan work for our children in a way that faithfully upholds our values of excellence and equity.

Consent Agenda

  1. Unanimously approved 3/16/20 Draft Minutes.
  2. Approved FY21 Proposed Annual Budget pending an updated financial forecast on April 29th to consider the impact of our current school closure on the budget.

We hope you found this guide useful. You can access all SC meeting documents via the NPS website ( As always, we are very happy to answer any questions and listen to your feedback. Please feel free to contact us via the email address below.

The Newton School Committee