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.
- 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.
- Elementary Schools
- 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).
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 (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. Feel free to contact us via email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
The Newton School Committee