Update from the School Committee

Dear Friends,

This update covers the 6/22/2020 Newton School Committee meeting. Before we present the information about our meeting, we wanted to draw your attention to an upcoming survey that the district will ask you to complete. This is our primary opportunity to hear from you! We urge you to take the time to complete this survey so that it can truly reflect your perspective and feedback. It will be used to help plan for next year.

Next, having concluded the most unlikely and improbable school year imaginable, we hope that each of you, parents, guardians and students, take this time to recuperate and heal from the emotional and mental drain of the last few months. Many of our administrative team, our faculty and staff are still working hard to envision various scenarios for school next year. Given the magnitude of the challenge before them, we hope that they will soon get to enjoy a richly deserved break which it is restorative and filled with self-care.

Superintendent’s Update:

  • We’ve spent lots of time addressing our inability to honor, in person, our transitioning and graduating students, but another group who can’t be traditionally honored are retiring faculty. Our gratitude and best wishes to:
    • Joe Siciliano, Newton North math teacher, retiring after 52 years of teaching in the Newton Public Schools.
    • Loreta Lamberti, Principal at Angier Elementary for 32 years. Loreta was passionate about building a positive school culture, developing strong and lasting relationships with families and was a leader on social and emotional learning before it was even a term.
    • John Jordan, Principal at Brown Middle School for 31 years. John led by listening, learning and caring. In addition to Middle School Advisory, which he started, John’s legacy is the number of teachers who served under him who are now Newton Principals.


  • Summer and Fall Planning:
    • Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidance for the fall will differ from summer guidance. Fall guidance expected as early as 6/23/2020. The State will likely have a continuum of models and we will need to prepare for three scenarios (modified in-person, hybrid of some students in and some out, and full Distance Learning) depending on the public health status.
    • What do we know about the fall right now?
      • We have a sense of equipment and PPE needs, returning to normal will not be feasible and large gatherings will be unlikely.
    • What don’t we know?
      • Social distancing recommendations, number of students allowed in buildings/classrooms, student/staff/space ratios, extra-curricular activities including sports, transportation guidance.
    • NPS Fall Planning Groups
      • Pre-K-12 Operational Planning to address health and safety, facilities, technology, food service and transportation.
      • NPS Academic Planning Teams: Elementary, Middle and High to address curriculum, assessment school schedules, social and emotional supports and professional development.
      • Special Education Planning Teams: DESE guidance will offer broad direction, may be room for local decision-making, will staff according to recommended best practice with possible additional hiring as needed.
    • Summer Professional Development
      • Topics include: anti-racist practices, technology and distance learning, culturally responsive teaching, universal design for learning and trauma invested and healing centered practices.
    • Summer Surveys for Families – expect surveys to go out later this week to access student attendance, transportation use, special education, and more.
    • Summer Communication
      • Consistent and informative (state guidance, school reopening plans, survey questions and results).
      • School reopening page on website.
      • FAQ to address common questions.
      • Utilize multiple communication channels (email, website, social media, PTO Council).
    • Next Steps:
      • Working group planning.
      • Monitoring DESE guidance – issued and adjusted throughout the summer.
      • Collective bargaining needed for some details.
  • Fiscal & Operational Update: As of May 31, 2020, the district has spent and encumbered $192.1 million, or 81% of the annual budget of $237,022,312, exactly the same percentage (81%) spent at this time last year. Current financial forecast includes a projected positive balance of $3.38 million.
    • Salaries: projected to end the year under budget by $231,000.
    • Benefits: projected positive balance of $419,000.
    • Utilities: projected positive balance of $447,000.
    • Maintenance: projected small negative balance of $15,000 due to a reduction in the normal operating and maintenance expenses.
    • Contracted Services: projected positive balance of $708,000.
    • Tuition: Out-of-district tuition placements, total 134, expected to end the year with a positive balance of $104,000.
    • Transportation: projected positive balance of $815,000, a significant improvement over April’s projection of $420,000, due to negotiated rate with yellow bus vendor and special education transportation to pay only 63% regular contracted costs during the closure.
      • Fall online registration opened for MySchoolBucks, 960 people signed up on the first day. Charges for transportation fees held until the fall once additional information on re-opening schools is determined.
    • Supplies and Equipment: projected under budget by $623,000, due to a soft spending freeze on purchases. Expended to be used over the summer and into the fall on PPE.
    • Food Service: In partnership with Whitsons, and collaboration with City of Newton, NPS continues to provide breakfast and lunch meals to families of Newton.
      • Over 60,000 meals provided at 3 school sites to all Newton residents, regardless of age.
      • A waiver approved to allow district to continue to serve meals through August 30th.
      • Serving sites approved through DESE for reimbursement, but district’s expenses continue to exceed its revenue. The district will need to request the School Committee’s approval of a budget transfer of up to $359,000 to subsidize the food service program in FY20 in order for it to break even.
    • Cares Act Funding (ESSER): The Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ESSER Fund), authorized under section 18003 of the Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security Act (CARES Act), provides districts with emergency relief funds to address the impact that COVID-19 has had, and continues to have, on elementary and secondary schools.
      • Newton’s allocation is $745,725. $80,000 of this total is currently projected to be allocated to private schools.
      • Working to determine the best use of these funds in FY21 (offsetting costs of personal protective equipment supplies, technology hardware, and student services out-of-district tuitions costs).
    • Budget Reserve: Reserve for future liabilities, including maintenance costs, of $661,000 is assumed and contributes to the final balance of $3.38 million.
      • Estimated $300,000 of reserve projected to be spent due to design, construction, and consultant expenses at Horace Mann Elementary, and Oak Hill.
    • Revolving Accounts: Required that all revolving accounts maintain a positive balance to be carried forward into the next fiscal year. Many of our revolving accounts have been negatively impacted due to COVID-19 closure of school.
    • Grants: FY20 Grants’ revenue is expected to remain unchanged.
    • End of Year Report: The district submitted an End of Year Report on time to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE). Outside auditor reviewed and reports no exceptions or findings.
  • End of Year System-wide & Superintendent Goals Update:
    • Most of the progress, outlined only 18 days before school closure, was interrupted or halted as we responded to the need to re-invent public education overnight.
    • Educational Goal 1: Academic Excellence – Our environment challenged our ability to engage students in the high-quality learning that we aspire to. Educators worked hard to continue the teaching and learning process from a distance, but we were not able to recreate our classrooms in each student’s home.
    • Educational Goal 2: Educational Equity – The pandemic exacerbated many of the conditions that lead to achievement gaps. We were able to address many immediate needs, including food, technology, and access to services. Despite concerted efforts, we were less successful ensuring student participation in distance learning. The murder of George Floyd aroused a strong response among students and staff.
    • Educational Goal 3: Social, Emotional and Physical Well-Being – The pandemic challenged everyone’s sense of social, emotional, and physical well-being. Our educators, particularly our social workers, were tireless in their efforts to reach every student and family. Nonetheless, we will have a major challenge in the fall.
    • Managerial Goals:
      • School Facilities – Nearly all projects delayed, Oak Hill project continues, short-term work at Horace Mann, and LE windows.
      • Technology Infrastructure – More important than ever. Did complete: VoIP work at Burr/Franklin/Bigelow; Backup System Installed; Network Config Upgrades; Server Upgrades; UPS Evaluation/Battery Replacement; Switch Upgrades; Data Integration, Gmail, etc. to support distance learning.
      • Transportation – Despite the closure, online bus registration is up and running successfully so far.
      • Diversity Hiring: Making some progress in current hiring.
    • Community Goal: Created COVID-19 pandemic website to provide one location for district updates, services, health, and distance learning. Provided regular, informative updates from superintendent on status of school buildings, updates from state, information on distance learning plans. Responded to significant volume of emails to address concerns of community. Utilized social media to share information, as well as good news stories, of creative learning and engagement happening during closure.
  • Brown Auditorium Naming: request made by the Retirement Committee for Principal John Jordan that the currently unnamed auditorium be named in honor of Principal Jordan who served as Brown’s principal for more than 30 years.
  • Equity Policy Revisions:
    • 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).
  • Superintendent’s Contract Extension 7/1/21 – 6/30/24: Proposed three-year extension of Superintendent David Fleishman’s contract for employment with a term commencing on July 1, 2021 and terminating on June 30, 2024.
  • Superintendent’s Assessment: Members of the School Committee shared assessment and honest feedback of Superintendent David Fleishman’s performance and leadership over the course of the extraordinarily challenging school year. Individual Member Evaluations are posted on the School Committee website and individual comments shared during the 6/22/2020 meeting can be viewed on NewTV’s recorded broadcast.

Consent Agenda

Next Meeting

On Tuesday, July 21st at 8:00AM, the School Committee will have a VIRTUAL School Committee meeting. On the agenda will be a system-wide goals presentation, discussion of Superintendent David Fleishman’s evaluation, a vote on Superintendent Fleishman’s contract and renaming the Brown Middle School auditorium.

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 schoolcommittee@newton.k12.ma.us.

The Newton School Committee