Category Archives: From Newton Public Schools

School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 05/30/2018 Newton School Committee meeting:

With over 1800 views, our first School Committee “Virtual Office Hours” was a huge success.  We held our second one last night and you can view the video on the district Facebook page here: www.facebook.com/newtonps.

  • To start, we held a public meeting and voted unanimously to decline participation in the Massachusetts School Choice program. To clarify, this is not related to school choice for Newton residents within the district. The School Choice program allows students from outside of Newton to apply to attend Newton Public Schools. It is a statewide program in which districts can choose to participate or not. This public meeting and vote is required by law and it is a decision that must be reaffirmed annually.
  • Toby Romer and Mary Eich were joined by Interim IT Director Tom Gwin, to provide an update on the One Student/One Device Pilot.  The pilot will continue next year when, starting in January, Chromebooks are planned to be distributed to the entire 10th grade at Newton North and Newton South. To learn more about the program and to view the presentation to the School Committee, visit: www.newton.k12.ma.us/laptop.
  • Members of the Equity Committee presented an update to the Equity Guidelines.  Most notable changes to the guidelines were a lowered per pupil spending cap of $80 and the formation of a Working Group to consider pooled PTO funds.
  • We had a chance to recognize Newton Public School students including:
    • Our Newton School Committee student representatives, Brooke Hackel, Michael Ryter and Max Teszler, all who are graduating this year.
    • The Newton North Graphic Design students who participated in the project to redesign the district logo: Arthur Dutra, Liam MacIntyre, Mia Patriacca, Emma Nephtali, Li Shandross and Grant Yee. A special thank you to Li Shandross for designing the logo chosen for district use.
  • Lastly, we unanimously voted to relocate the Horace Mann Elementary School to 225 Nevada Street, currently the site of the Carr Building, in September 2019. This was the official vote to affirm the long-term facilities plan we have been using.

Upcoming Meetings:

  • June 11th @7PM: Year-End Reports: Superintendent’s Goals and Systemwide Goals, Student Assignment Working Group (SAWG) Recommendation, Student Services Update, Vote: EDCO Board Member.
  • June 18th @7PM: SEPAC Update, High School Start Time Update, Fiscal and Operational Update and Facilities Update, Discussion of Superintendent’s Assessment.

We hope you have found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/69). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org.

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. Have a wonderful week!

Sincerely,

The Newton School Committee

School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

This update is for the 03/26/2018 and 04/02/2018 Newton School Committee meetings, as well as additional information about recent program open houses:

1). At both 3/26 and 4/2 meetings, the main topic was the 2018-2019 proposed budget. The question and answer periods were relatively short as we had covered quite a bit of ground at our previous budget meetings (see previous newsletters). The meeting ended with a unanimous straw vote supporting the budget proposal.

2). At the 3/26 meeting we discussed a draft revision of the policy: Alcohol, Tobacco and Drug Use for Students. The impetus for the new draft was the new requirement for SBIRT (Screening, Brief Intervention, Referral to Treatment) screening. SBIRT is an evidence-based practice used to identify, reduce, and prevent problematic use, abuse, and dependence on alcohol and illicit drugs This is a verbal screening for students in grades 7 and 9. A number of revisions were suggested and a final draft will be proposed at an upcoming meeting.

3). School Committee Members were invited to a open houses at Central High School located at 100 Walnut Street and the Harbor Program on the campus of Newton South High School. The facilities for both programs are in renovated spaces as of September 2018. Directors and faculty of both programs discussed how the renovated spaces have made a positive impact on addressing student needs. Central High School, as described by the NPS website, is a small, highly structured, therapeutic setting with a behavior management system built into the school day. The Harbor Program, previously known as the High School Stabilization Program, is a short term program for students in crisis. This program allows students to continue their courses of study with additional clinical supports.

We hope you have found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/69).

Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org.

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,

Newton School Committee

schoolcommittee@newton.k12.ma.us

School Committee Update

Dear Friends,

We, your Newton School Committee, are writing to provide you with an update on the happenings within the School Committee.

This update is for the SC meeting which occurred on 03/19/2018:

This meeting was the first in several meetings aimed at reviewing the Superintendent’s Proposed 2018 – 2019 budget. A helpful tool to use when looking over the budget book is the Superintendent’s Budget Presentation. According to the presentation, the goals of the budget proposal are:

“To continue the forward momentum toward achieving key system goals and preserve the programs and supports we have built over the last several years, while addressing growing high school enrollment, our largest elementary and middle schools, and the increasing social and emotional needs of students.”

There are no major cuts, and the budget proposal supports some program improvements.

Please note, we will have a public hearing at 6:30pm on April 2nd and look forward to hearing your thoughts. You are also welcome to speak at public comment Monday, March 26th.

Here are some key takeaways from the March 19th meeting:

  • Assistant Principal positions are being added to Franklin, Mason-Rice and Angier.
  • Reduction of 2 elementary classrooms/teachers based on enrollment declines. Class sizes will not increase.
  • Addition of 0.5 Full Time Employee (FTE) at Day (Student Services administrator) and 0.5 FTE at Oak Hill (teacher)
  • Five full-time teachers are being added to our High Schools due to enrollment increases.
  • An additional 0.5 FTE math coach and purchase of materials to support the rollout of the new elementary math curriculum, Investigations 3.0, to all grade levels.
  • One-time funds are being used to purchase 1,000 Chromebooks to be added to the current high school supply.

Upcoming Budget Meetings:
March 22 @7:00 p.m.: Special School Committee Meeting, Budget Review: Student Services and Non-Instructional Areas
March 26 @7:00 p.m.: Regular School Committee Meeting, Straw Vote: FY19 School Budget
April 2 @6:30 p.m.: Public Hearing, Discussion: 2018-19 School Budget
April 9, @7:00 p.m.: Regular School Committee Meeting, Discussion and Vote: FY19 Budget

We hope you have found this summary useful. You can access all School Committee meeting documents via the NPS website (https://www.newton.k12.ma.us/domain/69). Additionally, if you are interested in watching an SC meeting from home or a recorded meeting, you can obtain access via www.newtv.org.

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

Sincerely,
The Newton School Committee

March 24th Newton Family Conference Postponement

Dear NPS Community,

On Monday night at the School Committee meeting, I shared with the community that the district is postponing the Family Conference scheduled for Saturday, March 24th. A new date has not yet been set, but we aim to reschedule the event in Fall 2018.

We are disappointed to postpone the conference as it has been such a valuable experience for participants in previous years. However, there are March for Our Lives events in Boston and across the country now occurring that afternoon and some of our facilitators and participants would like to attend. In order to have a successful conference, it is essential that we have the right facilitators there to share information and guide the conversations.

The Newton Family Conference is one way in which the Newton Public School District is seeking to create culturally responsive school communities. While the conference is postponed for now, our work with faculty and staff around Courageous Conversations on Race will continue, as laid out in our six-year plan. Families Organizing for Racial Justice (FORJ) will also continue to support parent/family groups as they seek to explore issues of race in their individual schools.

We look forward to continuing this work through the end of the year and hope that we will see you next fall at the Family Conference.

Sincerely,
David Fleishman

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Newton Community,

I write to you with great sadness as our nation faces yet another tragedy in our school buildings. Our hearts go out to our fellow educators and all the students and families in Parkland, Florida. It is incomprehensible that these tragedies continue to occur and an important reminder that we must be prepared.

The Newton Public Schools have many systems in place to ensure that our schools are safe. Research demonstrates that some of the most important safety work we do is the support of the social and emotional health of our students. We know that it is most important for students to feel connected to their school community and supported by their peers, teachers, and other trusted adults. When we create connections and support, faculty and staff can more effectively address student needs or concerns when they arise. Some of the social and emotional initiatives we have in place include:

  • Signs of Suicide (SOS) curriculum and screenings of 7th, 9th, and 11th grade students
  • School connectedness surveys now conducted regularly at all levels
  • Responsive school/home and other social/emotional support programs
  • Anti-bullying programs and reporting system
  • Mental health professionals, including psychologists, counselors, or social workers in all buildings
  • Close partnerships with City of Newton Health and Human Services department and outside agencies

In addition to the social and emotional efforts, we do have robust safety and security systems and protocols in place to create secure buildings. We work very closely with our city partners on prevention, preparedness and response to a wide range of scenarios. In addition, we are currently working with an outside security expert to revise all our emergency protocols, which are aligned with current best practices in school safety and Massachusetts state guidelines. We expect these new protocols to be finalized this spring and implemented next fall.

The following is a list of some (not all) of the current systems we have in place in our district and our schools:

  • District-wide safety team that meets regularly to review, assess, and modify safety and crisis response protocols and procedures. The team is comprised of district, mental health, fire, police, and health department personnel
  • Building-based crisis teams focused on crisis prevention, preparedness and response at the school level
  • Close partnership with police and fire departments to ensure rapid and coordinated emergency response
  • Regular practice of emergency procedures, including lockdowns and shelter-in-place protocols
  • Emergency radios in all schools with direct connection to first responders

In light of the Florida tragedy, all of our district and building-based teams will be thoroughly reviewing safety procedures at their next meeting. In addition, Newton North and Newton South are identifying ways in which they can make security enhancements. We engage in this work knowing that these buildings were designed to be open campus environments in accordance with our educational philosophy. In doing so, we will be looking at procedures used at our neighboring high schools that also maintain an open campus.

We will continue to be vigilant in implementing our social and emotional support programs as well as reviewing and modifying our safety and security procedures and protocols. It is important that we partner with you in this endeavor and ask that if you see anything that is a safety concern, please do not hesitate to contact a teacher, counselor, or administrator.

Thank you for your understanding and support during these troubling times.

Sincerely,
David Fleishman

Letter from the Superintendent

October 23, 2017

Dear NPS Community,

Please save the date for a special superintendent’s forum entitled: “Living in a Smartphone World: What does it mean for students, families, and educators?”

Inspired by the Atlantic Monthly piece entitled Have smartphones destroyed a generation? the forum will provide information and resources on the impact of technology and social media, as well as the opportunity to discuss the role of educators and families in navigating this space.

Forum details are as follows:

When: Wednesday, December 6th
Time: 7:00 p.m. – 8:30 p.m.
Where: Newton South Auditorium
The panel discussion will be hosted by Boston Globe writer Beth Teitell and include both Newton educators and experts from outside the district.

Please RSVP here: Community Forum.

I hope to see you there.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent

Superintendent’s Welcome to 2017-18 School

August 30, 2017

Dear 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.

We begin this school year in the wake of the stunning events in Charlottesville. The display of hate was incomprehensible as it stands in stark contrast to the values of the Newton Public Schools. As a system, we reject hate, prejudice and discrimination. Creating a school community that is welcoming and supportive for all students, no matter their race, background, or identity, is at the core of our mission.

Now more than ever, we must be intentional about the work we have long been doing in support of racial justice, equity, and social and emotional learning. The work is imperative if we expect our graduates to be thoughtful and engaged citizens of an increasingly diverse, complex and connected world. This year, we will expand our professional work with faculty and staff on Courageous Conversations on Race. We will also continue our partnership with the Anti-Defamation League and explore new opportunities for students to lead their peers in addressing issues of bias and discrimination.

It is essential that we work with families in order to ensure that our students respect one another’s differences and stand up when they see injustice and discrimination. Last year, we held a very successful parent workshop on how to talk to children about race. This year, we plan to expand our efforts at the school level to provide families with tools and information to engage in conversations about race, culture, and identity.

As we focus on the learning happening inside our schools and classrooms, we are also excited for the improvement to the physical buildings in our district. The new Zervas School will open on the first day of school, welcoming faculty, staff, and students to a dynamic new learning environment. With Angier and Zervas now complete, we turn our attention to the renovation of Cabot School. Construction has begun with Cabot students now in our Carr swing space. We will continue work on our long-range facilities plan to improve school buildings for our students and staff.

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. This year, we will continue to explore the very best ways to share information and include all families in our district conversations. Our partnership with you and the larger Newton community is critical to our success.

Please accept my best wishes for a wonderful school year.

Sincerely,
David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Letter from the Superintendent

Dear Newton Families:

Addressing the social and emotional needs of our students is an important system goal. It is essential that we work in partnership with families on important issues that impact our students. I am writing because we have become aware that many of our students are watching and discussing a new Netflix series entitled 13 Reasons Why, the content of which is challenging and difficult.

The series is based on a young adult novel by Jay Asher originally published in 2011. The story focuses on a high school student who dies by suicide, leaving behind 13 tapes detailing why she took her own life. The Netflix series contains graphic scenes of suicide and sexual assault/rape. It also addresses issues of cyber-bullying, alcoholism, and depression.

As a community that has felt the tragic impact of youth suicide, we are particularly concerned about the content of this series. These issues are extraordinarily challenging and may be difficult for some students to process in a healthy and appropriate way. We want to ensure that families are not only aware of the show, but are equipped with resources to help them address these issues with their children.

As a family, we encourage you to:

  • Check in with your child to find out if they have watched the show or what they might know about it.
  • If they want to see the show, watch it with them or preview it for them. You are the best person to determine if your child is prepared to handle the content.
  • If they have already watched it, take the opportunity to open a dialogue about the important yet difficult issues portrayed in the story.

The following resources provide important guidance on the issues addressed in the show, as well as talking points for having a meaningful conversation with your child.

National Association of School Psychologists (Background)
https://www.nasponline.org/resources-and-publications/resources/school-safety-and-crisis/preventing-youth-suicide/13-reasons-why-netflix-series-considerations-for-educators

Jed Foundation (Issues raised)
https://www.jedfoundation.org/13-reasons-jed-point-view/

Jed Foundation/Suicide Awareness Voices of Education (Talking Points)
https://www.save.org/13-reasons-why/

Riverside Trauma Center – PDF (Guiding Questions)

We know these issues are challenging and I hope this information is helpful. If you have any concerns, please reach out to your child’s school counselor directly.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools

Letter from the Superintendent

February 28, 2017

Dear Newton Community:

Over the past few days and weeks, I have received questions from community members about how recent federal actions on immigration and transgender guidelines impact our school community. These messages have expressed anxiety and uncertainty, as well as a desire to know where the Newton Public Schools stands in light of these events.

Regardless of federal actions, the Newton Public Schools strongly reaffirms our commitment to create welcoming, supportive, and safe school communities for all students and staff, no matter their race, religion, sexual orientation, gender identity, or immigration status.

Last week, the Newton City Council voted to become a “Welcoming City,” a city that protects all residents, regardless of legal status. In the same spirit, the Newton Public Schools welcomes all students, no matter where they were born or how they arrived in Newton.

As I visit our schools, I find students from all over the world who are learning and thriving in our classrooms. It is this diversity that gives all of our students such a rich and powerful student experience. The global community in our schools is preparing our students to thrive and succeed in a global world.

Diversity is not solely defined by race or ethnicity; it is multi-faceted, affording us the opportunity to teach acceptance, appreciation, and respect for each and every individual. To this end, I am proud of the real progress we have made in creating welcoming and safe spaces for our transgender students at all levels. Just recently, I had the privilege of listening to a transgender student speak about his experience. It was gratifying to hear about the comfort and acceptance he feels among his peers and within his school community. This reflects the commitment of our staff, our students, and our families.

We are fortunate in Massachusetts to be backed by state statute that ensures protections for all students and prohibits discrimination on the basis of gender identity. Our NPS non-discrimination policy also specifies the rights and protections for gender identity and we have created the appropriate spaces in schools so that transgender students feel safe and comfortable.

We will continue to work hard every day to create school communities in which all students and adults feel safe and supported. Thank you for your partnership and for your ongoing support.

Sincerely,

David Fleishman
Superintendent of Schools