Communications & Community Engagement

The district has established goals and is taking steps to ensure that the district's Communications and Community Engagement support equity for all. In May 2021, the REAL Steering Committee launched the first issue of Let's get REAL! - a communication dedicated to keeping everyone apprised of our work with the School Committee, staff, parents, community members, and especially students, to build on our assets and tackle the challenges of ensuring racial equity and equity for all. The Needham Channel produced a video announcing the district's collaboration with the Needham Education Foundation on diversity, equity, and inclusion; that collaboration starts with funding for a consultant who will assess and report on the district's progress since the 2018 Equity Audit.

For additional examples of communications, please see an article written by Superintendent Gutekanst and published in the AASA School Administrator magazine in August 2020 entitled No, I Am Not Color Blind. In this article, he acknowledges how the district strives to be inclusive and free of bias, but we are a reflection of a broader society in which inequality and bias exist, and that is particularly true for students of color. Our students and staff of color experience the sting and pain of racism routinely, and educators must acknowledge this. This message is echoed in a March 18, 2021 letter from the Superintendent to our families explaining the support and counseling available to our Asian and Asian-American students, staff, and families in response to incidents of bias and hate.

In addition, check out the May 2020 posting from the district's Senior Leadership Team addressing the news about national protests and riots occurring in the wake of the horrific events involving the killings of Ahmaud Arbery in Atlanta, Breonna Taylor in Louisville, and George Floyd who was killed by police in Minneapolis - and the steps Needham Public Schools can take to demonstrate to the community, our families, and our students that we care and we have an obligation as educators and human beings to address injustice, ignorance, and racism.

Superintendent Gutekanst participated in an interview with WBUR on June 5, 2020 on how protests are being addressed with students. He explained that he and other superintendents of METCO districts have joined together to call for unity against racial discrimination in schools. He hopes to spur greater change by bringing conversations about racial justice to Needham Public Schools, for grades pre-K through 12, in developmentally-appropriate ways. 


Goals
  • Engage staff, students, families, and community members to promote equitable and inclusive practices for students, families, faculty with sensitivity to needs of traditionally marginalized youth
  • Build an inclusive parent engagement model where everyone is welcomed including Needham residents, Boston resident parents/guardians, parents/guardians of English learners, and newcomers
  • Clearly communicate vision, goals, actions for equitable and inclusive educational experience in the Needham Public Schools

Action Steps
  • Define "equity" - importance of language and a common understanding to support this work
  • Explore and define what it means to be a METCO district
  • Strengthen relationship with marginalized families; e.g., ease of student registration/enrollment process for all families
  • Ensure language on website and written communications are inclusive
  • Update staff, students, families after REAL Coalition meetings on progress toward goals
  • Expand reach of our communications

Implementation
  • The REAL Steering Committee drafted a Communications Plan for highlighting progress on equity actions and to begin to build a robust process for outreach and engagement of all stakeholders.
  • The Needham Education Foundation announced a collaboration with the district on a diversity, equity, and inclusion initiative. (NEF press release - June 2, 2021)
  • Needham Public Schools and the METCO Program joined with the Needham Diversity Initiative, the Interfaith Clergy Association, and the Human Rights Committee in celebration and observance of Martin Luther King, Jr. Day on January 18, 2021
  • Superintendent's presentation to NUARI (Needham Unite Against Racism Initiative) working group on December 22, 2020
  • Article in the National School Boards Association publication from April 1, 2020 entitled "Uncomfortable Conversations: A district's equity strategy is based on open communications"
  • Presentation prepared for November 2019 Needham Diversity Summit with highlights of REAL Coalition's progress.
  • Information included in the 2018 Performance Report mailed to all Needham households and businesses (see pages 8-9 and 14); updates included in 2019 Performance Report where commitment to equity explained as an integral part of the district's 5-year strategic plan. As we responded to the changes brought on by COVID, we continued our commitment to equity and anti-racism as highlighted in the 2020 Performance Report.
  • Equity Audit video filmed March 2018 in NHS TV Studio; available on Needham Spotlight
  • Portrait of A Needham Graduate, a shared vision of the future for our Pre-K to 12 students, developed as a framework for equity in education
  • Launch of this District webpage dedicated to sharing our equity plan including its goals and action steps, along with district progress in terms of successes, ongoing challenges, and needed resources
  • Video of Superintendent with high school staff and students available on Needham Schools Spotlight entitled Creating Awareness about Gender Equity and Sexual Harassment in the Needham Public Schools
  • Community Equity Forum held on April 24, 2019 in partnership with Human Rights Committee, Citizens for Needham Schools, and the Needham Diversity Initiative. This meeting, attended by approximately 100 people, was an opportunity to share what the district is doing in response to the Equity Audit. There is interest in holding future forums to engage in discussion about community efforts that complement the district's work. See Community Equity Forum flyer.
  • Partnership with MetroWest Health Foundation - team looking at social and academic inequality in the school experience and providing a safe and healthier environment for all our students; Supported by $20,000 MetroWest grant for interventions to decrease students' psychological and biological distress associated with racial discrimination
  • Preliminary discussion on communicating what it means to be a METCO district (website updates in development)
  • Superintendent's Updates to faculty including steps being taken to ensure an equitable and enriching learning experience for all students (ongoing series of Superintendent's communications to staff)
  • SAFE (Students Advocating for Equity) video on Needham Spotlight
  • Courageous Conversations video on Needham Spotlight aired on March 11, 2021

SAFE-Students Advocating for Equity


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