At the Needham School Committee meeting last night, Superintendent Daniel E. Gutekanst recognized the Needham Education Foundation (NEF) for its newest Collaborative Initiative with the Needham Public Schools (NPS). The collaboration will produce a coordinated and thoughtful plan for the district to address issues on diversity, equity, and inclusion for all students and will align with the Portrait of A Needham Graduate. This exciting collaboration between NPS and NEF promises to build momentum in ongoing equity efforts across the district.
The Collaborative Initiative (CI) program was created in 2006 by the NEF and exists outside of NEF’s traditional grant programs. Through CI, NEF works closely with the NPS administration to fund larger, potentially multi-year initiatives that will have a major strategic impact on education and would not be possible within the confines of the current school operating budget. CI programs are expected to produce measurable results, may span multiple years, must impact a large number of students, and must be sustainable after NEF funding comes to a close.
There have been two previous CIs. The first, the Global Competence Program, launched in 2007 allows high school students to earn a Certificate of Global Competence by completing a series of requirements designed to foster a greater sense of global awareness, including a foreign travel experience, proficiency in a foreign language, 30 hours of community service working with people from another world culture, and an extracurricular component involving multicultural communities in the greater Boston area. More recently, the Interdisciplinary Learning Project was established in 2012 as a collaboration between NEF and NPS to launch an interdisciplinary academic model of teaching and learning at Needham High School. This 5-year project resulted in the creation of the interdisciplinary Greater Boston Project course for seniors, the Da Vinci Lab, and multiple interdisciplinary curriculum units throughout the Needham schools.
This newest CI will be a multi-year partnership with multiple phases. This vital first phase, announced at last night’s School Committee meeting, involves the hiring of a consultant tasked with assessing the district’s progress towards achieving equity goals since the Equity Audit report was published in 2018. The consultant will be asked to report on that progress with an eye towards policies, practices, and programs that will accelerate antiracist, anti-bias work. In addition, the consultant will provide the foundation upon which to consider potential next steps, including the expansion of the REAL Coalition, building staff capacity, and further integrating work with the Portrait of a Needham Graduate Five-year Strategic Plan.
“This is an exciting opportunity to partner with the NEF to fulfill the district’s commitment to racial equity and equity for all members of the Needham Public Schools,” said Mary Lammi, Assistant Superintendent for Student Support Services and REAL Coalition Steering Committee member. “What is exciting about this collaboration with NEF is that it represents the model of shared leadership of staff, students, and community members that we are striving for in order for real and lasting change to happen,” continued Joanne Allen-Willoughby, METCO Director for K-12 and REAL Coalition Steering Committee member.
Echoing the sentiments of members of the NPS leadership team, NEF Co-President Seema Meloni shared, “our Board is thrilled to enter into this next collaboration with the district to support the critical work of driving our community towards more equitable practices for all.” Added NEF Co-President Maggie Shapiro, “the NEF is truly excited to support the next step in this process and help ensure the work leads to profound and impactful changes.”