CNS News | July 2020
While this most unusual school year has ended, challenges remain as we look ahead to the fall. Many of us are feeling anxious and concerned about both issues of racial equity and school reopening during a public health crisis. As always, our goal is to provide information and foster the exchange of ideas among school leadership and the community as we tackle these issues in the coming months.

Last month, our board convened to clarify our role in supporting anti-racist education and initiatives in Needham Public Schools. Our statement is included in full below, and also on our website. We look forward to facilitating the work ahead, and invite parents, students, educators, and community members to reach out to us with thoughts and ideas.

Information regarding COVID-19 and school reopening evolves and changes regularly. We hope to help by highlighting and summarizing relevant information in a timely fashion through our newsletter, website, and social media platforms. We are closely following the guidance issued by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) and the district's progress on reopening plans. We will continue to post summaries of School Committee meetings and relevant links on our website.

Finally, this spring we bid farewell to outgoing Co-chair Liz Lee, who has served on the CNS board for more years than we can remember! We are grateful for the enormous impact Liz has had on CNS during her tenure. We wish her the best in her future endeavors, as well as to outgoing board members Mou Fisch, Anna Giraldo-Kerr, and Ann-Marie MacDonnell.

Looking forward, we are excited to welcome new members with fresh perspectives, so please consider applying to be a CNS Board member. While the coming year will be eventful, there is much that CNS hopes to contribute to strengthening our school community... please join us!

Hilary Bruel, Co-Chair
Alisa Skatrud, Co-Chair
Amy Chan
Peter Cohenno
Melanie Guarrera
Emma Navales

CNS Statement on Racism and Equity
In recent weeks, we have witnessed violence towards Black people in parts of the country and heard painful experiences shared by people of color in our own community. Citizens for Needham Schools (CNS) stands in solidarity with Black people and people of color across the country, and particularly within the Needham Public Schools community, including students, their families, employees, staff, and administrators.

CNS strongly believes that racial equity and the end of systemic racism are foundational elements to providing all students with a quality education. Our mission is to support the best possible education for all students in the Needham Public Schools through fostering an exchange of information and ideas about Needham Schools. In alignment with our mission, we commit to supporting and furthering the anti-racist work that lies ahead in the following ways:

Include and Amplify Diverse Voices
We will seek out and establish connections with people and groups in the community that have historically been under-represented and include their perspectives and feedback in our conversations with School Committee members and NPS administrators. Additionally, we will prioritize people of color in our recruitment of new board members.

Support and Strengthen NPS Equity Work
We will request periodic updates from the School Committee and NPS administrators on the progress of the REAL Coalition and share that information with the community. We will also use our platform to highlight and promote anti-racist events and initiatives by school and student groups.

Provide Community Education
We will continue to provide information to the community on NPS equity and anti-racist intiatives and their connection to the Portrait of a Needham Graduate Competencies and the District Priorities. We will also increase our own efforts to become more actively anti-racist as individuals and as a board.

We have closely followed the efforts of Needham Public Schools over the past few years to focus on equity for all students and to address systemic racism, and we understand there is much work still to be done both within our schools and in the broader community. The Equity Audit conducted in 2017, which has formed the foundation of subsequent equity work in our schools, was initiated by a group of parent advocates who brought to light racist practices within our district. Their persistence and courage in speaking out was a catalyst for change in our schools, and should serve as an inspiration to all of us. When schools, parents, and community members work together for change, all students benefit.

CNS sees our role as facilitating communication and collaboration between educators, families, and community members, and we hope you will share your thoughts and ideas with us to strengthen racial equity and inclusion in the Needham Public Schools. Please seek out a board member or email us at

School Committee Meeting - Tuesday, July 14, Time TBD
Open Hearing: "Unite Against Racism" - Tuesday, July 21, 6:15pm
School Reopening Update
The district continues to plan for safely reopening schools in the fall and, following direction from the state, is currently creating three separate plans for instruction:
  1. Full in-person learning (with additional procedures and safety measures)
  2. Hybrid of in-person and remote learning
  3. Full remote learning

In Needham, five task forces have been established to help develop the plans:
  1. Teaching & Learning
  2. Operations & Human Resources
  3. Technology Infrastructure
  4. Student Support Services (Social/Emotional Wellness)
  5. Health & Safety

In addition, a COVID-19 Advisory Committee has been created, which consists of educators, parents, students, School Committee members and public health officials.

Needham's reopening plans will follow guidelines provided by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), which issued its initial guidance on June 25. Additional information is expected from DESE in the coming weeks.

Dr. Gutekanst is also consulting with school superintendents in neighboring communities about many issues related to a safe school re-opening, including the need for a regionally based schedule for the hybrid plan. Given how many NPS staff live in other towns, coordination will be crucial for allowing them to manage their own children's school schedules while continuing to teach in Needham.

At the upcoming July 14 School Committee meeting, Dr. Gutekanst plans to share some of the input received through the recent District Survey, as well as preliminary planning for the three different scenarios. While the hope is that Needham will return to full in-person learning in September, continuing changes in infection rates, medical information, and guidance from the state mean it is still too early to make a final decision for the fall.
Apply to be a CNS Board Member
CNS is seeking board members who are civically engaged with an interest in issues related to education and the Needham school system. The board engages in robust conversation and welcomes diverse viewpoints. CNS board members serve a three-year term and responsibilities include attending 5-6 CNS board meetings, watching and writing summaries of 2-3 school committee meetings, and engaging with and providing NPS-related information to the community on an ongoing basis via social media, school meetings, and your personal network.