2015-16 Highlights

May Highlights

At the May Business Meeting, Mary Lammi joined us to discuss the district's efforts towards promoting positive school climate across the schools. We reviewed suspension data, and while Needham's rates are comparable to our neighboring communities, the district would still like to see those numbers go down, especially for special education students who experience higher-than-average suspension rates (a state- and nationwide trend). We also discussed the professional development taking place around behavior management, and the goal of having more uniform practices across all Needham schools.

Handout >

April Highlights

Kathy Pinkham, Director of Wellness, and Mary Lammi, Director of Student Support Services, presented results from the MetroWest Adolescent Health Survey. Based on trends in the data, the district is prioritizing initiatives in four areas: stress, cyberbullying, substance abuse, and mental health. The full presentation is available online on the district website.

We again reviewed proposed changes to SEPAC's bylaws and voted to accept them. Some changes are to ensure were are in compliance with state regulations, while others are updates to reflect the structure and procedures of the group as it operates today. The newly approved SEPAC bylaws are on our website.

March Highlights

We reviewed the first two IEP factsheets that have been written jointly by the district and SEPAC. They are in the final stages of approval by the administration, and will then start to be distributed to families. The content of these and future factsheets will also be available on the SEPAC website.

We also discussed proposed changes to SEPAC's bylaws. Some changes are to ensure were are in compliance with state regulations, while others are updates to reflect the structure and procedures of the group as it operates today. We encourage all members to review the proposed changes, which will be voted on at our April Business Meeting.

February Highlights

Planning is underway for Extended School Year (ESY) programs at all levels. If you have questions about your child's eligibility, please contact your building's special education coordinator.


The program will run July 5 – August 11, Monday – Thursday mornings at Newman Elementary. ELC will run 8:30 – 1:30. Students who previously received itinerant tutoring (1–2 sessions per week) will now attend a classroom program Tues & Weds mornings for 2.25 hours.

High School ESY

Programs will run July 5 – August 5 mornings, hours TBD based on transportation needs. Programs include tutoring, Insight, and Foundations, and some will also include middle school students.

Preschool ESY

Parents will be notified in March if their child is eligible for ESY. Program is integrated, also accepts tuition-paying students.

Other News

The proposed high school "Pathways" program, which had previously been cut, is now back in the budget for FY16-17.

January Highlights

Mary Lammi, Director of Student Support Services, joined us for our monthly business meeting to provide an overview of special education trends and special education budget requests for next year. The link to her presentation is below, but we wanted to give you a few highlights of the discussion:

Special Education Trends

A rise in high-impact students (those with medical needs, autism, and mental health issues) is driving increases in special education enrollment and costs. The increases seen in Needham are consistent with neighboring towns and across the state.

Out 0f District Costs

DESE has analyzed drivers of increased OOD placements in Massachusetts, and has set priorities to target these areas. While OOD costs are rising, much of the volatility is due to inconsistent state funding — reduced circuit breaker and lack of support from state agencies.


Cuts to the proposed budget will have to be made. Despite wide-spread support from the town, it is likely the new "Pathways" program will have to be deferred a year in order to ensure other much-needed support staff can be hired. A partial implementation of the program is also being looked at for FY16-17.

> Student Support Services presentation (pdf)

October Highlights

The main topic at our October meeting was the possible switch from MCAS to PARCC. In addition to special education directors Matt Ganas and Tricia Mullen, we were joined by Chanit List (Special Ed. Coordinator/A.P., Hillside) who ran Needham's PARCC field test two years ago. Full minutes will be posted next month, but here are the main points:

Timing: In November, the state will vote whether to adopt PARCC or continue using MCAS, which will determine whether grades 3-8 will take MCAS or PARCC this spring.

Accommodations: IEPs in development now contain separate accommodation sheets for both MCAS and PARCC. All IEPs will be amended with new accommodations if PARCC is adopted.

Graduation Requirements: 10th grade PARCC will be a graduation requirement beginning with the class of 2020 (current 8th graders).

The directors provided us with the following handouts and links:

> PARCC Informational Handout

> MCAS Accommodations Manual

> PARCC Accommodations Manual

Additional information can be found on the Department of Education website:

> http://www.doe.mass.edu/parcc/

September Highlights

In case you weren't able to make our September business meeting, we wanted to share a brief summary of what we covered. The minutes from the meeting will be posted to the website in October.

Extended School Year

Along with the Special Education Directors, new OOD/ESY Coordinator Stephanie Wyman joined us to listen to parent feedback on ESY. The district will continue to focus on the areas of communication and scheduling for next year, and is planning to have a dedicated on-site coordinator again.

SEPAC Survey Results

Below is a PDF of the SEPAC 2015 Survey results. In addition to feedback on SEPAC programming and services, parents were invited to comment on their experiences with the schools. Comments were shared with directors, and the group can revisit specific ideas and issues raised over the course of the year

survey results >

IEP "What to Expect" Brochure for Families

The district continues to work on an information brochure for families about the IEP process. A first draft will be reviewed by the working group established last spring, and progress will be shared at an upcoming business meeting.

download minutes >