NHS Key Beliefs Newsletter

Resources & Ideas to Promote our School's Guiding Principles

DECEMBER 2015

This is the first of what we hope will be monthly installments of a newsletter focusing on our current key beliefs that drive our school goals and professional development for the year. We hope to share strategies, resources, and information that will help all members of the school community move forward in these key belief areas. Comments and feedback are welcome as we work to develop this tool!

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Cultural Proficiency

"Cultural Proficiency [is] honoring the differences between cultures, viewing diversity as a benefit, and interacting knowledgeably and respectfully among a variety of cultural groups." (Lindsey & Roberts, 2005)


NHS will be culturally proficient when all members of the school community...


  • get along well with each other, regardless of race, ethnicity, social status, gender, language, ability, grade, background, etc.
  • pay attention to and embrace differences.
  • welcome new members to the community.
  • feel comfortable intervening and reporting when bullying, hazing, or harassment (based on race, color, national origin, age, gender, sexual orientation, disability) occurs.
  • create a safe and welcoming environment.
  • look forward to coming to school every day.

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Our October 22 homeroom activity created a lot of conversations, ones that were at once meaningful, important, and difficult. While the time constraints of our typical advisory homeroom schedule make extending these conversations sometimes difficult, here are a few resources that you might be able to use to spark further personal reflection or conversations with students and colleagues, whether within advisory homerooms, in academic classrooms, or simply in casual conversation.
Sasheer Zamata Says Women's Rights Still a BFD!

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Technology & Innovation

We are nearly two decades into the 21st century, and we cannot deny the impact of technology has in many ways reshaped the way our school works. As we continue with our district's plans of becoming a 1:1 learning environment, please remember we have a number of experts in the building who can help you think about ways to use technology to improve student learning. The following are members of the Technology & Innovation committee. Please contact one of them to schedule some a work session during Common Planning Time or maybe observe a lesson that employs technology in a new way.
  • Samantha Bookston, Media (Co-Chair)
  • Robyn Briggs, Fine & Performing Arts
  • Snow Charpentillier, Fine & Performing Arts
  • Adam Coggeshall, Social Studies
  • Johnny Cole, Assistant Principal (Co-Chair)
  • Deanna Detorie, Math
  • Margo Fisher-Martin, Special Education
  • Jennifer Hopkin, World Language
  • Peter Kiefer, Science
  • Kitty Maffei, English
  • Meaghan McSherry, World Languages
  • Diana Parkhurst, Wellness
  • John Shea, Math Department Chair
  • Jean Tower, Director of Media and Digital Learning
We also are running two pilots this year. Please let us know if you'd like to schedule some time visiting these classrooms or meeting with these teachers during CPT.


  • Greater Boston Project
    1:1 Device Pilot, currently running
    Kenneth Brooke, Adam Coggeshall, James Odierna, Megan Tincher

  • Sophmore Academy
    1:1 Laptop Pilot, beginning February 2016
    Adam Cole, Kaitlin DeJong, Kate Fanous, Mike Hirsh, Joey Schotland, Dan Smalley, Brad Walker, Elizabeth Weidner

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Interdisciplinary Learning

Over the past four years, Needham High School has partnered with the Needham Education Foundation to launch an interdisciplinary model of teaching and learning. As a result of the Interdisciplinary Learning Initiative, the high school now offers the following interdisciplinary opportunities:


  • The Greater Boston Project: an eight credit co-taught course integrating History, English, and Math exploring how individuals and groups have worked throughout history to effect change in Greater Boston (Jimmy Odierna, Adam Coggeshall, Megan Tincher, Ken Brooke)

  • Six interdisciplinary projects either developed and/or taught by two teachers from two or more disciplines or taught by one teacher and focused on project-based learning and interdisciplinary skills

    • Art in the Dark: a series of co-taught units integrating Art History into World History (Lauren Downey, Jen Nehill)

    • Kinetic Sculpture: a co-taught project integrating sculpture and Robotics (Hans Batra, Linda Burke)

    • Integrating Engineering into Environmental Science: a collaborative effort by three teachers, a Physics, a Biology, and an Environmental teacher, to integrate more Earth Science, Technology/Engineering, and Physics into the Environmental Science curriculum (Sam Scola, Jeff Dunn, Emily Luck)

    • Interdisciplinary Math: a project aimed at developing a program that integrates the common core math standards and standards for mathematical practice with interdisciplinary skills including, collaboration, communication, problem solving, use of technology, and self-direction (Jimmy Odierna, Drew Lawrence, Jen Gould, Dave Bookston)

    • Stats and Infographics: a project developed by three teachers, a biology, a chemistry, and a graphic design teacher, to provide an alternative mode of science engagement by facilitating a research project with a creative output (Melanie Bunda, Snow Charpentier, Andrew Verardo)

    • Studio Physics and Chemistry: implementing a project-based curriculum integrating engineering design, collaboration, and presentation into the current Physics and Chemistry standard level classes (Michael Hirsh, Dan Smalley)

  • Senior STEM Capstone course taught in the DaVinci Workshop: an opportunity for students to develop and initiate a STEM Problem-Based-Learning project (Hans Batra)


A venture that began with three teachers and one course has grown to include twenty two teachers and multiple interdisciplinary courses and offerings. Our Interdisciplinary Learning Team (a school-based committee with representation from each department, the parent community, the NEF, and the student body), continues to serve as a steering committee for IL work at the high school. Its mission is to seed, promote, nurture, and develop interdisciplinary learning experiences at the high school and throughout the district.

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Social Emotional Learning

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Social emotional learning at Needham High School is focused on fostering student resiliency in all school activities.

Resiliency is achieved as students develop Social Competence, Problem Solving, Autonomy and a Sense of Purpose.

Our students are resilient when they:

  • have a healthy perspective on what is important and what really matters.
  • are willing to accept and understand the consequences of one's actions.
  • are interested in feedback and able to "take" criticism and value other advice.
  • are able to persist when projects are difficult.
  • have the ability to adjust and succeed in a new environment.
  • are motivated by intrinsic goals and dreams.
  • are able to reflect on their behavior and performance and make changes when needed.

Over the past five years we have worked hard to define what we mean by resiliency and how to foster the development through our work with students. Brad Walker is our District SEL representative. Feel free to join him and other staff during CPT to discuss our SEL work.


The following are some articles regarding SEL in education that you might find interesting:

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School Safety

Needham High School is continually exploring ways to ensure our students and staff are as safe and supported as possible and able to focus on teaching and learning. One area of attention for us over the last year has been learning about enhanced ways of responding to the unlikely event of an armed intruder. These enhancements move us away from passive and proscribed steps to more active and flexible ones. The ALICE protocol has provided the structure and guidance for us and we have adjusted the details to accurately fit our particular needs and realities (such as a large building with limited cameras).

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ALICE stands for:


  • A - Alert (the building of an intruder; also, Alert the offices of any suspicious issue you see or hear)
  • L - Lockdown (behind barricaded and locked doors)
  • I - Inform (everyone in the building of as much updated information as possible)
  • C - Counter (as a last resort and with the goal of creating time to evacuate)
  • E - Evacuate (to a safe place when possible)


These are not sequential steps, but rather an easy-to-remember list of the program's components. The essence of it: you should evacuate whenever possible. If that can not be done safely, then barricade your space. If you find yourself facing the intruder, counter with loud noises, yelling, and throwing items to allow time and space to get free.


We will continue to build on the steps and drills we have already done. In the spring, the drill will include information about a fake intruder and you will decide between escaping and barricading based on that information. Next year, the drills will expand a bit further and the police will join the drills to help them better prepare for an intruder situation at NHS. Each of these drills will be done balancing the need to prepare with the recognition of the anxiety they can cause, and the need to dedicate time to this preparation with the goal of minimizing the impact on instructional time.


In the meantime, please help keep us all safe by doing the following simple steps:


  • notify an administrator or office if you notice any suspicious or unusual item, person or comment;
  • not propping exterior doors;
  • lock your door when you leave your room;
  • wear your badges each day so everyone knows who belongs in the building;
  • keep an accurate record of the students who are leaving class.


For more information about ALICE, feel free to explore their website below.