2020 NPS Systemwide Goals include Sustainability

Sustainability is now part of the Newton Public Schools Systemwide Goals for 2020, along with specific goals to improve transportation in the district. 

After three rounds of discussion, the School Committee voted unanimously to approve the FY20 Systemwide Goals which include “Initiate Development of School Sustainability Working Group” and a third Managerial Goal of Transportation on the 9/16/2019 meeting

Read full document here: FY20 Systemwide Goals


The first Managerial Goal for NPS regards School Facilities. It aims to continually update the plan for educational space both short-term and long-term. Five managerial goals were defined for this year, including (on page 10):

Targeted Action Steps Anticipated Outcomes
Initiate Development of a School Sustainability Working Group (SSWG) with the purpose to promote and increase sustainable practices within the Newton Public Schools (NPS) with an initial emphasis on improving waste diversion efforts. • Review SSWG goals and objectives with School Committee.
• Development of website section to highlight our mission and goals.
• Implement textile recycling bins at each school where feasible.

Learn more about the School Sustainability Working Group (SSWG) here


Transportation is this year the third Managerial Goal, aiming to strengthen transportation practices to address students’ safety and health, traffic congestion, and impact of district
initiatives and elementary district boundary changes. (page 13)

Targeted Action Steps Anticipated Outcomes
Continue the work on the School Transportation Steering Group (STSG) planning to address policy development and transportation-related student safety and health, traffic congestion, and impact of district initiatives and elementary district boundary changes. Seek feedback on all proposals and communicate to stakeholders. • Submit draft Transportation related policy for School Committee review
• Review and develop plans for pilots (Horace Mann, Cabot and Newton South), and other identified schools
• Optimize district website for communication and parent engagement
• Adjust timeline for bus application process.
• Review and update practices for bus pass checks.
• Review Private School Bus Transportation Practices
• Work with the communication and IT departments to improve communication with families regarding transportation.
• More timely and efficient bus application process.
• Clear policy on bus pass checks at schools including procedure/ramifications for elementary and secondary students without a bus pass.
• Adjust Private School Transportation Practices based on review.
• Communication-enhanced ability for families to receive timely information regarding delays and other issues.


NPS School Recycling Policy passed

The Newton School Committee unanimously voted to pass a School Recycling Policy on May 13th. This new guideline is an important first step not only to improve recycling, but to improve management of all waste in Newton Public Schools (NPS).

While all NPS schools currently have a recycling dumpster and bins, the operations within each school are inconsistent. If available, they rely on volunteer efforts (teacher, staff, student or parent) to work with custodians to ensure recycling happens. No one is officially  responsible for recycling planning, implementation, monitoring and promotion. Efforts fall apart as recycling volunteers graduate or leave. It is an unsustainable model.

The new policy recognizes the need to reduce solid waste and waste disposal costs. In compliance with the Massachusetts Department of Environmental Protection’s waste bans, NPS will have to recycle materials that would otherwise become waste and ” all district personnel are expected to support recycling efforts throughout the schools and teachers are encouraged to include educational lessons on recycling in their curriculums.”

We agree with the School Committee that the “success in reducing waste through recycling is based on the cooperation of all the individuals in the school community.” We encourage our community to be part of this effort to build an effective recycling program. Please join us!

“Even the smallest recycling program requires cooperation among the administration, faculty, custodians, parents groups and students. Programs that are successful have garnered the support and commitment from each of these groups early in the planning process. School principals have an overarching interest and understanding of their school’s functions. Teachers have a keen understanding of student abilities and educational opportunities. Custodians are expert in their awareness of the building, the flow and composition of its wastes and possible sites to store materials. Students have fun suggestions for promotion and they are willing recyclers.”
(MassRecycle, p. 11)

The list of benefits from recycling (and better managing waste) is long and is  measurable. But the greatest benefit of all is probably the future impact of students who learn to use natural resources wisely and efficiently.

View the policy here.

Our Voices Heard: New Food Services Contract Will Include Sustainability

Newton Public Schools announced this week the selection of a new food service provider for our school cafeterias.  Whitsons Culinary Group will begin serving our students in the Fall.

Green Newton School Connections–with the help of parents, educators and students–had advocated strongly for a commitment to sustainability and healthy food in the next food service contract. In a letter to the School Committee in March, GN School Connections stressed the need for sustainability in the school lunch contract, including more fresh and locally sourced ingredients and healthier choices.  They also stressed that the contractor should offer reusable materials that are environmentally friendly when serving the food, improve waste reduction and promote food recovery.

Thanks to all those who voiced themselves, we were pleased that the selection committee took into consideration “their [Whitsons’] commitment to sustainable food and environmental practices” as well as the quality of the food offered. According to Liam Hurley, Assistant Superintendent and CFAO, Whitsons “proposes to focus on food waste reduction, recycling, and container reuse.”

It is also a good sign that Whitsons has been serving the Wellesley School District, where they participate in the city’s successful food recovery program. We are exploring the possibility of developing a similar program in Newton, by working with the Newton Public Schools, its food service vendor and other non-profits to expand food recovery networks throughout the Greater Boston Area. Having Whitsons as a partner would likely make the introduction of the program in Newton smoother.

We invite everyone to contact the School Committee ([email protected]) to express your approval for a service provider dedicated to sustainability and the health of our children. Let the School Committee know that we will hold them accountable for following through on their promises.

Tell the School Committee Today that the Next Food Service Contract Must Include Sustainability

On March 28, the the working group who is in charge of hiring the new food services management company for Newton schools will be interviewing representatives from Sodexo and Whitens (the two companies that sent proposals) in order to determine which vendor we will be moving forward with once the current contract with Sodexo expires later this year.

While the interview is not open to the public, Matthew Miller, from the School Committee, feels that the parent/student/community voice needs to be heard. As such, they have assembled a form to collect questions.

The GN School Connections would like the following questions addressed but we would love additional questions regarding sustainability in the cafeterias from you. The more we raise our collective voice, the more we will be heard, so please submit your questions.

  • Would the Food Service Provider be prepared to participate in food recovery and composting programs?
  • What commitments can the Food Service Provider make to reduce trash generated in cafeterias, including from plastic forks, straws, milk cartons, etc.?

Please send your questions here

More information is available at: http://bigelowpto.org/2019/03/food-service-request-for-proposal/

School Connections takes letter about hiring a Coordinator of Sustainability to the School Committee

After gathering 139 signatures of support for the letter asking that Newton School Committee Members consider hiring a dedicated Sustainability Coordinator for Newton Public Schools during fiscal year ’20, four GN School Connections representatives, including a student from Newton South, presented the petition to the School Committee on Monday, December 10th (see minutes).

Carolyn Lattin, co-chair of School Connections, introduced the group and highlighted that a Sustainability Coordinator for the schools could help the schools make changes that would save the district money, but, maybe even more importantly, it would also demonstrate to students and city residents that the district is committed to the lessons it teaches students about sustainability and climate change.

Andrew Thompson, Newton South History and Sustainability teacher, made a great case for the importance of sustainability to be an integral part of education and day-to-day life in schools.

Download Letter here.
Download Cover Letter here.

Letter asking to hire a dedicated Sustainability Coordinator for Newton Public Schools

GN School Connections wrote the letter below in October 2018. We gathered 139 signatures of support from concerned Newton citizens.

Download Letter here.

Dear Mayor Fuller, Newton School Committee Members and Superintendent Fleishman,

While we, the people of Newton, prize sustainability as a city, this value is not apparent to our students because environmental practices are not institutionalized in our schools.
We do not “walk the walk” by modeling sustainability for our students and families. To this end, I ask that you consider hiring a dedicated Sustainability Coordinator for Newton Public Schools during fiscal year ‘20.

At present, without such a coordinator, when Newton schools attend to environmental issues, it is usually because a concerned teacher or parent group drives the issue forward. Sadly, when dedicated educators retire or move to new opportunities, their efforts to model sustainable practices conclude. Likewise, when dedicated parents “graduate” with their children, their efforts within our schools also grind to a halt. When interested volunteers again arise, they must restart environmental efforts, often from zero. This constant reinvention of best practices is both frustrating and wasteful.

Hiring a Sustainability Coordinator specific to Newton Public Schools would allow our schools to institutionalize green practices and end our complete dependence on educator and parent volunteers.

If Newton Public Schools effectively model sustainability, it will become second nature to our children. They will take these practices into their adult lives, their homes and their futures.


GN School Connections

Please join our efforts! Send us a message showing your support to [email protected]. If possible, tell us why you think it is important.