Archive 2008 - 2019

School Committee Aug 27, 2015

by Lisa Kocian

School Committee Meeting 8-27-15

Welcome to the 2015-2016 school year! The School Committee decided this summer to again offer written summaries of meetings, in an effort to better inform the public about our work.

Of course, these are not a substitute for the full meeting, which can be viewed on  The meeting minutes remain the official written summary.

With teachers and students returning the week of Aug. 31, Opening Day was a recurring topic. Also on the agenda: 2015-2016 District-wide Improvement Goals, the FY16 Capital Plan, new hires, a preview of the Sept. 4 Professional Day, and an update from the Strategic Planning Committee.

New Town Administrator

Newly hired Town Administrator Jeff Ritter attended the meeting to introduce himself. Mr. Ritter said he and Dr. Brad Jackson, superintendent of schools, have already been in close communication and have scheduled a regular monthly meeting.  Both said they look forward to collaborating and have started working together on plans for a “Green Communities” application to the state, which could open up grant opportunities.

2015-2016 District Goals

The longest discussion of the night was around 2015-2016 District-wide Improvement Goals, which were unanimously approved by the School Committee.

The three goals were introduced by Dr. Jackson:

Goal One -- To refine and continue to implement an integrated system of curriculum,  assessment,  education.

Goal Two -- To strengthen both universal and targeted supports to provide all children with an emotionally safe and supportive school environment.

Goal Three -- To build comprehensive and sustainable system-wide supports that advance our learning goals and are responsive to student, staff, and family needs.

Goal One deals with curriculum reviews, classroom tests (aka common assessments), differentiated instruction (aka tailoring how teachers teach to an individual student’s learning style), using data to improve instruction, and technology education.


  • Educators will look at tests (common assessments) in a particular course or subject area to evaluate whether the assessment is timely and necessary.  We don’t want to “over-assess” or “under-assess,” said Dr. Jackson.


  • Teachers will be responsible for identifying two measures of student growth (such as MCAS scores), which will be documented in the 2016-2017 educator evaluations.


  • Staff will review how data is used to ensure that students are benefiting from interventions and educational enhancements put into place.


  • Educators will look at the technology curriculum to refine what accomplishments are expected at various grade levels.


Goal Two is about the emotional health and safety of all students and staff.


  • The district will develop more continuity from one grade to the next, so that there is a common language across all the schools.


  • Teachers will also be given specific strategies for dealing with common behavioral challenges (like a student who is having trouble focusing in the classroom, for example).


Goal Three covers a wide range of issues: an adequate budget, five-year strategic plan, professional development, and communications.


  • There has been much discussion in the media recently about professional development, said Dr. Jackson, because it doesn’t always yield measurable results.  He said the district is looking at professional development through the lens of return on investment.


  • Dr. Jackson acknowledged that there has been frustration from some parents on the communications front, and his administration is looking at developing a strategy around the best way to communicate different types of information (the best medium for different subjects, etc.)


Dr. Jackson also proposed a “Professional Practice Goal,” for next school year, as required by the state’s evaluation system. He said he would like to focus on integrating newly elected/hired officials in the town and district. The School Committee decided to discuss the proposed goal at the next meeting.

Opening Day Prep

Dr. Jackson said there would be a high police presence in and around the schools as everyone returns. One key goal is to remind drivers that school is back in session.  Starting Tuesday, September 1, students will be on their way to school as early as 6:20 a.m.

Opening Day Readiness Report: Capital Projects


  • Wi-Fi is up and running at Placentino and Miller, at a cost of a little more than $54,000, about 40 percent of which will be reimbursed through a federal grant program.


  • The first phase of a significant energy improvement project has been completed with the installation of LED light bulbs across the schools. It’s too early to calculate the savings, but the first month showed at least a 15 percent cost reduction. The $400,000 project came in significantly under budget (with as much as $200,000 left over), so town boards will have to decide where the extra money goes.


  • The High School track refurbishment is nearly complete. It’s already useable for track purposes but still unlined, which will be remedied before it’s needed in the spring. 


  • Chromebooks are ready for distribution to all middle schoolers.

Opening Day Readiness Report: New Hire Update

Over the summer, 26 new staff members were hired, with three openings still unfilled.  The highest priority is the opening for a severe Special Education preschool teacher, said Dr. Jackson. The previous teacher resigned Aug. 24. 

The part-time drama teacher opening at the High School was filled, and the afterschool fall musical will go on. 

Jaime Slaney started as the new Placentino principal on July 1. While her assistant principal Susan Gleason is on maternity leave, Allison Lindstrom, a literacy specialist, will help out as interim assistant principal.  

The administration added a traditional Kindergarten teacher due to higher than predicted Kindergarten enrollment (about 200 incoming students). Funded through full-day tuition, the new position will allow class sizes to average around 20 instead of 23-24.



Opening Day Readiness Report: Sept. 4 Professional Day


A clinical psychologist will present the program, which will focus on social and emotional health for all children. Teachers and paraprofessionals will learn about several challenges they might see in the classroom, such as task initiation and emotional control, said Dr. Ahern.


One goal is to help educators share a common vocabulary that pinpoints specific behaviors observed, rather than talking about diagnoses. 


FY16* Capital Plan – Initial Review


  • The biggest capital budget item for next year will be the demolition of the Flagg building, which could cost up to $1 million, due to needed mold and asbestos abatement.


  • Looking ahead to FY17 and FY18, the administration is tentatively budgeting $68,000 and $63,000, respectively, for Chromebooks at the High School.


  • Ken Sawyers of Holliston Youth Lacrosse spoke during public comment to urge the purchase of new field turf at Kamitian Field (at the High School).  The administration has $750,000 tentatively budgeted for that purpose under the heading “future projects” in the capital budget. Dr. Jackson said we hope to get a couple more years of life out of the turf because we just finished the tenth year of use; such fields are expected to last about 15 years.


(* FY16 = fiscal year 2016, the current fiscal year. The fiscal calendar runs July 1 to June 30. )



Strategic Planning Committee Update


Joan Sousa, chair of the Strategic Planning Subcommittee, said work began in July and she hopes to finish in December. The plan will cover FY2017-FY2023.


The team assembled includes Michael Benadon, who is project manager for the effort; Selectman Kevin Conley; David Keim, Miller principal; David Jordan, Adams assistant principal; Anne Louise Hanstad, vice chair of the School Committee; Andy Morton, School Committee member; and five community members: Daniel Knup, Laura McGann, Amy Donahue, Diane McDermott Roy, and Susan Arnold.


Mrs. Sousa said the group will do more outreach and would like to find a senior citizen to participate. Weekly meetings are scheduled for Wednesdays, 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.


Other meeting announcements:


  • TEC Campus School is hosting a Playground Fundraiser Sept. 17, to raise $200,000 for an accessible playground. A public school attended by Holliston children, TEC is for Special Education students and is located in East Walpole.


  • Julia DeMarkey, an incoming senior, attended her first School Committee meeting as a new student representative. A member of the Student Advisory Council, Miss DeMarkey said she is excited to see how this arm of local government works. Welcome Julia!


  • The agenda for the next School Committee meeting, on Sept. 17, will include: school-wide improvement goals from the principals, a report from the Budget Subcommittee on the Capital Plan, a FY16 fiscal update, information on the curriculum review cycle from Dr. Ahern, an overview of TEC services from the school’s executive director, and further discussion on the superintendent’s professional practice goal.

Comments (1)

That you for posting the written summaries again!

Wendy Kogan | 2015-09-10 14:21:24