Archive 2008 - 2019

School Committee Newsletter -- Issue #9 - May 19, 2016

by Stacey Raffi

Holliston Public Schools School Committee News

Did You Know?

State Senator Karen Spilka recently visited the Transition Program at Holliston High School, which was created with a $300,000 state grant she helped the district obtain.

The program allows special education students ages 18-22 to stay in Holliston as they prepare for life after high school. Tailored to each individual student, the program offers exposure to functional academics, community experiences, and vocational opportunities. They get work experience in local restaurants, in both kitchens and by bussing and resetting tables, and at the HHS copy center. The students learn to use public transportation as they develop independence. They also practice their social skills with students from other local schools during day and evening activities.

Budget Season Update
We want to thank the town and in particular Town Meeting voters, who approved a school district budget of $31,883,737, which covers “level services” (meaning no cuts to current programs/staff) PLUS a new Grade 3-4 Montessori teacher (needed because of prior program expansion). The committee is truly grateful for the support.

The final budget number came from the town Finance Committee’s recommendation and was $235,321 less than what the School Committee approved. We “agreed to disagree” because we are still hoping for a compromise in the fall.
Once the FinCom has more information on potential incremental revenue, we are hoping that we will be able to close the gap at the October Town Meeting.

The difference of $235,321 includes the following items:
1) District-wide school psychologist -- We currently have two school psychologists (down from four, 15 years ago). The administration had originally hoped to hire two, so we could have one at each school, but Dr. Jackson proposed an interim compromise of just hiring one who would provide support and manage assessments of both general education and special education students and their families across all school buildings. We need additional, qualified staff in this area as social/emotional issues are on the rise among students (in Holliston and nationwide). We see this position as an investment that will pay for itself by helping students avoid out-of-district placements.
2) Curriculum leadership -- Last year we had to eliminate several curriculum specialist stipends. We want to add $15,000 in stipends to reestablish the position of wellness coordinator and to provide leadership in both fine and performing arts.
3) Director of Technology -- We cut this position eight years ago; however, it's even more important now than it was then based on state-mandated testing requirements and advances in educational practices. In 2008, students were using Microsoft Word, Excel, and PowerPoint. Today, technology touches every layer of the educational experience. How well we prepare students for success in a world where information technology is quickly evolving will impact their opportunities for years to come. Also, with the expected implementation of PARC/MCAS 2.0 (a computer-based state mandated exam that is expected to replace MCAS), students will be required to take these exams on devices that have testing software installed on them. Further, our administration and teachers will require the support and training that is best delivered under the guidance of a Director of Technology.
4) Textbooks/other curriculum materials -- We spend $150 per student in Holliston; the MA average is $432. Textbooks (online and hard copies) need be updated regularly and/or replenished based on standard wear.

 Day on the Hill

On April 28, five School Committee members and Superintendent Bradford Jackson represented Holliston at “Day on the Hill,” organized by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees (MASC). The purpose of the event is to learn about the MASC’s lobbying efforts on behalf of all school committees and to give boards an opportunity to advocate for their local priorities.

We met with both of Holliston’s representatives on Beacon Hill, State Senator Karen Spilka and State Representative Carolyn Dykema, to update them on Holliston’s K-12 needs and to hear from them about state efforts to support schools. They are both fighting hard for public school dollars, and we have an ongoing dialogue with them about how we can help each other.

Sen. Spilka also happens to be chair of the Senate Committee on Ways and Means, the committee that oversees the budget and finances of the state, so she has more insight than most about critical funding matters. She has pushed for an increase in Chapter 70 funding (the primary earmark for state aid to schools) and has advocated for changes in the way money is allocated.

Specifically, the recommended Senate budget, which she spearheaded as chair of Ways and Means, requires an implementation schedule for the recommendations of the Foundation Budget Review Commission (FBRC). The FBRC, created as part of the FY15 state budget, found that funding for schools was inadequate and recommended significant increases.

After the Senate votes its budget, a Conference Committee, made up of members from both the House and Senate, will approve a compromise version for consideration by both branches. Finally, the budget will go to Governor Charlie Baker (and possibly back to the Legislature if overrides are to be attempted). We’re supposed to have a final state budget by June 30.  

Our agendas, meeting minutes, and policies are available on our web site.                      
Feel free to contact any committee member with questions or comments.

Carol Emmons, Chair:                                                                                     Anne Louise Hanstad, Vice Chair:   
Lisa Kocian:
Cynthia Listewnik:
Andy Morton: 
Stacey Raffi:
Joan Sousa: