Archive 2008 - 2019

School Committee Meeting Draws Crowd

by Yvette Cain

Thursday night’s School Committee meeting drew an audience of about 50 residents for its first meeting since June.

Dawn Neborsky, elected in May, attending her first meeting 

Chair Stacey Raffi opened the meeting at 7:02, and brief comments by each member and administrator followed that included welcome-backs to teachers and staff.  Dr. Brad Jackson, Superintendent, cautioned residents to drive with caution these next couple of weeks, with roadways carrying “3000 precious big and little ones” returning to school, walking, riding, and waiting at bus stops.

Prior to opening the public comment segment of the agenda, Raffi read a prepared statement representing her own thoughts:  “I am saddened and disheartened by the online discourse over the past 8 weeks relative to the topic of changing school start times in our community…I'm sad for our children who are witnessing this behavior.  We are clearly failing them as role models.”   She enumerated several facts that precipitated the decision of the School Committee to adjust school year 2020 start times. 

Raffi ended her remarks, “As we begin this new school year, it is my hope that as a community, we learn from and move forward with desire to respectfully work together even when we disagree on issues.  We owe that to our children.”  Dr. Jackson followed by reading the protocol for public comment.

Alessandra Horton addresses the School Committee during Public Comment

Five members of the audience addressed the Committee during Public Comments.  Alessandra Horton, of South Street, stated that there are “no comparable policies in place in other town’s systems” with “elementary grades beginning so early and 80 minutes between consecutive grades.” Horton requested a public forum in which to discuss concerns.

Catherine Savard and Michael Simon speak to the Committee and Administrators

Catherine Savard, of Stony Brook Drive, a doctor of human development, said that the start time changes do not reflect “best practices.”  Michael Simon, of Rolling Meadow Drive, said the changes “impose on 8 year olds to benefit 18 year olds.”  He said this was an “arbitrary burden on an arbitrarily selected group” and “would love to see this fixed.”

Amanda Bigelow, parent

Framingham teacher Amanda Bigelow of Briar Lane spoke to the increased “financial burden of child care.”  Holliston High School student Evelyn Simon of Rolling Meadow Drive said the changes to the start times would “double and triple the stress” put on parents and children.  

Committee members Cynthia Listewnik and Andy Morton

Raffi then closed the public comment segment of the agenda and asked for individual but brief responses from each member of the Committee. A vote to schedule a public forum for the purpose of identifying the problems and finding ways to solve them was taken and passed with Shaughnessy abstaining.  A date for the forum was not set at this time.  Additionally, committee member Lisa Kocian suggested the audience as well as others needing more information about the decision made by the School Committee consult the website HPS: School Start Time Sub-Committee.

Committee member Joan Shaughnessy

Superintendent Jackson provided an update of new staff, adding that a .5 elementary language teacher and 8 paraprofessionals still need to be hired. 

Business Manager Keith Buday highlighted the preventative maintenance of buildings and grounds that has been completed during summer weeks.  Additionally, Buday displayed photos of work done in individual schools that included such items as painting, the removal of carpeting and laying of tile flooring, refinishing of wood floors, the assembly of new bleachers and other furniture, and the moving of furniture, lockers, and bookshelves.

Dr. Jackson and Dr. Botelho

Assistant Superintendent Peter Botelho previewed the August 30 Professional Development day. 

Dr. Jackson reviewed district-wide Improvement Goals, focusing on work to be done for 2019-2020.  In eliciting Committee member responses, Jackson agreed to include an explicit review of the curriculum for anti-bias.  Michelle Diamond, of 95 Wilson Street, spoke briefly for Diverse Holliston, a group focusing on anti-racism and diversity in the schools and community.  Diverse Holliston formed about 2 years ago and is seeking a partnership with the School Committee so as to discover ways to apply ideas and create a safe place for students. Committee members Lisa Kocian and Joan Shaughnessy will serve as liaisons to Diverse Holliston.

Capital Requests not yet vetted for 2019-2020 school year were listed and briefly discussed by Business Manager Buday.  His hope is to begin a conversation with the Finance Committee prior to the Town Meeting in October.  Some items were recommended for October, such as technology access points for the district and new cabling for the schools, and other items recommended for May.

New business continued with Dr. Jackson sharing the status of the HHS MA School Building Authority (MSBA) application. The application has advanced from its first review to phase 2.  Unknown to Jackson is the number of MA schools who also made it through the first phase. 

In phase 2, members of the MSBA will conduct a site visit September 17th.   Jackson, Buday, Raffi, a maintenance representative, Nicole Bottomley (HHS principal), and John Cronin of the Select Board will be present for the 2-3 hour meeting following the site visit.  The review will address concerns about the building and will identify deficiencies.  Jackson will be notified of the status of the review in late November.

The Committee approved 4 warrants.  The meeting adjourned a bit after 10 PM.  The public is encouraged to attend the next meeting of the School Committee, planned for September 12.

Comments (1)

A group of concerned parents have requested an impact study and public forum to address some very real concerns in regards to the implementation of the new school start times. We ask that in the same way the school committee took the time to meet with administration and staff last year during the attempted implementation of scenario B, we ask that, with this policy heavily effecting families, we be given an opportunity to voice and document our concerns in a public forum. We support the school committee and their efforts to implement a later start time for adolescence, but there is no justification for not extending the recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics to elementary school students as well. Children age (6-12 years) should sleep 9-12 hours per night for an optimal nights rest. We as a community should strive for a more equitable solution for ALL of our students!

Carrie Marsh Loscocco | 2019-08-24 05:41:29