Archive 2008 - 2019

September 19 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

The meeting opened with general comments about a successful first month of school and fun Back-to-School Nights (still going on for Adams and the High School).  Mrs. Plunkett shared an award Dr. Jackson has received, as recipient of the 2013 NNELL Award for Outstanding Support of Early Second Language Learning.  As the letter indicates, “This is reserved for individuals who have demonstrated outstanding support of early second language learning of languages other than English … whose primary job responsibilities are not related to the field of second language education.”  Dr. Ahearn also shared an announcement that Holliston will be one of 21 districts across the nation in collaborating under CoSN (Consortium for School Networking) on Teaming for Transformation: Leading Digital Conversion for Students in Student Learning II.  “Participating districts have indicated their goals through the nine-month hybrid professional learning opportunity.” Attendees at the conference in March will include Assistant Superintendent Ahern, Business Manager Buday, the Principals and the Technology Integration Specialists. They will focus on how to improve student-centered learning through the use of embedded technology. 

First on the agenda, Dr. Ahern and the Math Curriculum Review Leadership team, Anne Connoni, Jenna Galster, and Maria Spina, presented the newly purchased math textbooks.  They are currently being used in classrooms as the curriculum is being adjusted to state frameworks.   Five textbooks series were reviewed against a rubric that included: 

·         Mathematics content and standards of practice

·         Differentiation of instruction and assessment for all students

·         Connectedness to elementary and upper level high school courses

·         Meaningful integration of technology. 

Dr. Ahern informed the Committee that the textbook selected was the Larsen Big Ideas series for middle school math and the Larson Algebra and Geometry texts for eighth grade and high school.  The selection was made through collaboration across grade levels, and units were piloted by Adams and HHS teachers.   The features of the series include:

·         A UbD (Understanding by Design) framework of curriculum design

·         High levels of rigor which supports multiple acceleration points

·         Supports teaching all students

·         A range of formative and summative assessments.

·         Video lectures (in English and Spanish)

·         Manipulatives and visuals

·         @home tutor

·         Practice self-graded quizzes and tests

·         Multilingual glossary

·         Study guides 

Originally budgeted for $80K, but coming in at under $65K, the Larsen materials were delivered and teachers focused on curriculum work over the summer.  They have also had introductory professional development from the Larson consultants.   There are classroom sets and online licenses for students. Holliston has received six years of consumable practice workbooks at NO CHARGE in addition to teacher sets.  Many thanks to faculty members who have worked, and continue to work, so diligently on revising the math curriculum. 

The next presentation of the evening was made by Dr. Jackson, and was on the 2012 Youth Risk Behavior Survey results.  The YRBS was developed in 1993 by the Centers for Disease Control.  It has been given in Holliston since about 1998.  In 2008, the Metrowest Community Healthcare Foundation took over the administration and analysis of the survey, but Holliston retains control of the questions asked and how local data is used.  The survey includes questions on: tobacco use; alcohol and other drug use; sexual behaviors that might lead to unintended pregnancy or sexually transmitted infections; dietary behaviors; physical activity; and, behaviors associated with intentional or unintentional injuries. 

The MWHF convenes school health officials from surrounding communities to select questions.  The topics are based on local trends or areas of concern.  Each community can add or refuse a question, either within a topic or within a level (for example, Holliston chose not to include sexual behavior questions on the middle school survey). 

Locally, Holliston administers the anonymous paper and pencil survey to all students in grades 7-12.  Again, the middle school survey is different from the high school survey.  Giving the survey during the school day, yields a 97% return rate and the results are considered very accurate.  For each question, Holliston receives results for students school-wide, grade-wide, and by gender.  Holliston also receives results compared to metrowest Massachusetts and the national results. Trend data looks at the last four years, where data is available.  Once the data is obtained, the MWHF convenes school officials again to analyze regional results, and develop regional interventions and programs.  Holliston’s data is shared with the Wellness Department which results in adjustments to the curriculum for the 2013-2014 academic year, if necessary.  Additionally, Holliston Public Schools also shares the data with the Principals, who along with the Wellness Department, make adjustments to school-wide safety programs if applicable.  Lastly, Holliston Public Schools shares the data with the Holliston Police Department, Holliston Fire Department, and Holliston Youth and Family services to enable them to make adjustments to their programs or tactics. 

Dr. Jackson’s presentation was 80 slides and all the information will be available on the website next week.  It is simply too long to capture in this update. The Committee expressed an interest in digging deeper into some of the data, as the survey really provides an overview.  

Next on the agenda, in anticipation of the October 28th  Town Meeting, Mr. Buday presented the prioritized lists of capital requests that were developed, discussed and agreed upon with the Budget Sub Committee. These items are as follows: 

Technology Infrastructure ($56K total):

·         Data Server (HHS)- $6K (replacing a six-year old Gateway server)

·         Switches (P/M)- $50K (1G to the desktop and setting up for wireless) 

Classroom Technology ($307.3K total):

·         Desktops (HHS)- $14.4K (Special Ed classrooms)

·         Fitnessgram (HHS)- $4.5K (would provide K-12 Fitnessgram site license)

·         Foreign Language Lab (HHS)- $63.5K (nearing the end of its useful life; Holliston is the foreign language District in Massachusetts and a language lab allows teachers to evaluate in real time)

·         Music Technology Lab (HHS)- $10K (rebuild Midi Lab to support curriculum changes in the Performing Arts program; the Music parents are very involved in the curriculum planning aspect and are going to be launching a capital campaign to support this project and the tools it will offer)

·         iPads (Adams)- $4K (assistive technology)

·         iPad carts (Adams)- $16.2 (1 per grade, 1 was done in 2013)

·         Notebook Cart (Adams)- $18K (2 carts of Chromebooks, a smaller lightweight PC, tied to Google apps) 

Building $122K total):

·         Carpeting (District)- $40K (13-13 years old at Placentino)

·         Concession Stand (HHS)- $35K (Plumbing part of project.  Dr. Jackson informed the Committee that HABA has encountered significant cost overruns, based on the town’s needs of the project, communicated via the Building Inspector.  Dr. Jackson believes that the community most benefits from the plumbing part- Phase 2- that adds bathrooms and septic to the facility, available to anyone who comes to the field for any event.  Additionally having the safety and security of the HHS more assured with separate bathrooms shouldn’t be overlooked)

·         Doors (HHS)- $20K (low bid, high use, bigger students, 20 are in need)

·         Café Tables (P/M)- $10K (most are 13 years old, low bid, have been replacing with end-of-year funds)

·         Office A/C (Miller)- $8.5K (they’re failing; getting a formal quote, this is an estimate)

·         Office A/C (Placentino)- $8.5K (they’re failing; getting a formal quote, this is an estimate) 

Grand total of the priority list is $305,959. The School Committee will be presenting this request to the Finance Committee on Tuesday, Sept. 24th. 

The last item on the agenda was a draft of a School Calendar survey presented by Dr. Jackson.  As he noted, every year School Committee members receive feedback regarding some aspect of the school calendar.  These concerns center around: starting school before or after Labor Day; the impact of religious holiday days off; the practice of half-days for Parent/Teachers conferences; Professional Day placements; and February and April vacations.  While there are some common concerns, it is very important to note that it is impossible to address each one.  

In 2005, the School Committee surveyed the community about the school calendar.  The results indicated no consensus on calendar practices (for example, half of the respondents wanted school to begin prior to Labor Day, half after Labor Day).  However, these results are now somewhat dated and Dr. Jackson recommended that the Committee re-survey the community to determine whether or not any consensus has further developed that may help guide School Committee calendar planning.  Dr. Jackson developed a draft survey which includes some of the old questions and some new ones.  The Committee urges parents to participate in this survey. 

The next meeting is October 17th.  Central to that agenda will be: the FY15 Budget Development calendar; a draft of the 14/15 School Year calendar; the class size report and the October 1 enrollment report; an MCAS results overview; Performing Arts Curriculum improvements; a Professional Day review; and hopefully, a presentation from the Peru trip students.  School Committee Office Hours are on the website ( but the first one will be Friday, Sept. 27th, 7:30-8:30 am at Pejamajo. In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Central Office or any School Committee member.   

Kindest regards,

Erica Plunkett

Chair, Holliston School Committee 

Did You Know…. that in their September issue, Boston Magazine ranked Holliston 18th out of 147 Greater Boston Districts (there are over 300 in the state).  And of these 18, Holliston had the third lowest cost per pupil! (  Congratulations to the teachers, administrators, students, families, and community who make this possible!