Archive 2008 - 2019

October 17, 2013 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

The Holliston School Department is currently in the process of exploring the possibility of offering publicly funded tuition-free Full-Day Kindergarten to all students beginning next year, 2014-2015.  There will be an informational meeting on Monday, November 4th, at 7:00 in the Placentino Cafetorium.  The agenda will include: a brief overview of current Kindergarten programming in Holliston, Full-day Kindergarten facts and information, a summary of Full-day Kindergarten survey results, and a general Q and A period.  

First on the agenda, students who participated in the Peru trip down the Amazon this summer shared their experiences.  This was a remarkable opportunity for these students and you can catch their presentation on the HCAT site or there will be a link to the video they produced shortly on the District website (Editorial note: what an incredible opportunity for these students.  The pictures were awesome and their comments about what they learned even better! Thanks to teachers, Sylvia Bodmer, Karen Carig-O’Neill, and Heidi Finnegan for donating three weeks of their summer to chaperone Holliston High Schoolers).  

Next on the agenda was a Powerpoint about proposed changes to the Theatre Arts curriculum by Brian Hickey (, including the new courses, Shakespeare Alive and Screenwriting.  Mr. Hickey also proposed offering Theatre classes at the Honors level.  Teachers Stu Britton and Laura Bilodeau presented their proposed curriculum upgrades and rationale for an increased capacity Music Technology Lab. This curriculum work was done due to an administrative directive to increase course enrollments.  The presentation can be found on the District website (, but the guidelines for the work are as follows:
Examination of all current course offerings to include 21st century music industry elements

·         Creation of six new courses *

·         Creation of a course hierarchy, which will allow the department to alternate some course offering on an annual basis and connect various classes in a “learning path”

·         Adjust course levels to make courses more appealing to higher level students (Honors level)

·         Plan to update the Music Department computer/piano lab hardware and software.

*New courses include: Introduction to the Music Business; Music as Protest; Introduction to Music Technology; Introduction to Sampling and Looping; Sound Recording; and Advanced Film Scoring.

Mr. Britton and Ms. Bilodeau also shared pictures of the proposed Music Technology Lab (( and informed the Committee that fundraising for this has already begun.  If community members are interested in helping, here is how:

1.      October 24- Bugaboo Creek fundraiser, 11:30 am-10:00 pm (portion of sales will go towards project)

2.      November 13-  Bazel's fundraiser evening/dinnertime only (portion of sales will go towards project)

3.      December 6- Broadway benefit concert

4.      January 24-  Benefit concert with performers from the community

Dr. Ahern then presented an overview of the 2013 MCAS results (individual school reports will be given by the Principals at the Nov. 14th School Committee meeting).  This overview may be found on the District website ( but a brief summary follows.

·         The MCAS 2013 tested the 2011 Massachusetts State Frameworks

·         ELA (grades 3-8 and 10) included Long Composition in grades 4 and 8; could have been narrative, expository, persuasive or opinion

·         Math (grades 3-8) focused on 2011 standards that coincide with 2000/2004 standards

·         Math (grade 10) focused on 2011 standards that coincide with 2000 grades 9 and 10 standards.

Accountability Background Information:

·         Districts and schools are identified on a scale of 1-5; the district’s level corresponds to the level of the lowest performing school

·         100 point Progress and Performance Index (PPI) reports both district and school progress towards narrowing proficiency gaps.  PPI must be 75 or higher for both “all students” and “high needs” groups to be on target

·         PPI includes CPI (Composite Performance Index) for ELA, Math, and Science; SGP (Student Growth Percentiles) for ELA and Math; and graduation and dropout rates (for the High School)

·         Reduction in the minimum group size for accountability determinations from 40-30 students; progress based on “all students” group and “high needs” group

·         “High Needs” group is defined as the unduplicated count of all students in a school or district belonging to at least one of the following individual subgroups: students with disabilities; English Language Learners and former ALL students; or low income students

·         GOAL: to narrow proficiency gaps by HALF by 2017, based on a 2011 baseline.

DESE Description of Levels (Schools by Classification):

1.      Commendation Schools (high achieving, high growth, gap narrowing schools (subset of level 1)

2.      Level 1 (meeting gap closing goals for aggregate and high needs students)

3.      Level 2 (not meeting gap closing goals for aggregate and/or high needs students)

4.      Level 3 (lowest performing 20% of schools, includes lowest performing subgroups)

5.      Level 4 (subset of Level 3)

6.      Level 5 (chronically underperforming schools, subset of Level 3)

·         There are a range of Progress and Performance Index points awarded to groups for making improvement relative to the group’s own annual target.  To be considered “on target” for a given indicator, a group must earn 75 points.  A group must have data in the most recent year and one of the prior two years to receive an annual PPI.  If the group did not have 2011 data to measure improvement between 2011 and 2012, 2010 data are substituted as the baseline, if available.

·         Cumulative PPI is a district’s, school’s, or subgroups cumulative PPI.  It is the average of its annual PPIs over the most recent four-year period, weighting the most recent years the most.  Cumulative PPI is always on a 100 point scale. 

·         To be making progress toward narrowing proficiency gaps, the cumulative PPI for “all students” group and “high needs” students must be 75 or higher.

Highlights of Holliston’s Annual PPI (ALL STUDENTS) for 2013:

ELA- District is in the 84th percentile):

·         No change in CPI

·         Growth was below target

·         Decreased % warning/failing by 10%

Math (District is in the 85th percentile):

·         Improved but below target for achievement

·         Growth was below target

Science (District is in the 87th percentile):

·         Improved but below targets for achievement

·         Decreased % warning/failing by 10%

Annual Dropout Rate:

·         Above target

·         97th percentile in the grade span statewide (last year was 95th)

Graduation Rate:

·         Above target

·         Four-year cohort graduation rate is greater than 95% target (97.8%)

Highlights of Holliston’s Annual PPI (HIGH NEEDS STUDENTS) for 2013:

ELA- District is in the 83rd percentile):

·         No change in CPI

·         Growth below target

·         Decreased % warning/failing by 10%

Math (District is in the 84th percentile):

·         Improved but below target for achievement

·         Growth was below target

Science (District is in the 81st percentile):

·         Improved but below target for achievement
·         Decreased % warning/failing by 10%

Annual Dropout Rate:

·         Above target (0%)

·         6 year goal=.7 (N=153)

Graduation Rate:

·         On target

·         Met improvement target for 4-year cohort graduation rate (93.2%)

Accountability Summary:

·         Holliston students are achieving at very high levels and have high student growth

·         Holliston Public Schools have been classified as a Level 2 District because of the schools’ level determinations

·         Holliston has MET or EXCEEDED targets for improvements in ALL measures of achievement and growth for “All Students” since 2010

Areas for further investigation include:

·         High Needs students in Math and Science

·         ELA-do MCAS scores reflect adjustments that need to make to align curriculum to the new Frameworks?

·         Science- investigate students results and respond but keep in mind new Frameworks are on the horizon

·         Math- which domains need attention through curriculum adjustments and professional development?

Next Steps:

1.      Principals, Curriculum Specialists, and Teachers will continue data analysis of results, including strand and item analysis

2.      Identify strengths in curriculum and instruction and areas in need of improvement

3.      Remain apprised of changes to MCAS and potential transition to PARCC

4.      Develop School Improvement goals and action steps

In closing out the FY14 Capital requests for this year, Mr. Buday shared the decisions made by the Fin Com at their last meeting on Tuesday and the School Committee is very grateful for their support.

Technology Infrastructure:

·         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:

·         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)


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

·         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)

·         Auditorium Lighting ($50K)- Bulbs are no longer being manufactured.

Grand total of the priority list is $317,959.

Dr. Ahern briefed the Committee on the Professional Day last week.  At Placentino and Miller, Grades 2-5 teachers engaged in a workshop on implementing Empowering Writers, a program designed to develop skills in narrative, expository, opinion and persuasive writing.

PK-1 teachers worked with Math Curriculum Specialists to deepen pedagogy in instructing additional and subtraction with students, and well as integrating the technology components of enVision Math.

Adams teachers, engaged in the process of “Collaborative Inquiry.” High School faculty focused on the role of formative and summative assessment of student learning and connection to action steps and benchmarks of student learning, and professional practice SMART goals. Paraprofessionals in the District attended a workshop on several topics including “Facilitating Student Independence. 

Dr. Jackson then presented the Class Size report for the District and the October 1 Enrollment report.  The overall message is that the District’s plan to maintain stable enrollment levels through School Choice is effective.  The District is able to maintain class size and generate additional revenue. 

Next on the agenda was the discussion around the survey for the upcoming School Calendar.  This survey garnered 791 responses, but unfortunately offered no consensus that would support any changes to the current school calendar.  The overall results are here (, but essentially, while a small percentage more would like to begin school after Labor Day, a larger percentage wants to end school no later than the second week in June.  The School Committee does not have the ability to satisfy both needs.  Through the interesting comments made, it was clear that the School Committee and the Administration needs to better communicate the necessity of Professional Days.  This item, like the timing of Parent-Teacher conferences have collective bargaining implications.  Changing to a March vacation from February and April doesn’t seem feasible without a state-wide effort.  Similarly, expanding the school year to year round is beyond the capacity of the School Committee to enact.  The Committee is very grateful to everyone who took the time to respond.

Finally, Dr. Jackson shared the FY15 draft of the Budget Development Calendar. This can be found on the District website, but begins in January with the School Improvement Plan mid-year updates and the New Initiative Workshop. The Committee urges the community to stay informed on this process from the outset.  

The next meeting is November 14th.  Central to that agenda will be: the individual Principal MCAS reports; a draft of the 2014-2015 calendar; a report on the status of PARCC field testing; and Full-day Kindergarten information.  School Committee Office Hours are on the website ( but the next one will be Thursday, Oct. 24th, 8:30-9:30 am at Coffee Haven. 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 the Mass Budget and Policy Center just released a recent study related to the state’s education spending? This report notes that Massachusetts ranks 33rd among all states on K-12 spending for education as a percent of its total economy (3.97% vs. a US average of 4.12%).  The authors state: “In Massachusetts we invest a below-average share of our state’s economic resources in public education… Education serves many important functions helping young people become active citizens and helping them develop skills to contribute productively in the work force.  In Massachusetts, as with most states in the nation, there is a strong connection between improving the skills of the state workforce and creating a high-wage economy.”  (

Erica S. Plunkett
Chairperson, Holliston School Committee