Archive 2008 - 2019

December 12 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

The major focus of the night’s meeting was the proposal for full-day, tuition-free kindergarten- FDK (a summary is below but the presentation is here: and the HCAT replay online is here: 

(As a reminder to the community, this concept was presented last year by Dr. Jackson and the School Committee under New Initiatives as a bookmarker, informing everyone that this proposal would be coming forward this year).

Dr. Jackson began the presentation, noting that this was perhaps the most important change to the elementary curriculum since Dr. Placentino introduced French Immersion and Montessori over 30 years ago. As background information, Dr. Jackson noted that currently Holliston has two sections of Half-Day Traditional Kindergarten; two sections of Half-Day French Immersion- the only option for French); two sections of Montessori multi-age classrooms; and four sections of Full-Day Traditional.  In total, there are 111 students in a full-day program, whose parents pay $3,475 in tuition, which brings in $350,106. (The numbers don’t synch up completely because the District is not allowed to charge tuition for those on IEP’s and also offers reduced tuition to families who qualify for the Free and Reduced Price Lunch Program.)  

Dr. Jackson then presented a graph showing that in 2003, Holliston Kindergarten enrollment of students with Limited English Proficiency, Low Incomes, and Special Educations needs comprised 13.2% of the kindergarten population.  In 2008, this number went to 18% and now in 2013, the number of these students is 28.1% of the kindergarten population. In terms of enrollment comparisons, in Holliston, 57% of children attend FDK, vs. the state’s 87%.  Alternatively, 43% of Holliston’s students attend Half-Day Kindergarten, vs. the state’s 13%. He then showed a chart from the organization Strategies for Children website which displays the communities in Massachusetts and their Kindergarten offerings status.  290 districts (94%) offer FDK.  75% do NOT charge a fee for FDK.  In nearby communities, Mendon-Upton is now free and Hopkinton is considering a proposal likes Holliston’s.

The impetus driving this proposal is mandated changes to the Kindergarten curriculum, which began with the 2011 Common Core Standards.  These are better captured in the slides Dr. Ahern presented, but it comes down to: teachers in Kindergarten have to introduce more advanced standards at an earlier age. They are more rigorous and focused and there are expectations of MASTERY vs. familiarity. The state has:

1.      Increased rigor written into the language of the Massachusetts Frameworks (which incorporate the Common Core Standards)

2.      Expects less spiraling of standards and a higher expectation of mastery at EACH grade level

3.      Determined the Kindergarten is an integral part of a PK-12 learning continuum.

Mrs. Weene and Mrs. Gleason then presented a chart showing that teachers in the half-day K classes have 115 minutes for core academics, 25 minutes for unified arts, and 20 minutes for snack/recess.  In a Full-Day K class, the teacher has 185 minutes for core academics, 70 minutes for the application of learning, 50 minutes for unified arts, and 55 minutes for snack, lunch, and recess.

In 2013, the District administered a survey of traditional half-day kindergarten parents (not surveying full-day K parents on the assumption that full-day was already important to them). 57% indicated they had chosen half-day because the cost of full-day was prohibitive.  80% of responding French Immersion parents would have chosen full-day, if it were offered in French.  6% of responding parents chose half-day because they didn’t want their children in a full-day program (please note that Kindergarten is NOT mandatory in Massachusetts.  Cities and towns have to offer free half-day, but parents are not obligated to send their children to Kindergarten at all).

Mr. Buday then moved onto the financial analysis, noting the assumptions for this proposal:

1.      Kindergarten enrollment will remain at current levels

2.      This proposal will require only one additional traditional classroom teacher and classroom and one additional French Immersion teacher and classroom.

3.      Salary assumptions are based on the current labor agreement

4.      Chapter 70 Aid projection is based upon the current formula for the fiscal year 2014.

5.      Tuition loss costs are based on 2013-2014 enrollments

6.      Planning and implementation grants are available but have not been assumed because 1) grants are competitive with a significant needs-based factor 2) the awards period is in the summer

The one-time expense impact:

·         Outfitting two classrooms: $30,000

The ongoing expense impact:

·         Additional teachers (2): $110,000

·         Additional paraprofessionals (2): $32,670

·         Cutting mid-day bus run: (-$40,500)

Ongoing revenue impact:

·         Loss of tuitions: (-$350,106)

·         Chapter 70 Aid increase: $439,002

Budget impact summary for FY15

·         One-time expenses: $30,000

·         Ongoing expenses: $102,170

·         Revenue decrease due to loss of tuition: (-$350,106)

·         Impact on Holliston’s FY15 Local Appropriation- Chapter 70: $482,276

Financial Impact Summary FY16 and beyond

·         Ongoing expenses: $102,170

·         Ongoing tuition revenue loss: (-$350,106)

·         Estimated Chapter 70 Aid increase to town exclusively due to Full-Day K transition: $439,002

New Impact on Holliston FY16+ local appropriation: $13,274

Dr. Jackson closed the presentation with this summary:

1.      Curriculum changes are driving this proposal

2.      Holliston parents are READY for this change

3.      This proposal is a good investment paid for by the state in FY16 and beyond:

·         $482,276 one-time FY15 local investment

·         Minimal local investment FY16+

·         Yields a 4% increase in instructional time over Holliston students’ K-12 educational experience.

This proposal, he stated, is about expectations.  Holliston can no longer deliver what the states require   teachers teach in a half-day program.  

Following the conclusion of the presentation, Chairwoman Erica Plunkett opened the floor for questions by the rest of the School Committee, the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen.  A good discussion followed which is best seen in person (on HCAT streaming) if community members are interested.  A few common themes focused on the research around full-day kindergarten vs. half-day.  All studies, however, were done using old curriculum frameworks and thus not relevant to current students.  In addition, Chapter 70 projections were reviewed numerous times by Mr. Buday with the DESE.  In terms of grant application timing, Holliston did not apply last year because the District was concerned they would not be able to meet grant criteria (i.e.specifically assured funding for FY15), should other Town Officials NOT support this proposal.

A vote was not taken by the School Committee as this proposal will be part of the FY15 budget development process.  An information night was held in November, attended by nearly 100 parents.  Community members are welcome to direct any additional questions to Central Office, Placentino administrators, or any member of the School Committee.

The last items on the agenda were amendments to existing policies (ADC- Tobacco on School Premises; BDG- School Attorney; BIA- School Committee New Member Orientation; DN- Disposal of Supplies; JRA- Student Records and Directory Information; and, KI- Visitors to the Schools).  These changes are being made as the Policy Sub Committee makes its way through the three-year cycle review of all policies.  As well, the School Committee voted in the final 2014-2015 School Calendar.   

The next meeting is January 2, 2014.  Central to that agenda will be a review of the new Educator Evaluation as it pertains to the Superintendent, as well as some policy.  2014 Office Hours will be posted shortly. 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….according to a press release by the DESE, “Massachusetts exceeded the national average and scored among the top performing education systems worldwide in reading, mathematics, and science literacy…[as noted by] results from the 2012 Program for International Student Assessment (PISA). PISA is a triennial international survey designed to assess how well 15 year-olds can apply the knowledge and skills they have learned in school to real-life situations.”

“Massachusetts students performed best in reading literacy, and tied for fourth worldwide, trailing only students from Shanghai, Hong Kong, and Singapore. In mathematics and science literacy, Massachusetts students tied for tenth and seventh, respectively, among the 65 participating countries and education systems.”

Erica S. Plunkett
Chairperson, Holliston School Committee