Archive 2008 - 2019

April 3, 2014 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

The Public Hearing on the FY15 Budget opened and closed with no one in attendance.

The meeting began with fun news and congratulations to High School Principal Nicole Bottomley and her husband on the birth of their daughter, Madison May.  We welcome Madison to the HPS family!  Dr Jackson also congratulated Holliston’s five Special Olympics athletes from each one of the schools to the games Friday at the Medway Middle School.  Holliston will host these games next year!

Last, Dr. Jackson noted that three finalists have been selected as candidates for the Placentino School Principal, as Mrs. Weene retires this summer.  Site visits will begin next week and all community members are welcome to come meet them.   All times are from 4-5 and being held in the Placentino library.

1.      Friday, April 11- Kelly Rogers (K-5Math and Science Curriculum Coordinator in Littleton)

2.      Monday, April 14- Fred Randall (Director of Wakefield Academy)

3.      Tuesday, April 15- Susan Gleason (Assistant Principal of Placentino School)

Dr. Ahern noted that one of the PARCC Field tests had been successfully completed.  A demonstration is being arranged for a later School Committee meeting.

First on the agenda, Dr. Jackson announced the appointment of the new Director of Student Services.  The search came down to three finalists and after a comprehensive interviews and reviews, staff feedback, and reference checks, the Superintendent recommended Margaret (Meg) Camire as the next Director.  Mrs. Camire, currently the Interim Director with the leaving of Dr. Einsel, came before the Committee with a brief statement and the Committee voted in the affirmative.  On behalf of the entire School Committee, congratulations to Meg and welcome!

The Committee then voted in another request for a one-year leave of absence for Placentino Guidance Counselor Heather Dalton, as she plans to accompany her husband on a one-year assignment overseas.  The Committee also voted in a one-year leave of absence for Katherine Stackpole, HS Social Studies teachers, as she pursues graduate studies overseas that are directly related to the HS Social Studies curriculum.  

With regard to the FY15 Budget process, the School Committee presented their FY15 budget to the Finance Committee on Tuesday, March 25 (This presentation can be found on the District website- and replayed on HCAT-  

The agenda for this presentation covered a comprehensive review of the external data regarding school performance and spending; reviewed the School Committee’s voted FY15 budget; reviewed projected class sizes for FY15; and discussed possible next steps (which included proposals to increase Chapter 70 aid by the minimum “guaranteed” by the State- $64,200- AND to exempt SPED Tuition increases- $446,423- from the gap, essentially closing the gap and leaving -$35,407 between the Fin Com recommended guideline and the School Committee voted budget .  After a thorough question and answer session by the Fin Com members present, the School Committee committed to following-up with additional data requests.  This information was presented by Dr. Jackson and included:

1.      Comparable Cost per Pupil Information for ALL reportable areas of School Committee expenditures

2.      Provide Oct. 13 Enrollment Data

3.      Provide additional detail regarding anticipated FY15 revenues from all sources

4.      Provide history of SPED Tuition costs and Circuit Breaker revenues

5.      Provide projections for future SPED Tuition costs (not provided due to their volatile and unpredictable nature; instead, Dr. Jackson provided age-out data on out-of-district placements)

6.      Clarification around the role of Town Meeting in the Collective Bargaining process.

Also under FY15 Dr. Jackson announced two programmatic changes (with NO budget implications).  First, Holliston High School will be hosting a student exchange program for next year.  HHS will be hosting 2-4 students from China (two are confirmed) through the Cambridge Institute for International Education.  These students will be here from August-June and living with host families (more to come on applying).  Families will receive a stipend of $500/month and the District will be receiving tuition to offset the costs of educating these students.  Holliston joins Natick and Medfield in this program and students must meet language and educational requirements.  Any remediation or special services will be borne by the Cambridge Institute.  If the students wish to receive a diploma form HHS they must pass MCAS in the fall.  On behalf of the School Committee, we are very excited about this opportunity!

Dr. Jackson also announced a programming change to Montessori Kindergarten for next fall.  Holliston has 29 students seeking 14 seats.  The past few years, the “Get Well plan” for a stabilized and revitalized Montessori program seems to have worked.  The program has met specific benchmarks and enrollment, in response to waning interest when Dr. Jackson began in Holliston.  The last three years have seen a waitlist; there has been a lottery and last year, the wait list was ten students.  However, the Administration and the School Committee did not believe there was enough data to change the program, particularly when having to add a new teacher would have impacted the budget and it was not determined if increased interest was consistent or a blip.

Having more history now, the HPS will be adding a hybrid Montessori class (Kindergartners and 1st grade). This creative solution meets two criteria:

1.      There is no impact on the budget

2.      The change could be easily undone if enrollment interest is an anomaly and not a trend.

This new K-1 class will include 12 new K students and eight students from the waiting list last year who were placed in the Traditional program (those families contacted have indicated they will move their student).  The remaining four students for 1st grade, to bring the class up to the 24 student enrollment benchmark goal will be filled with School Choice students.  Because the current first grade will be decreasing with the movement of these current Traditional students, the intention would be to take a sitting First grade teacher and train this individual in Montessori in order to fill the position without a reduction in force or a new hire. Dr. Jackson and Principal Weene are delighted to be able to offer this opportunity and the School Committee echoed their sentiment.

The final and major portion of the meeting was Dr. Jackson’s presentation to the Committee and the Community around 2013-2014 District-wide SMARTer Goals and accomplishments to date.  This was a 25 page document which can be found on the District website.  It is the basis of the Superintendent Evaluation under the new Educator Evaluation system mandated by the state which Holliston is implementing this year.  

As Dr. Jackson noted, given that this evaluation must be completed by annual Town Meeting in May, the long-term nature of the goals and the delay in receiving MCAS results (not available until the fall 2014), the timing makes the evaluating the District’s success in meeting an essential student learning goal in May 2014 virtually impossible.  Dr. Jackson was also quick to note that the accomplishments and achievements are the result of the hard work of hundreds of dedicated employees of the Holliston Public Schools, not just one person.

All interested community members are urged to review this information, as they pertain to each individual school.  These goals were developed by the Senior Administrative Team and were approved by the School Committee.  Sub-categories are in parentheses following each goal and the Administrative Team will turn their attention following this presentation to goals for the 2014-2015 School Year, as data becomes available and with an eye towards always improving the Holliston Public Schools.

SMARTer Goals:

1.      Effectively implement the Holliston Educator Evaluation System for all teachers and administrators I the HPS (Educator Evaluation).- Key actions are on schedule; key benchmarks are ongoing and expected to be completed on time.

2.      Improve the safety of students and staff, as perceived by students, parents, and staff, by implementing a new Intruder Response Protocol in the HPS (School Safety)- Key actions are on schedule; key benchmarks are ongoing and expected to be completed on time.

3.      Expand the strategic, age-appropriate use of technology as an instructional and assessment tool (Technology Integration)- Three of the four key actions have either been completed or will be successfully completed by the end of the year, the fourth has not yet been accomplished; key benchmarks are ongoing and expected to be completed on time.

4.      Expand the impact on student learning of our Professional Learning Communities by developing the assessment literacy skills of our teachers and increasing the collective practice of using relevant student data to make individual and group decisions about adjusting practice with the goal of improving student performance (Community/Culture)- Key actions are on schedule; key benchmarks are ongoing and expected to be completed on time.

5.      Attain Student Growth Percentiles (SGP) scores greater than the state average in 10 out of 12 grade-level ELA and Math scores for all students and in 10 out of 12 grade-level scores for students designated as High Needs I the May 2014 test (Success for All)- Key actions have been completed; two of the three benchmarks are completed, the third is ongoing through the end of the school year.

6.      Develop the essential 21st Century Skills of critical thinking, creativity, communication, and collaboration in our students by increasing the use of extended projects that require the use of two or more the 21st Century Skills in order to be successfully completed (21st Century Skills)- Key actions are on time; key benchmarks are ongoing and scheduled to be completed on time.

Items of information in the meeting included the TEC Newsletter and a report from TEC on Holliston’s Cooperative Purchasing Savings Analysis.

The next meeting is April 17, 2014.  Central to that agenda will be: establishing the last day of school; Policy; and FY15 Budget discussions. Office Hours are on the website (, but the next one is Tuesday, April 22, 7-8 pm at Casey’s Crossing.  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 State Aid to Holliston is lower in 2014 than 2003? The growth rate for State Aid is -.20% since 2003. Did you also know that School Appropriation growth (2.25%)  has been less than the rate of inflation (2.29%)? Did you also know that Holliston has LOWER cost per pupil spending than more than HALF all Massachusetts cities and towns AND Holliston’s cost per pupil is lower than the State average?  Lastly, did you know that Holliston is in the bottom THIRD or BETTER in cost per pupil spending on Administration, Materials, Equipment and Technology, Operations and Maintenance, and Total Cost Per Pupil?