Archive 2008 - 2019

May 1, 2014 School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett

The School Committee meeting opened with general comments from Dr. Jackson and Dr. Ahern.  Dr. Jackson share with the Committee that Chief John Moore presented Mrs. Galeaz-Weber and Mrs. Plunkett public safety awards for their focus and commitment to school safety.  As well, Dr. Jackson noted that Chief Moore had been appointed to a statewide council on school safety and noted that Holliston is very lucky to have two recognized Public Safety officials working at the state level.  Thanks to both Chief Moore and Chief Cassidy.

Next, Dr. Jackson read an announcement regarding the Placentino Principal search.  In short, none of the very qualified three finalists were the right choice for appointment.  Therefore, Dr. Jackson is suspending the search, will re-open it again early next school year, with a new Screening Committee.  He thanked the current committee and stated that a posting for an Interim Principal will be listed next week and he expects that individual to be on board prior to Mrs. Weene’s departure.  Typically, an interim is a recently retired administrator, who can manage transitions and keep the school moving forward.

Dr. Ahern offered congratulations to 5th grader, Lindsey Bihuniak, who was one of 12 finalists for her submission of an anti-tobacco poster (there were 3400 entries!).

First on the agenda, Dr. Ahern gave a PARCC Assessment demonstration and shared some of her initial reflections on the pilot.  As Dr. Ahern shared, the Partnership for Assessment for College and Careers (PARCC) has been developing a suite of assessment tools that measure the Common Core State Standards.  The components propose to include:

·         Performance-based assessments (PBA) in ELA and Math, designed to be delivered 75% of the way through instruction

·         End-of-Year (EOY) assessments in ELA and Math, designed to be delivered 90% of the way through instruction

·         Speaking and listening in ELA

·         EOY high school assessments

·         Assessments designed for delivery via online devices

Dr. Ahern then demonstrated sample items from the ELA performance-based assessments and EOY Math assessments.  She also reviewed online tools available to students (text highlighters, text magnifiers, protractor, ruler, calculator).    Please tune into HCAT if you are interested in seeing the actual demonstration.

Under Old Business, discussion and a vote centered around the FY15 budget.  The Finance Committee voted April 8th to reject the School Committee’s budget of $30,394,961 (a 2.8% increase over last year’s appropriation) and instead, voted their guideline of 29,999,741 (a 1.5% increase).  This leaves a gap of $385,220.

In commenting on the FY15Budget, Dr. Jackson noted there are still some moving parts (School Choice seats, final budget number from the state) that may leave opportunities to make adjustments to a voted budget.  But right now, at this point in time, it is important for the School Committee to have a budget that Town Meeting will appropriate, at the level that the Finance Committee has brought forward of 1.5%.   After emotional comments by students and community members, and equally emotional responses from School Committee members, Ian Kelly noted that while the School Committee will take responsibility for its decisions, there needs to be a broader conversation by the entire community with regard to the services the town provides.  Mr. Kelly urged the community to engage in this conversation because the decisions made around next year’s budget reflect the revenue issues in Holliston and the limitations the Schools, and other departments, face as the Finance Committee and the Board of Selectmen consider Holliston’s future.

The Committee then discussed a revised request for a scoreboard at Damigella Field.  Representatives of HYBSA wanted to propose a slight revision to the scoreboard previously approved by the Committee.  This is due to the generous offer by the Damigella family and Holliston Oil to fund the scoreboard at Damigella field.  HYBSA would like to recognize this donation by placing Holliston Oil on the bottom.  The School Committee is very careful about sponsorship naming, and that’s why the matter came back before the Committee for another vote in response to the scoreboard amendment.  In accordance with other sponsorship decisions at other fields, the Committee voted to have it read Damigella Field on the top, Holliston Oil and Holliston Panthers at the bottom (to avoid having the field called Holliston Oil Field).

Next, the School Committee listened to a presentation by Liana Morgens, to launch a new private school opening in Holliston (called The Sherborn Academy), in accordance with Mass General Laws c.76, .1.  While the standards are very broad and don’t provide a lot of direction, School Committee approval is primarily for purposed of Mass. compulsory school attendance laws for any Holliston students who might attend.  After reviewing the materials proposed, most of which Dr. Jackson noted, are very much the same as any public school might use (some of which Holliston does), he said he wasn’t certain the materials matched Dr. Morgens’ vision for the school as an institution for gifted and accelerated learners and that there was some sort of misalignment.  Dr. Jackson’s recommendation, after the SC received the sense of the plan, was to take the request under advisement and contact School Committee Counsel to review the options open to the Committee, given some mixed messages by the Department of Education.  This issue will be back on the agenda at the next meeting.

Business Manager Keith Buday then updated the Committee on School Choice and presented his first seat request for the 2014-2015 year.  Holliston has had 92 requests for seats to date.  This is still a very strong number, indicating how families in other communities view Holliston. His proposal adds a total of 47.5 FTEs (counting Kindergarten as .5), but does not include Traditional K as a final determination of the number of classroom has not been established yet.  Between School Choice graduates and students moving from K to 1st grade, the net potential increase is 36.0 FTEs.  Many of the applicants are tied to potential siblings, so we will not fill all these seats, in addition to families who “shop” but don’t’ ultimately “buy.” Holliston’s fill rate is less than 50%.  At the end of the discussion, the Committee voted to open the following:

5 half-day FI Kindergarten seats

5 K-1 Montessori seats (1st grade, new class)

1 1st grade seat

2 2nd grade seats

1 2nd grade FI seat

5 3rd grade seats

6 4th grade seats

5 5th grade seats

8 6th grade seats

4 8th grade seats

8 “generic” HHS seats- the classes are much less grade-dependent

Next, Dr. Jackson presented a proposal for HPS Goal Setting Process.  As he stated, since 2005, a year after his arrival, Holliston has been well served by using it is Strategic Plan as its guiding document.  However, in 2013-2014, the Mass Educator Evaluation System has instituted a whoe new layer to the goal setting process which has alternately confused and contradicted the School Improvement Plan process.  Dr. Jackson offered the following recommendations to address and adjust the process:

1. In September 2014, convene a committee to develop the 2015-2020 Strategic Plan.  This Plan should be significantly different from its predecessor in its focus on broad goal areas and “big ideas” that dirve the District forward (concepts like Technology, Affordability, and Curriculum and Instruction).  This would leave the specifics on how to advance the District out of the Strategic Plan and into the annual goal-setting process.

2. Replace the current School Improvement Process with school-based development of annual School-wide Improvement and Student Learning Goals.

3. Maintain current structure of mid-year check-in from each school, but report would be on progress against achieving the school’s progress against achieving their Improvement and Student Learning Goals (please see flow chart on District website for specifics on how all these tie together.  Decisions are never made in a vacuum).

The Committee voted to approve this new goal-setting process.

Lastly, the Superintendent Evaluation Sub Committee member, Carol Emmons, read the Superintendent’s evaluation.  This is always done in public session, as required by law and policy, as awkward as it is.  The opening paragraph is as follows:

In accordance with the new Educator Evaluation system mandated by the state of Massachusetts, the Holliston School Committee offers this annual evaluation of and for Dr. Bradford Jackson.  The School Committee notes, for the record, that this instrument is substantially different in scope and scoring than the evaluation tool developed by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees and previously utilized by the Holliston School Committee.  Central to this new Educator Evaluation is a comprehensive rubric that is designed to serve as a guide to help educators and evaluators develop a consistent, shared understanding of what proficient performance looks like in practice.  Here, in Holliston, the School Committee felt it was important to focus on a strategic subset of the 42 elements, and has selected ten (10) priority elements that will serve as the main areas where the Superintendent’s performance will be evaluated.  Demonstrating proficiency in these ten (10) key elements is difficult, and might, in some cases require the Superintendent to acquire new skills, revise old beliefs, or adopt new methods.  Holliston’s continued commitment to Professional Development will remain a key component to the success of our implementation efforts of the new Massachusetts Education Evaluation System.  Additionally, please note that this year is Phase One of a multi-year Evaluation system. 

The Holliston School Committee is pleased to report that Dr. Brad Jackson received the rating of Proficient on his annual evaluation.  They are also glad to note that on several of the elements, Dr. Jackson is very close to an Exemplary rating.  We would expect that continuing to meet the benchmarks outlined in the District-wide SMARTer goals document would bring him closer to this higher ranking.”

The ending paragraph is as follows:

Holliston has had much to celebrate this year.  Dr. Jackson has continued to focus on the mission of excellence, despite the energy and time being subsumed by the unfunded mandates placed on all our educators.  While Dr. Jackson will be the first to note that he is not responsible for the accomplishments of the District, he is the leader.  Some of the highlights this year include: the Boston Magazine rating of the Holliston Public Schools; the 2013 NELL award to Dr. Jackson; Early Care and Education Commissioner Tom Weber’s visit to Placentino; an immensely successful NEASC visit and exemplary accreditation report; the adoption of District SMARTer Goals; the priority elements for educators;  a successful PARCC field test; Foreign Language Lab updates; HPS on Facebook and Twitter; Math textbooks with interactive software; and detailed reports to the community on District finances.  The School Committee congratulates Dr. Jackson on a job well done in this very challenging year and looks forward to collaborating with him, the administrative team, faculty, and staff as Holliston educates its students in and for the 21st century.

Dr. Jackson thanked the Committee for the evaluation which included suggestions for areas of improvement.  He, as always, recognized that this is a team effort and the accomplishments are the work of everyone in the Holliston Public Schools, all 500 who work for the education and safety of Holliston’s students.

The next meeting is May 15, 2014.  Central to that agenda will be: Policy; appoint new ACCEPT and TEC members; a proposed Peru trip for 2015; fee structures; School Choice (part 2); and The Sherborn Academy discussion.

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

Erica S. Plunkett 

Chairperson, Holliston School Committee