John Johnson Remembered

Lisa Kocian for Holliston School Committee

by Press Release
May 19, 2018

Hi Holliston!

My name is Lisa Kocian and I’m running for a second term on the Holliston School Committee. I have seen some wonderful changes in the past three years, but I also feel like there is still plenty of work to do. Below, I’m outlining what I’ve accomplished and what I hope to do in a second term.

I hope you will consider voting for me on Tuesday, May 22. Polling is at the High School, from 7:00 a.m. to 8:00 p.m.

This is a long letter so let me give you the “elevator pitch” summary, and then if you want more detail, you can continue reading below. My priorities:

  • Communications – Because of my background in journalism, I always keep communications at the forefront. I believe we have to celebrate the good news, be transparent about the bad, and help parents find any information they seek. I’ve worked hard on this and will continue to do so.
  • Wellness – Our students are better learners if they are physically active, have some balance in their lives, and eat well. In addition, I believe our innovation efforts help boost wellness. I am a staunch advocate for everything that falls into this category.
  • Special Education – I have served as a liaison to Holliston’s SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) the past three years and learned so much about our students as a result. I am committed to advocating for all children to get the support they need to access the curriculum.

 

And now for the details…..

Communications

I’ve chaired the School Committee’s Subcommittee on Communications the past two years. In that role, I’ve 1) spearheaded the monthly newsletter we send out and grown its subscriber base significantly, 2) developed a communications plan to improve outreach to parents and the community, and 3) advocated for the importance of clear communication in everything we do.

My main goal in communications is to involve as many parents and community members as possible, so they know what’s happening in the schools and where to go when they need information. To accomplish that, as part of the communications plan, we’ve tried a few new things, such as “piggybacking” our office hours onto a PTO event. I’m committed to continuing to test new ways to engage parents and other community members. I’m hoping in the future, we can try a table/booth at a community event and possibly hold “office hours” with the superintendent and/or other administrators.

We parents are a busy group, and I think for many of us email is the easiest way to communicate. Still, it’s important to deliver info in a variety of ways so we can reach as many people as possible.

Although I would love to see a redesign of the district website, that would entail money and staff resources we don’t have right now. When we develop budgets, the students’ needs always come first, and I will always advocate for the classroom first.

So for now we have to work with the website we have and find ways to make small but meaningful changes. Because I was a parent new to the district when I was first elected (and my son was entering Kindergarten at Placentino), I had a ton of questions. I sent those to the administration, and Jaime Slaney, the principal of Placentino, answered them all. That information is on the Placentino page as “Kindergarten FAQ’s,” under the “Academics” tab, to help new parents navigate through the start of Kindergarten.

The Communications Subcommittee also worked with the superintendent on his “Communications Protocol,” which is on the district website under the “About” tab. It outlines whom to call when you have questions about, for example, bullying or classroom technology or bus behavior. I’m committed to making it easier for parents to get answers to their questions.

I’m also hoping to create a succinct document about what the School Committee does because I encounter confusion about that all the time. I’d also like our newsletter to address more general topics of interest such as MCAS testing, how we fit into the state budget, and trends in social-emotional education around the country.

Wellness

I realized early in my first term that many of the issues I am particularly passionate about revolve around our children’s health and wellness. I started an initiative to improve the cafeteria food because I think we can provide better nutrition without spending more money. Around the same time I was working on school food, Alex Businger, another mom who had worked on the Task Force on Student Stress, was advocating for the re-launch of a Holliston Wellness Council that could help follow up on the recommendations in the Task Force Report. The superintendent brought the two of us together, and we re-launched the district’s Wellness Council, which we co-chair.

Although this is separate from the School Committee, the council has been an amazing vehicle for bringing together like-minded parents, staff, and students who want to improve nutrition, boost opportunities for physical activity, and build on the district’s efforts to help students be at their social-emotional best.

I know some will see this last piece as a luxury, but let me tell you why I am committed to advocating for health and wellness. Anxiety rates and other signs of mental illness are getting much worse for children. For example, in the last 10 years, the percentage of Holliston middle schoolers who reported that life is very stressful went up from 11.9% to 23.3%; the percentage of middle schoolers who reported that they considered suicide went from 7.5% to 13.9% over the same time period. The upward trend is the same for Holliston High students and consistent with data from other area towns measured by the MetroWest Youth Risk Behavior Survey.

When students struggle with depression, anxiety, or other mental health issues, their learning suffers.

I think the teach-to-the-test culture we’ve created around the country contributes mightily to these issues, and that’s why I wholeheartedly support the efforts around #HollistonInnovates. The PTO and the superintendent are putting us on a solid path to engage students and create a love of learning in them, to counterbalance the pressure-cooker environment that I believe is too prominent. I appreciate that our children need good test scores to get into college, but research shows that more innovative teaching will get them there with a better foundation. I think innovation in teaching supports social-emotional wellness; together they foster in students a love of school and lifelong learning.

I think we will succeed in improving cafeteria food. We just sent out a survey, and we’ve met several times with the administrators in charge of all things food related. We already convinced them to remove some processed food items from the menu, and we are moving in the right direction. The parents working on this are phenomenal.

We are also continuing to push for more physical activity at every school. We’ve tried to champion Laps at Lunch at both Miller and Adams, and we are working on building a dialogue between administrators and the many resources in the community.

While I could have worked on these wellness issues as an individual School Committee member, having a Wellness Council full of staff, parents and students with vast expertise has made it a whole lot more effective.

Special Education

As one of the School Committee’s liaisons to Holliston’s SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council), I regularly attend the group’s board meetings and events. The parent volunteers involved in our SEPAC are incredibly hardworking and nothing short of inspirational. I have learned so much from them, and I have become a much better advocate for children with special needs.

Wrapping it up!

In my first term, I’ve worked on many other issues as well, and I should emphasize that none of us works alone! Everything is about collaboration and the relationships you build, and I think I’ve been lucky in those areas.

The world is changing quickly so education must change too. I hope to continue working on communication, wellness, and special education, while being flexible enough to adapt when things change.

Please email me at lisakocian94@gmail.com if you have any questions or concerns, and please vote on Tuesday, May 22 at the High School! Thank you!

PLEASE FORWARD THIS TO YOUR FRIENDS AND ENCOURAGE THEM TO VOTE!

 

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