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Civics Sunday: Board and Committee Interviews; School Committee Part 2

by Yvette Cain
June 23, 2019

According to our recent survey, readers voiced interest in a more personal look at our town government boards and committees.  Following the creation of a set of questions, we are interviewing a member of elected committees and boards and sharing their answers with you. 

According to our recent survey, readers voiced interest in a more personal look at our town government boards and committees.  Following the creation of a set of questions, we are interviewing a member of elected committees and boards and sharing their answers with you. 

Last week we brought you answers to 5 of the 6 questions we posed.  Because of the detailed nature of Ms Raffi’s answers to our interview questions, we split our interview into two parts. 

Link to Part I:  http://hollistonreporter.com/article/15397/civics-sunday-board-and-committee-interviews.html

How does the School Committee make informed decisions that are the best for our community?  Please tell us of one recent decision made by School Committee as an example. 

“First,” Raffi said, “we hope we reflect our community. We have a partnership with the administrators.  Yes, we sign [Dr. Jackson’s] contract and his evaluation, but we are not in the classroom, so we must have a partnership.  There has to be respect and trust.”  Raffi said that the Committee tries to do the best for our community and our kids. “ After all, we are also taxpayers. We could never elevate the schools at the expense of the rest of the town.”

Raffii selected the recent School Committee decision concerning changing the school start times as an example of a decision made that was best for our community.  Beginning in 2014, results from the Youth Risk Behavior Survey revealed that Holliston Students were reporting feeling high levels of stress that were causing negative impacts on their health and academic performance.  The Superintendent developed a Task Force based upon this rising student stress trend. 

The Task Force (2015), charged with studying the issue of student stress and issuing a series of recommendations to address the growing problem, included all constituents:  parents, students, social workers, School Committee members, health workers, and others.  Following dozens of meetings, the group’s report made recommendations to address student stress.  Prominent among recommendations, were these two, both under the heading “School Structure”: to look at changing school start times, and to create movement breaks in the middle school schedule.  At this point public feedback and involvement were encouraged.  Link to complete June 2016 report: https://docs.google.com/document/d/1yP39LHjFAZXWvAlo1k4kJ0OhsuFfQNzayEYeh8mYEx0/edit

“A sub-committee of the School Committee was formed [2016] to examine the school start time recommendations.  At a SC meeting in January, 2017, Dr. Chris Landrigan, research director of the sleep and safety program at Boston Children’s Hospital, presented research on the optimal sleep cycles of teens and specific recommendations to better align the start times of middle and high school to the optimal sleep cycle.” During the Annual Conference of the MA Association of School Committees, Holliston’s SC was able to hear from Newton, Ashland, Sharon, and other communities about their response to the start time change.  Athletic directors from the Tri-Valley League attended; business directors came as well. A variety of implementation methods were presented.  Here is the website for the Start Time Subcommittee: http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/home/school-committee/school-start-time-subcommittee

Following a community survey, information was gathered, synthesized, and presented in detail concerning the impact of such a change on the budget, family life, and other possible affected areas.  https://drive.google.com/file/d/1jUIvB1UATXJ7HchMRdtLpmtoFiVcbXSN/view

“A proposed change to the schedule that included putting Miller School and Placentino on the same schedule was not feasible. Traffic would be too complex and unsafe.”

Yet another scenario had no budget impact:  the High and Middle Schools would begin 40 minutes later, Miller would begin 40 minutes earlier, and Placentino would remain the same.  Studies were made of student wait times for buses, times between bus stops, and the impact on the United Arts programs in the elementary schools.  Raffi said, “It was determined that this was a win-win situation for all.  It was the best for the majority of the students.  Knowing that for working parents, this might be a struggle, but the job of the district is to educate our children…Yes, there will be an impact, but we [SC} saw it as an opportunity to work with public and other resources.  We have shared with everyone news of our change.”

“The School Committee voted on May 16th, while all members of the sub-committee on school time change were still on the Committee.  We had a lot of discussion and dialogue before voting, and we gave the community 15 months to make their personal plans,” said Raffi. 

Coming up:  Next Sunday we will interview another board or committee chair, using the same set of 6 questions as used for the School Committee. 

 

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