School Committee Meets

Chair Stacey Raffi called the School Committee (SC) meeting to order promptly at 7:00 PM.  Minutes from the Feb. 6 meeting were approved, and individual member comments followed. 

School Committee member Joan Shaughnessy

During School Committee member comments, Joan Shaughnessy reported that she had received some feedback from parents about the condition of the HHS Field House.  She explained the logistics of public use and cleaning crew schedules. 

Student Representative Aine Powers (in photo above) said that overall a majority of students are respectful of the building.  She called to the forefront the “Broken Windows Theory.” Explaining this theory, Powers said that when something is dirty, people don’t treat it with respect.  She made several suggestions for the Committee members to consider:

  • Painting murals in the Field House;
  • Increasing the number of trash cans and painting these;
  • Using the Friday advisory period to reinforce accountability;
  • Trying a sophomore service project whereby students could do some cleaning;
  • Approaching the Student Council for a possible poster campaign.

Following these suggestions, Dr. Jackson said he would share them with the High School administrators and examine the cleaning cycles.  “It’s an opportunity to improve collective responsibility,” Jackson said.

Chair Raffi rearranged the agenda to allow for Miller School teacher Ms. Peters’ Grade 5 students to present their request to the Committee early in the evening.  Students requested the change from a celebration of Columbus Day to a celebration of Columbus Day/Indigenous People’s Day. 

Each student stood before the Committee and spoke to a point that explicated the need for the change, beginning by asking the question, “Why should we celebrate the Indigenous people rather than Christopher Columbus?”  Through the organized and clearly delivered questions and researched answers, differences between the present and proposed celebration became obvious.  They concluded with their request to the Committee, “We want the holiday to change…and the school calendar to transition to Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day.

Dr. David Keim was present to support the student group and their efforts to reach their goal.   A question and answer period followed with members of the School Committee commending the students’ work. 

Through a roll call vote of SC members, the change from Columbus Day to Columbus/Indigenous People’s Day beginning with the 2020 School Calendar was approved unanimously.

Dr. Sarah Benes, Consultant, (in photo above left) and Ms Erin Squires Wellness Curriculum Specialist and Physical Education teacher (in photo right), presented a Wellness Review Update to Committee members and administrators.  Dr. Benes spoke about the process that used nationally recognized tools and compared present Holliston Public Schools Physical Education and Health Education to National Standards of Physical and Health Education.

Through a series of meetings, interviews, observations, and reviews of curriculum, Dr. Benes presented a series of recommendations.  These were clustered in the areas of Staffing, Space, Time, Value, and looked specifically at Health Education and SEL.  Among the updates included in the presentation were the following actions:

  • SEL teams have been created at each school. 
  • Gathering data on SEL curriculum and implementation
  • Articulating SEL in PE
  • Revising health education curriculum grades 5-10
  • Aligning HE curriculum with SEL
  • Reviewing HE Curriculum from anti-bias lens
  • Ensuring alignment with MWAHS priority areas
  • Well letters (monthly letters to all staff)
  • Book clubs
  • Planning wellness events for staff

Next steps include continuing the work and presenting another update to the School Committee. 

In Old Business, Brad Jackson, Superintendent, reported that information on Extended Day and YMCA afterschool programming went out to parents on February 14, as had been planned. 

Additionally, Jackson provided an update on School Start Times Implementation concerning a study of the impact of this change on students.  He emphasized two points:  existing data will be utilized, and the assessment of the impact will be to students only. 

Leading members into New Business, member Anne Louise Hanstad, as Chair of the Budget Subcommittee, reviewed the Subcommittee’s Recommended FY21 Budget.  The Subcommittee recommended supporting Dr. Jackson’s proposed FY21 Budget of $36,390,307 (a 4.13% increase over FY20 Budget) with the following adjustments:

  1. Add $208K to reduce tuition for full-day kindergarten (year 1 of 3-year plan to eliminate tuition altogether)
  2. Consider adjusting HR Director to an HR Manager (reduces cost by $15K)
  3. Recommend no reductions, but include key priorities.

These adjustments bring the total FY21 SC Budget to $36,598,807, an increase of 4.73% over FY20 budget.

Following the presentation, Shaughnessy asked that the School Committee members reconsider fully funding all-day Kindergarten in the FY21 budget so as to bring Holliston in line with the 300+ communities in MA that offer free all-day Kindergarten.  Chair Raffi asked that members review the Sub-Committee’s adjusted FY21 Budget and bring their thoughts to next week’s meeting when a vote will be taken.

Dr. Jackson presented the planning and reporting requirements for the Student Opportunity Act (SOA).  The SOA, signed into law recently, allocates state financial support for school districts in MA with priority to the most needy.  All school districts are guaranteed a minimum annual increase of Chapter 70 aid of $30 per student.  Jackson briefly reviewed the reporting requirements that must be submitted by April 1, 2020.  As the hour was past 10:00 PM, the School Committee will use next week’s meeting for comments and feedback and a vote on the plan. 

Five warrants were approved prior to adjournment at 10:15 PM.  The School Committee’s next meeting is March 5, 7:00 PM at the HHS Library.  The public is welcome.

Yvette Cain

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