School Committee Discusses Proposed 2021 Budget

Chair Stacey Raffi opened the meeting at 7:01 PM, and the School Committee packed their 2 hours and 14 minute meeting with a variety of agenda items, lots of discussion, and many plans.  Raffi suggested they leave the February 27 meeting minutes for approval at their next scheduled meeting on March 19.

Student representatives shared that spring sports registration closes Friday, March 6, with the season beginning on March 16.  The Robotics team placed first and the Senior Showcase is March 11 with $10 tickets available at the door.  Adams School 8th graders have been touring the high school with HHS partners.

School Committee members mentioned some past and upcoming events:  the Tri-Board (Select Board, School Committee and FinCom) met for the purpose of increasing communication and collaboration among the three entities and to work as a team for the town, especially in their desire to develop a strategic plan for Holliston. 

Thanks were given to faculty and students for a successful Math Night at Miller School; the school musical, “Shreck” will be presented April 3-5; and a fundraiser for the Class of 2020 at Christ the King Church on Thursday, March 12, still has tickets available. 

Raffi thanked all who attended the Tri-Board meeting, and echoed the need to “push for a plan that the town can use for an anchor, a vision.”  She also thanked HCAT for recording this meeting.  Congratulations were extended to Holliston’s “Destination Imagination” group, which fielded 25 teams in the Region 7 Tournament. 

Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson thanked Chief Michael Cassidy (HFD) for attending as well as for partnering with him, Jeff Ritter, Town Administrator, and Scott Moles, Health Director, in receiving information and brainstorming plans focusing on the COVID-19 virus. They will be meeting weekly until the need no longer exists. 

Jackson reviewed information concerning school field trips, specifically a trip to Montreal in late June and another to Washington, D.C. in late June that is not a school-sponsored trip.  Following the MA Dept. of Public Health advisory, Jackson advises all to follow personal sanitary precautions and will send an e-mail to parents to this effect.  He has also arranged for school nurses in Placentino and Miller Schools to visit each classroom in those buildings to present a 10-minute information session about cough and wash etiquette.  

Keith Buday, Business Manager, broadcast the passing on February 28, 2020, of former Superintendent of Holliston Public School, Jack Drinkwater, in Wolfeboro, N.H. 

Keith Buday, Business Manager, broadcast the passing on February 28, 2020, of former Superintendent of Holliston Public School, Jack Drinkwater, in Wolfeboro, N.H. 

 Lisa Taylor, of the Holliston Music and Arts Parents Association, announced during Public Comments, that the HMAPA has begun its “Mrs. Field’s Cookies and Tasty Treats” fundraiser—with orders due by March 13.

Dr. Jackson updated the SC on the search for a Director of Student Support Services.  Presently a Search Committee has been assembled, co-chaired by Peter Botelho, Assistant Superintendent, and Nicole Bottomley, HHS Principal.  The posting for this position begins on March 6, with a March 27 deadline for applications.  Interviews will be held from April 8-17, and Dr. Jackson will make his recommendation to the SC at the May 22 meeting.  It is hoped that the new Director will begin on July 1.  Raffi appointed Lisa Kocian and Cynthia Listewnick to the Search Committee.

Jackson updated the SC on progress toward the new School Start Times: 

  • With adequate parents voicing interest, the YMCA will operate a program for Miller and Placentino students beginning with the new school year.  Information will be posted on “Backpack Express”;
  • Progress is being made toward developing an impact study to determine a baseline concerning student sleep habits.  Screening tools will include a subset of “Spence Student Anxiety Parent Scale,” and “The Mood and Feelings Questionnaire.”  The Baseline test will be administered in March 2020.

The School Committee heard and voted to approve Dr. Jackson’s recommended disbursal of funds as a result of the Student Opportunity Act.  The estimated funds, i.e. $81,180, will be applied to the implementation of a new Fountas and Pinnell Literacy Program for the elementary grades 1-5. 

Much discussion ensued during Budget Sub-Committee Chair Anne Louise Hanstad’s presentation of the proposed FY21 budget.  Tonight’s presentation included scenario Hanstad had created to prompt discussion of last week’s suggestion that a full-day Kindergarten be fully funded.  As members voiced various points of view, they maintained the belief that Holliston should be among the 300+ communities in MA offering tuition-free Kindergarten.  They also noted that the MA Legislature is presently discussing possible plans for mandatory pre-schools.

When a vote was taken , the Sub-Committee’s proposed budget that added an initiative to Dr. Jackson’s recommended FY21 Budget passed:  5 support, 1 absent and 1 abstention.  That one initiative is $208,500 for Year 1 of a 3-year phase-in plan to fund all-day Kindergarten. 

Whereas Jackson recommended FY21 Budget = $36,390,307 (an increase of 4.13% over FY20), the Sub-Committee’s recommendation is $36,598,807 (4.73% over FY20).  The SC unanimously voted to approve Dr. Jackson’s capital expense request of $1,443,044.  The School Committee will present is proposed budget to the Finance Committee on March 17.

(For more information on the Proposed FY Budget: Proposed FY2021 Budget)

Two warrants were approved, and the newsletter was approved unanimously after some corrections, additions, and conversation. 

The townwide response to the COVID-19 virus will be presented at a Select Board meeting on March 11, at 6:30 PM, that will include relevant town personnel.  Raffi adjourned the meeting at 9:15PM during which time an Executive Session would begin. 

The School Committee’s next meeting is Thursday, March 19, at 7:00 PM.

Yvette Cain

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