Marathon Meeting for the School Committee

The School Committee met for an Executive meeting both before and after a regular session, logging in a marathon of over 5 hours on Thursday evening.

Prior to opening the regular session, Chair Stacey Raffi read the remote participation meeting policy, and called the meeting to order at 7:21 PM.   Executive meeting prior was dedicated to collective bargaining for the Holliston Federation of Teachers Unit. 

The group approved minutes for the following meetings:  April 16 (regular and executive sessions) and April 23 (special session).  These will be available on the town’s website.

Student representative Mary DeVoe thanked those responsible, namely Michelle Hastings, Friends of the Class of 2020, and the PTO, for making the 2020 graduates’ yard signs possible.  Additionally, she read a letter from the Student Advisory Board addressed to HHS Principal Nicole Bottomley advocating for a June 7 in-person “Drive By” in conjunction with a July 25 in person graduation. Ultimately, the letter read, “Whatever is the safest.” 

Dr. Brad Jackson, Superintendent of Schools, reported that he had submitted a Massachusetts School Building Authority Statement of Interest to the Select Board and was awaiting their vote.

In “Old Business,” Jackson, had no comments concerning the School Start Times Implementation; a Committee member requested an update.  Jackson replied that the administration has been focused on the remote learning plan, and that by mid-August he may have a better idea of the fall.   Committee member Joan Shaughnessy requested a weekly update for parents of information as it becomes available. 

Jackson replied, “Planning is ongoing.  We don’t know the status of the virus until that time…August 15…there is a high level of uncertainty we have to live with.  It is not for a lack of planning.”  Chair Raffi supported a suggestion by Shaughnessy to form a dedicated Task Force to brainstorm ideas for ways the opening of the school year might happen. 

In a COVID-19 School Closure update, Dr. Jackson reported data concerning student participation in remote learning.  Statistics exceed last week’s collected data of participation in online calls, classes, and quantity of work submitted. 

The MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Schools’ recent guidelines for remote learning recommended that students dedicate at least 3 hours to core work per day.  Data from the district of Holliston suggests that its student time is “in the ballpark,” remarked Assistant Superintendent Peter Botelho.  Botelho presented information about the work that has been done to analyze the remote learning lessons and the content standards to assess content that has been addressed and that which has not.  Botelho said that to maximize learning, lessons cover “the most essential content,” and that this will be very useful information for next year’s teachers.

The SC voted, following information presented by budget sub-committee chair, Anne Louise Hanstad, to return Spring sports fees to parents as follows:  all Senior Spring sports fees and all Adams Middle School Spring sports fees to be refunded; Spring sports fees from students in grades 9, 10, and 11 may be used in full to roll to next year or refunded (parents of underclass students will be contacted concerning their choice). 

The FY 21 Budget preparation, due to collective bargaining discussions, has presently not changed from that presented March 12 of a 2.72% increase over FY 20 Budget.

In new business, the School Committee voted 5-2 (Raffi and Shaughnessy cast dissenting votes) to approve the appointment of Kelly Camp to the position of Director of Student Services, effective July 1, 2020. 

Business Manager Keith Buday reported that HPS had 52 requests for School Choice seats for 2020-21.  The SC voted to approve Buday’s recommendation to accept 25 students to fill available classroom seats.  Buday also recommended that the HPS return $65,434 to the town to close out accounts of 4 projects.

Warrants signed by Chair Raffi this week included two school bills for $400,098.09 and $49,317.09, and one cafeteria bill for $2,679.91.

The School Committee adjourned at 10:36PM to meet again in Executive Session. 

It will meet again on May 14, at 7PM, to discuss recommendations for returning student fees (not Spring sports fees), changes to the 2020-21 School Calendar, a COVID-19 update, a School Start Times update, and an update from the Select Board.  The meeting will be remote participation only.  

Yvette Cain

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