School Committee Meets with Much on Its Plate

Chair Stacey Raffi called the remote participation School Committee to order shortly after 7 PM, telling the public that agenda items would be presented out of order to accommodate some members’ dual-meeting attendance.  She additionally called for everyone to “take a moment to take a deep breath,” to remember more mindfully “why we’re here…the world is in turmoil, and we’re in our community because we want to be here.”

Guest Meg Camire, Student Service Director, spoke to plans related to reopening the Extended School Year (ESY) program.  An update was sent to parents last week based upon guidance as of June 1.  Approximately 200 students qualify for ESY, planned for July 6-August 6. The ESY will serve the majority of students remotely and a small number of students in person.  Set criteria determine whether students would be served remotely or in person.  Camire was not hopeful of having transport for the in-person services.  Parents should be notified of more details within the next two weeks.

Various health regulations/guidelines must be followed in ESY.  Some include screening of staff and students, and daily questions on arrival through a single point of entry.   Guidelines will determine ratios of students to classroom space, sharing of materials, and disinfectant procedures.  Kelly Camp, newly hired Student Service Director (Meg Camire leaves on July 1 to a position in her home-town school system) is presently planning with Camire and others.  All involved are “hopeful for safely servicing students.”

Business Manager Keith Buday next provided guidelines for tonight’s public comments.  Remote callers, not visible but audible to the public, could speak for 3 minutes each.  Four members of the community phoned in: 

  • Frank Sobchak’s comment concerned the needs of students that were not being met by remote learning lessons;
  • John Winchenback thanked the School Committee for reaching out and including parents in the planning process for the fall, mentioning that academics should be the top priority in all planning;
  • Gemma Sampas, recent 2020 graduate, thanked teacher Chrissy Chesna, and spoke to the lack of black teachers and authors in her Holliston education as well as having no teaching about American slavery.  She provided some suggestions for “confronting biases” going forward;
  • Barbara Fritz, of Diverse Holliston, commented about her desire to “see action now” including race as part of the curriculum and professional development programs. She concluded by encouraging the school to “work with us.”

Nicole Bottomley, HHS principal, and Matthew Stone, Holliston Chief of Police, provided an overview of the 11-mile HHS Senior Car Parade planned for 1:00 PM Sunday, June 7, beginning at the Placentino/Miller Schools.  Over 190 cars are participating, each carrying a graduating senior with his or her parents or guardians driving.  (See parade route in HR article)  The parade will conclude at Holliston High School, where cars will drive in, make a loop, see waiting faculty, then drive off grounds.  Stopping or parking at the HHS will be prohibited; the building is not open.

The public is encouraged to participate from your front yards.  Chief Stone said he and his family participated in one such parade last weekend.  “It was a happy event.”  The HPD, the Fire Department, Superintendent Dr. Brad Jackson, and Nicole Bottomley collaborated in the planning.  The HPD will lead the parade, and members of the Fire Department will participate as well. 

Dr. Jackson presented information concerning COVID19 School Closure Update. 

  • In answer to parent questions about summer camps, Dr. Jackson is not aware of any plans.  Kamitian Field remains closed. 
  • “Captains’ practice” is illegal and not supported by MIAA (MA Interscholastic Athletic Association).  No organized sports can be run or organized by schools during this time.
  • Planning for Fall sports season is dependent upon the MIAA.
  • The MA Commissioner of Education will release guidelines for school openings by mid-June.  “These guidelines will be 85-90% prescriptive. It will be a statewide, coordinated decision whether there is a 50/50 hybrid or remote [opening].”  Dr. Jackson commented that superintendents would like “some level of control” over their own districts.
  • Building-based task forces have begun to meet and some have divided among sub-groups as well.  These task forces are comprised of teacher volunteers and Holliston Federation of Teachers leadership.  “Unless the virus changes, we hope to share the plan with parents by the first week in August.” 
  • The 3rd and final program “Parenting During the Pandemic” is planned for June 9, at 7 PM. 

The School Committee voted on the following personnel issues:

  • To approve the appointment of Resource Officer Brian DiGeorgio as Attendance Officer with a $1600 stipend.
  • To approve the succession plan [for an interim superintendent] recommended by the Screening Sub-committee members Dawn Naborsky and Cynthia Lestewnik.  This includes creating a team of 4 members: the two SC members, a senior administrator and a member of the Holliston Federation of Teachers.  Finalists selected from the pool of candidates by this group will interview with the School Committee after June 15. 

Chair Anne-Louise Hanstad of the Budget Sub-Committee discussed three major issues concerning reopening in the Fall:

  1. Transportation- The group is considering what must be done about busing if it is still mandatory.
  2. Staffing – A possible recommendations for 2 nurses per building may be made by the State.  This would increase Holliston’s number from the present 4.5 to 8 at a cost of approximately $170,000.
  3. COVID19-related emergency expenses – The Select Board requested a dollar figure from each department reflecting COVID19-related emergency expenses.  Anticipated fall expenses may be included in this—so if remote learning continues, technology implications must be considered. 

Given that needs–especially of students in Pre K through grade 2–are not being met, and given the need for an 11-week lead time for technology purchases, the sub-committee recommended approval of an additional $343,109 be added to its original requests of  $31,206.60 and   $18,000. This brings the total to $392,315.60. 

The School Committee voted to authorize the expenditure of $343,109 and to submit a request to the Select Board for reimbursement from the CARES Act of $392,315.60. 

Dr. Jackson had nothing further to add for a School Start Times Update other than it would be folded into the fall opening planning. 

In New Business, Chair Raffi had previously charged the Communications Sub-committee with the creation of a School Committee Statement “about what’s happening in the world.”  Joan Shaughnessy read the resulting statement.  (Link to the Statement)  The SC voted unanimously to approve the statement and asked that Dr. Jackson send it electronically to the homes of Holliston students. 

Three policies have each been amended by the policy sub-committee, and were presented by Chair Cynthia Listewnik:  Policy JKAA concerning the prevention of restraint of students; Policy EEA concerning transportation of students; and Policy JECB concerning non-resident students.  The approval of these amendments has been tabled until the next meeting of the School Committee. 

Dr. Jackson reminded SC members to sign and submit the annual disclosure of Conflict of Interest to the Town Clerk. 

Raffi informed the committee that she had signed the following warrants:  a school bill $537,570.40, and a school bill for $7,395.93.

The next meeting of the School Committee is June 18 at 7 PM.  The agenda will included an update on the School Closure, the SC newsletter, the June financial statement, and student handbook changes.  Additionally, Chair Raffi requested building principals attend to provide end of year updates, and Meg Camire attend to be recognized for her work in Holliston.  The meeting was adjourned at 10:24 PM.

Yvette Cain

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