Interim Superintendent Attends Her First School Committee Meeting

Dr. Susan Kustka, recently named Holliston Public School’s Interim Superintendent, remotely attended the Thursday night meeting of the School Committee.  Beginning at 7:03 PM, the meeting agenda was swiftly and deftly covered with plans for Dr Kustka to address them again on Thursday, July 23, with another update on the COVID school closure  (that will, in fact, become the school re-opening) information. 

Dr. Kustka addressed the Committee after a brief welcome by Chair Stacey Raffi.  “I’m excited to be on board,” said Kustka.  She provided a brief overview of the 25-years of experiences that she brings to Holliston Public Schools.

SC member Lisa Koscian congratulated those involved in the Extended School Year (ESY) program.  She said it was good practice for September, as she watched the “kids in masks walking into the schools.”  Business Manager Keith Buday also extended thanks to those who had made the program possible.  This summer the ESY program serves 42 children in 11 classrooms, and another 102 children remotely.  Those attending school follow the guidelines for wearing a mask and keeping a 6’ distance between all present.

Cynthia Lestewnik, SC member, thanked Susan Pulaski for helping to feed Holliston families this summer.  Buday added that Ashland families are also able to avail themselves of Holliston’s summer lunch program with no cost to Holliston.

Dr. Kustka shared that she is participating in daily calls with the MA Commissioner of Education.  Kustka is “optimistic that school will reopen.”  Decisions about how the schools will reopen are on “hold” until late July/early August, when the Commissioner will release further guidance. (Click HERE for information released on June 25, 2020, “Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance.”) The next Commissioner’s letter was expected on Friday, July 10.  Once received, it will be posted on the HPS website.  Chair Raffi said, “I hope it will give clarity to his thought process.”

Dr. Kustka said presently, data is being collected to aid in creating 3 plans (required by the MA Commissioner of Education) for each of the Holliston schools. (Next week a three-question survey will be sent to parents so as to gather some information on parents’ thoughts about the reopening of schools.  A staff survey will also be sent. ) Five district subcommittees—Teaching and Learning, Student Support, Special Education and English Language Learners, Personnel and Staffing, and Facilities and Transportation—will be created.  Each subcommittee will include a district and building administrator as well as a parent.  These five groups will meet separately, and then as a whole.  

Assistant Superintendent Peter Botelho spoke about present work toward reopening.  There have been stress tests for building capacity and summer curriculum work is on-going that focuses on remote learning.  “We are not expecting to do the same as we did in the spring,” says Botelho. 

Catherine Sevard, newest member of the SC asked, “When will the quality of education be addressed?”  Dr. Botelho answered, “We know we have a way to go,” and key professional development programs will be delivered to faculty this summer. 

Dawn Naborsky, SC member, inquired about the possibility of holding a parent forum toward the beginning of August to acquaint parents with plans being pursued for school re-opening. 

In other business:

  • The SC voted to approve a letter written by Select Board.  This letter, signed by chairs of the Select Board, the Finance Committee, and the School Committee will be sent to Congressional leaders concerning remuneration of COVID-related expenses:  Specifically, we are asking for more flexible and fluid spending allowances for the existing CARES Act funds awarded to the Town of Holliston. We are also asking for the United States Senate to take action on the “Health and Economic Recovery Omnibus Emergency Solutions Act”, recently passed by the United States House of Representatives.”
  • Anne Louise Hanstad reported that the Finance Committee is recommending support for the SC FY2020-21Budget of $35,139,715.
  • The SC voted to approve the 2020-21 School Committee meeting schedule that they had shared with Dr. Kustka.
  • Chair Raffi reported the following warrants paid:
    • School bills in the amounts of $122,424.71, $106,434.68, $150,037.95, $227,458.07, and $137,553.16
    • Cafeteria bill of $2,424.35
    • Payroll of $780,890.97

Yvette Cain

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