The School Committee Meets

The School Committee (SC) met on Thursday evening (1.7.21) with various items on its agenda that also included some visitors.  Chair Stacey Raffi opened the remote meeting at 7:02 PM, and requested a moment of silence be observed “in the spirit of mindfulness, to remember those who are suffering and who’ve been lost.” Raffi continued by saying, “We are all in this together.  We may have different opinions, but we can still get along.”

Raffi next offered retirement congratulations to Mary Beth Numbers, “a beloved member of the Placentino community since 1997.”  Raffi thanked Numbers for her service to the address the School Committee, Numbers thanked SC members for making vital and difficult decisions daily.  Individual SC members shared congratulations, thanks, and memories with Ms Numbers, who is awaiting the birth of another grandchild in February.

Mrs. Mary Beth Numbers

Raffi introduced HHS Social Studies teacher Kaitlin Mills, who spoke briefly about Community Service Learning: A Call to Action, an elective course now in its second year.  Forty-four HHS students are presently enrolled in the class that requires research on local, national, and global needs, and development and implementation of a project that deals with a solution.  Mills introduced two student teams; each then presented a brief overview of their project. 

“Mission Hugs, Not Drugs,” the project of Isabela Rahim, Anika Rose, and Avery Culver, focused on substance abuse and disorders and partnered with a local recovery center.  The group fundraised for the Center and helped to educated their peers about the issue.  “Food for Thought” was the project of Emily Bernardo, Megan Parnell, and Marie Meisner, who focused on food insecurity during the pandemic, partnering with Daniel’s Table in Framingham.  They raised money to assist Daniel’s Table in feeding the community and had a food drive.  Raffi and others thanked the students for their efforts. Raffi announced that an item to be included on future agendas for the SC will be “Reports from Subcommittees.”  Possible reports will be made by sub-committees on the budget, policies, and the Superintendent’s evaluation.

Dr. Susan Kustka

Dr. Susan Kustka, HPS Superintendent, provided various COVID-related pieces of information:

  • Chromebooks that had been ordered arrived on 1.4.21.
  • School nurses (Phase I individuals) will be vaccinated against COVID 19 on Monday due to the assistance of Natick.
  • Kustka requested the SC vote to petition the Select Board on behalf of the HPS on Monday, January 8, to purchase a PCR machine (for COVID testing) with CARES funding in the amount of $4500.  The SC voted, and this item passed unanimously. 
  • Emergency Manager Michael Cassidy’s update: Holliston is in the red/high risk designation for the 14-day period ending on 1.2.21.  The positive rate is 6.2% as of last Saturday.
  • Kustka requested a vote from the SC about starting the Winter Sports Season on Monday, January 11.  This season includes a limited number of sports teams from HHS (hockey, basketball, gymnastics, girls’ hockey, and indoor track).  Much discussion ensued prior to the vote.  There was agreement that “Matt [Baker, Athletic Director] works with other districts to follow the most stringent protocols,” (Kustka) and the motion to begin the season on 1.11.21 was approved unanimously. 
  • The MA Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS)  will occur this year, but no dates have been selected.  High school seniors will be “held harmless,” and will not be required to take the assessment, provided they pass senior coursework.  Testing time for students in grades 3-8 will be shortened by one half, and may be pushed back to the Fall.  Data from these tests will be used anecdotally only.
  • Dr. Kustka will include in her email to the school community on 1.8.21 a change of time for travelers before getting a COVID test from a 5-day wait period to a 72-hour wait period. 

Business Manager Keith Buday reminded the SC of Holliston’s partnership with Eversource Energy through a Green Communities Grant.  Through an air purifier program, Buday was able to purchase 208 air purifying units for large classrooms for $51,896, and Eversource covered $41,600 of that cost.  When Buday called to thank Eversource in December, he discovered he could—and did—order 60 air purifiers for smaller classrooms for $13,142, and Eversource covered $12,000 of this total.  Dr. Kustka then ordered another 70 air purifying units from the State program for these.

Dr. Peter Botelho, Assistant Superintendent of Schools shared that after a review of schedules of Cohorts A and B for equity of the number of in-school and remote days, March 31 will be changed from a Cohort A day to a Cohort B day. 

Raffi requested that an agenda item “SY2021-22 Calendar” be included on the next meeting’s agenda.  She had signed no warrants since the last meeting.  The meeting was adjourned at 9:15 PM, for Executive Session to follow.  The next remote meeting is on January 21, at 7 PM.   

Yvette Cain

1 Comment

  1. Stephen Nault on January 10, 2021 at 8:56 am

    Excellent but why not require seniors to take the MCAS with the results also used anecdotally only? It would give the Town an insight as to how well we served the students during the first year of the pandemic – a measure of the town, not the students. It might be of help during next years hybrid schedule.

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