School Committee Met Thursday

The Holliston School Committee met Thursday, September 9, 2021, in the HPS Central Office Conference Room and remotely.   Chair Cynthia Listewnik read the remote participation statement and called the meeting to order at 7:06PM.  Minutes from the June 17, 2021, meeting were approved by members, and Listewnik opened the meeting to comments.  SC member Stacy Raffi reminded the public that school is now in session which affects traffic, and she also mentioned Holliston’s 25 mph speed limit on unposted roads. 

Superintendent Dr. Susan Kustka announced American Rescue Plan Act (ARPA) funds for $106,000 have been approved by the ARPA Steering Group, and approval from the Select Board will be sought during its September 13, 2021 meeting.  The monies are intended to cover the cost of academic support in the areas of numeracy and literacy for grades K – 10. This is a one-year request to close the learning gaps that will likely be seen due to the pandemic. 

Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Joanne Menard

Listewnik called upon Assistant Superintendent Joanne Menard (recently hired) to present information about “New Hires” for 2021-22.  Menard reported 38 teachers, 16 paraprofessionals, and 22 other school employees have been hired (See graph above for school distribution).  A 2-day orientation was provided to these new folks, including a welcome by the Superintendent, a town tour, a “New Teacher Institute,” paraprofessional support, and other various topics. 

Menard reported this year was the first-year paraprofessionals joined the orientation program; as well, they received some equity training.  Dr. Henry Turner was the Keynote Speaker, delivering “The Educator Who Commits to Equity.”  Dr. Kalise Wornum presented “Equity and Cultural Proficiency.”  Other activities included work with benchmark assessments, equity training, skill regression and intervention, and discussion of “Vision of a Graduate” at HHS.  Menard concluded, “It was a full and productive day.”

Assistant Superintendent Buday with new hires on town tour.

In New Business, Dr. Kustka presented a COVID update.  As the Commonwealth of MA has partnered with Cambridge Innovation Center (CIC) Health to provide free COVID-19 testing to students, teachers, and staff, Dr. Kustka has requested all parents complete an on-line consent form (https://www.cic-health.com/consent/ma?district=null).  “We need people to participate,” said Kustka.  Testing provided through CIC includes rapid, pooled, and “test and stay” testing.  Details on these may be read on the HPS website under COVID. (https://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/students-familes/covid).

Following some discussion, the SC voted unanimously to approve a motion pertaining to the vaccination of HPS employees:  Due to the COVID 19 pandemic, the School Committee is requiring all HPS employees complete COVID 19 vaccination and provide proof of such completion by the end of October 2021.  This will be subject to collective bargaining with the Holliston Federation of Teachers.

In other business, Dr. Kustka said some transportation kinks are still being worked out.  Assistant Superintendent Keith Buday noted that he is presently working on providing late buses.  He also reported ridership is higher than expected, noting that last year’s buses had restricted ridership due to the pandemic. 

Buday also explained the reason for closing of a few HHS classrooms and library:  he discovered mid-August that excessive humidity had precipitated mold growth in some areas.  An environmental engineer is attending to the testing of these areas (restricted to HHS) and mitigating procedures are being observed including the use of an industrial sized dehumidifier and fans.  The situation will continue to be monitored.

Following a meeting of the SC Budget Sub-committee last week with Buday and Finance Committee Chair Ken Szajda, Lisa Kocian, sub-committee Chair, recommended the SC approve a $500,000 Capital Request for presentation at the upcoming Fall Town Meeting; these funds to cover failure of rooftop air handling units as a proactive measure. The SC voted unanimously to approve this request.

Listewnik reported signing the following school bills:  $164,454.07, $101,320.70, $56,377.73, and $391,338.93, as well as cafeteria bills in the amounts of $10641.99 and $7159.55. 

The next meeting of the School Committee is scheduled for October 14, 2021, at 7 PM.  The meeting adjourned at 8:45 PM. 

Yvette Cain

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