On May 25, Holliston will head to the polls to make some very
difficult decisions. The issue receiving the majority of the attention is the
Proposition 2 ½ override. The supporters of this question have been diligently
collecting statistics to justify the expense. The School committee has
repeatedly rolled out the arguments that the taxpayers in Holliston pay less on
a per student basis that Wellesley, Weston, Dover and Sherborn. These
communities are far more affluent than Holliston. I believe Holliston must base
its budgets based on what our community can support, not what we wish we could
When the supporters of the override make the comparison, they
fail to mention that Wellesley, Weston, Dover and Sherborn support free full day
Kindergarten. Holliston looks at our Kindergarten program as a revenue source.
The school committee this year voted to increase the Kindergarten tuition to
$3,800. Our kindergarten bills are now about $1,100 higher than the state
average. On top of that our Superintendent has decided that if the override
fails he will fire the Kindergarten Aides to make the budget work. We should
not let this stand since a significant portion of the expense is covered by
Kindergarten tuition, not taxes.
We also have to face the fact that our Superintendent and
school committee may be intentionally misleading us about the cuts that will be
made in order to pass an override. If a significant portion of a Kindergarten
aides pay is covered by tuition, why would these positions be eliminated if the
override fails? I believe this is being done because it is the only way the
school committee can get the elementary school parents to support an override.
I know it is hard to believe our elected officials may be intentionally
misleading us, but we need to remember the bus fees. About three years ago we
were told that if we did not pass an override we would face $450 bus fees per
student with no family cap. This was ridiculous and when the override failed,
we got the $225 fees every other town charges.
I think we also need to decide, as a community, if the
current school committee reflects the values of our community. We charge
outrageous fees for basic education services and our school committee has
focused their attention on ways to deliver the extras, subsidized by an
override. I believe we have an obligation to provide the best education we can.
This means supporting core educational programs, like our Kindergarten program,
and the Kindergarten Aides.
I agree. The school committee or superintendent also conveniently overlooked information regarding Bellingham and Milford. We compare Holliston to Littleton and forget about some closer neighbors. I try to remind people that the elections for the school committee are more important than whether the overide passes or not. We need the right people in the school committee that will honestly evaluate the value added vs the cost. No one even seems to worry that next year the state has already cut $234million out of funding for towns. We may find ourselves talking about overides next year as well. We need the school committee to uphold their fudiciary responsibility.
May 25th Election
Posted By:Susan Jacobs
Posted On: 5/17/2010
In viewing the Budget presentation from the Holliston Public Schools, I did not find that Holliston was compared to wealthy communities only. Most comparisons were based on members of The Education Cooperative (http://www.tec-coop.org/) and other surrounding towns such as Hopkinton, Millis, Upton, Wrentham, Ashland, and Natick. Please check out the presentation yourself at: http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/Budget/summit.pdf. Don't miss page 22 which discusses how Holliston ranks in terms of Costs per Pupil which compares Holliston to all 351 cities and towns in Mass.
Posted By:Jon Varrell
Posted On: 5/18/2010
I have an error in my letter the tution is only $3475. Still way above the average.
Sorry for the confusion.
May 25 Election
Posted By:Anne Louise Hanstad
Posted On: 5/19/2010
Thank you Mr. Varrell for your correction – it is noted and appreciated however, there remain other inaccurate and misleading statements in your article. Here are the facts:
* Yes, as noted, full-day kindergarten tuition in Holliston for the 2010-2011 school year will be $3,475, not $3,800 (which might have taken five minutes to verify prior to posting your article). * This fee is established to offset program costs associated only with the full-day kindergarten program. * The tuition is not and CANNOT be used “as a revenue stream” to cover any costs beyond those for the full day kindergarten program. The tuition funds cannot be used as you suggest to pay for kindergarten aides outside of the full-day program. * Kindergarten is not mandatory in Massachusetts however, in recognition of the importance of early childhood education, Holliston ensures that every child has access to a free half-day kindergarten program. * Many years ago Holliston chose to offer both full-day and half-day programs to accommodate the varied needs of the children and families in town. This system is in place today and ONLY the parents who choose the full-day option pay for the added cost of this offering. * Nonetheless, Holliston has managed to deliver the full-day program at a cost below other comparable towns: in 2010-11, Hopkinton will charge $3,700, Medfield $4,500, Dedham, $3,500 and Canton $3,500 for full day kindergarten. * Those towns that offer free full-day programs (such as Weston and Sherborn) also spend significantly more per pupil than Holliston.
More distressing Mr. Varrell, is your comment that “…the fact [is] that our Superintendent and school committee may be intentionally misleading us.” Is it “fact” or “may”? I would submit it is neither. Our School Committee, Superintendent and administrators have worked tirelessly over the past several months to reconcile a dramatic cut in state aid. They have made publicly available all of the budget numbers and have only presented the facts-- accurately. Further, they have made comparisons to schools across the TEC educational cooperative to which Holliston belongs, which includes towns like Framingham and Millis (which you omit from your own comparisons).
Moreover, your comment does not reflect the spirit of the tight knit community in which we live. Holliston has a tradition of pulling together during difficult times – not pointing fingers at our neighbors, volunteers and elected officials.
Constructive, honest input is always welcome Mr. Varrell, but if you cannot take the time to get your facts straight and understand the complexities of the school budget process, how can you seriously present yourself as a qualified candidate for School Committee?
Yes, painful choices are before us, but many can be averted if we pass this override. It is an investment in our children, our property values and the future of Holliston.
Sincerely, A. Hanstad
May 25 Election
Posted By:Michelle Zeamer
Posted On: 5/20/2010
Chris stated, “The school committee or superintendent also conveniently overlooked information regarding Bellingham and Milford.” After seeing the following numbers I’m not sure any of us will want to be equal to Bellingham or Milford when it comes to our schools.
Bellingham HS (All Grades), English Language: Advanced . . . 28% Proficient . . . 59% Needs Improvement . . . 11% Warning/Failing . . . 2%.
Milford HS (All Grades), English Language: Advanced . . . 36% Proficient . . . 48% Needs Improvement . . . 12% Warning/Failing . . . 4%.
Holliston HS (All Grades) English Language: Advanced . . . 44% Proficient . . . 50% Needs Improvement . . . 6% Warning/Failing . . . 0%.
Bellingham HS (All Grades) Math: Advanced . . . 44% Proficient . . . 36%: Needs Improvement . . . 18% Warning/Failing . . . 2%.
Milford HS (All Grades) Math: Advanced . . . 55% Proficient . . . 27% Needs Improvement . . . 14% Warning/Failing . . . 5%.
Holliston HS (All Grades) Math: Advanced . . . 80% Proficient . . . 19% Needs Improvement . . . 1% Warning/Failing . . . 0%.
Bellingham HS: Reading . . . 489 Writing . . . 464 Math . . . 496.
Milford HS: Reading . . . 489 Writing . . . 474 Math . . . 476.
Holliston HS: Reading . . . 541 Writing . . . 551 Math . . . 581.
Maybe the old saying that you get what you pay for is accurate when it comes to education.
Posted By:Lee DeSorgher
Posted On: 5/20/2010
I'm not big on using test scores, but Michelle Zeamer is right on the money and Holliston does not want to be on the same level as Milford and Bellingham when it comes to public education...Holliston needs to improve their overall education level not lower it...think education is expensive, try ignorance.
May 25th Election
Posted By:Joe Quinan
Posted On: 5/21/2010
Having reviewed the Educational Philosophy policy for the Town of Holliston (Code AD), I can only conclude that the School Committee, as constituted, has in fact upheld their fiduciary responsibility to adhere to the mission statement, vision and beliefs adopted. The factual results of our students exceeding measures, meeting high expectations and preparing our students for success enumerated factualy in other comments clearly illustrate this. The statistics show the success.
I agree, the election for school committee is very important and I suggest all voters review the School Committee Member Authority policy (Code BBAA)to see if the candidate they are considering is qualified to meet the duties and obligations enumerated and work effectively with other committee members to vote and act, in committee, impartially for the good of the students.
The policies are available here: http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/sc/SCPoliciesTitle.htm
Educate yourself, think about it, then vote on May 25th.
Posted By:Jon Varrell
Posted On: 5/24/2010
I am not sure what you are getting at. I did review the two documents you requested and I am still not clear.
From the document AD
Mission Statement: The Holliston Public Schools are committed to providing the resources and opportunities that will enable each student to develop and maximize individual potential in a positive and collaborative environment that encourages and affirms academic achievement and personal excellence.
We have children in our schools that do not have the opportunity to develop and maximize individual potential. It is the State of Massachusetts that has indentified Holliston as failing to meet adequate yearly progress with special Education students.
Why are you not demanding the school committee fix a problem? Why don't you think the school committee should represent all children? These issues have gone on for years and it needs to be fixed. Every child deserves a "Free and Appropriate Education". The issues will not be addressed in a year, but the first step is to acknowledge the problem.
I understand that many people think special Education students get to much. I am not asking for more money, I think we are not spending our money correctly. Special education makes up about 27% of our budget and the programs are not working. We need to understand why and figure out what needs to be done to correct it.
I am tough enough to with stand your attacks. Someone has to stand up for these kids. I will not be bullies into going away.
Posted On: 5/25/2010
The hope is all would clearly understand the Mission Statement of the School Committee and roles and responsibilities of a School Committee member. It seems pretty clear what the roles and responsibilities are and I am in full support of the policies cited. I do believe that the school committee should, and do, represent all children impartially. I am not sure why Mr. Varrell would conclude I believe otherwise.
Hopefully an open and constructive dialogue will continue with the School Committee after the elections to address the issues facing the town.
Jon- I look forward to seeing the information from the Commonwealth of Massachusetts indicating the town is failing to meet the adequate yearly progress with Special Education students. I looked but couldn't find your source, but if there is a problem, I agree, it should be discussed openly. I welcome your involvement. You shouldn't feel bullied or attacked. I look forward to hearing your proposed solutions to spend the Special Needs Education funds correctly and fix the problem.