School Committee Meeting Update
By Erica Plunkett, Holliston School Committee Chair
Outgoing School Committee member, Tom Jones, opened the meeting with some personal comments. Mr. Jones drew an analogy between one of the main tenets of the Holliston Public Schools’ professional development work and culture- namely, the Professional Learning Community - to holding a role on the School Committee. A PLC has at its core, learning from each other. Mr. Jones said that the work he has been part of the past nine years offered a tremendous learning experience, where different talents and expertise went hand-in-hand with a significant time investment. Probably his one observation/frustration, Mr. Jones indicated, possibly driven by having to make hard choices in a challenging economic climate, has been the increasingly rough discourse. That diminished the ability to have a balanced conversation on different issues, in dealing with topics of tradeoffs during limited resources. How you get to decisions around such matters can be more informed, balanced, and productive than has occurred in the past three to four years. At the end of the day, everyone around the table has the best interests of the community in mind and Mr. Jones said that he has kept that in front of him over his past three terms.
Following Mr. Jones, Dr. Jackson also thanked the longest sitting member of the current School Committee, adding that it is a measure of a man’s character to take time away from a more than full-time job, his wife, his family, with a rare moment to himself, to serve his community. Mr. Jones kept a steady hand through the economic storm and is one of the main reasons Holliston has weathered the past few years so well.
(Editorial note): I want to reiterate my final comments at Town Meeting. To be an effective school committee member requires many things, but above all, it requires passion- passion for the singular potential that public education can provide. In Holliston, Tom has been the staunchest advocate for the highest quality public education. On behalf of the entire School Committee and the administrative team, I thank Tom for his patience, his good humor, his smarts, his sense of responsibility, and his passion. The talents and leadership he has brought to this position have undoubtedly made the Holliston schools better. The entire community is richer for his service.
Dr. Jackson added to his opening comments, informing the Committee that he and Dr. Ahern had just been to the annual conference of Massaschusetts Superintendents. This year, the conference was all about technology. Keynote speaker, Dr. Scott McCloud, said change happens in societies exponentially. If his theory is correct, the world is about to entire a period when twenty thousand years’ worth of growth will happen in this century. Additionally, some superintendents shared their experiences talking about the 1:1 computing ratio happening in their communities (all of which are taxpayer funded). Holliston has elected a different option in BYOD but appears to be right in the middle in terms of progress. Finally, Dr. Jackson congratulated all the seniors graduating on June 3, and hoped other community members will do the same. And, he hoped that seniors recognized the twenty million dollar investment that the community has made in their education.
Dr. Ahern informed the Committee on efforts underway to develop some type of national standards in Science. The first Public Comment period is until June 1, and a second one will be in the fall. Essentially, these standards will bridge scientific inquiry with content knowledge.
The only presentation of the evening was from Mrs. Bodmer, HHS Science teacher, and Principal Mike Cournoyer. The School Committee voted to approve their request for an overnight field trip to Peru next summer, led by the organization Operation Wallacea. This is now a school-sponsored trip, for a two-week excursion down the Amazon, beginning the end of June 2013. Interested students and parents who were not at the initial meeting are welcome to contact Mrs. Bodmer at firstname.lastname@example.org. There will be another meeting to get a firmer sense of interested individuals this Thursday at 7:00 pm in the HS library.
In conjunction with the exemplary annual performance review Dr. Jackson received two weeks ago, and using data based on years in a position, years as a superintendent, comparative district information, and geography, the School Committee voted to extend the Superintendent’s contact by a year at a 1.5% increase.
In Old Business, Dr. Jackson shared information that came out earlier that afternoon regarding the FY13 budget. Following the Town Meeting appropriation of $28.5M, municipalities were awaiting confirmation of additional Chapter 70 aid. Holliston expected approximately $233.4K. The Senate Ways and Means proposal was actually $479.0K. In their budget, the town of Holliston would receive an increase of 7.32% over FY12 and 3.62% more than the House final budget (on which the original $233.4 K was expected). The Senate budget also calls for an increase of 7.92% in unrestricted local aid for the town. Finally, Senator Spilka’s announcement also included $242.2M for SPED Circuit Breaker reimbursement (which is a rate of 75% reimbursement, up from an expected 72%). Mr. Jones pointed out that the general intention of the federal stimulus money was as a stop gap measure for local communities until states’ revenues and state aid increased and that is exactly what happened in the correct time frame. That funding has run out for FY13 and thankfully, more monies are now available by the state itself. Further, as Dr. Jackson noted, even with tapping into the Rainy Day fund, Massachusetts will still have the third highest RD fund of all 52 states. On behalf of the School Committee, I would like to thank Representative Dykema and Senator Spilka for their support of local aid and specifically, education.
Finally, the Committee voted in appoint Voting Members to the TEC Board of Directors (Erica Plunkett) and to the ACCEPT Board of Directors (Dr. Jackson).
The next School Committee meeting is Thursday, June 1. Central to the agenda will be the School Improvement Plans. The last meeting of the school year has been moved from June 21 to June 14. Central to that agenda will be the appointment of a new Chairperson and Vice Chairperson, following next Tuesday’s election (don’t forget to vote!). Also on the 14th will be presentations from the Parent Groups on their activities this year. While School Committee Office Hours have ended for the school year, as always, if you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to contact Central Office or any member of the School Committee.
DID YOU KNOW?... that Massachusetts 8th graders tied for second nationally in science performance on the 2011 National Assessment of Education Performance (NAEP) exam? (Press release, DOE.mass.edu, May 10, 2012).
And from Slate.com, Massachusetts students rank fifth in the world in reading, and in math, a global ninth. (http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/politics/2012/05/massachusetts_is_the_best_state_in_the_union_.html)
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