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Holliston Schools Deliver World Class Results

by William Dowd
January 5, 2013

Parents and students in Holliston can take great pride in the fact that the Holliston school system is providing one of the best educations in the WORLD.

How many businesses set a goal to be the best at what they do and never get there? Yet here in Holliston, our schools are at the very top of their game, and you have to piece together the news to get the story.

A couple of weeks ago, the School Committee reviewed very impressive Grade 10 MCAS score results that showed both improvement over prior scores, and a very impressive ranking in the top five in the state. Then, in a recent article in many papers comes news that US students have gained ground in worldwide standardized testing, moving up in the rankings of student achievement compared to such countries as South Korea, Singapore, Taipei, Hong Kong and Japan. The article then references the fact that Massachusetts as a state, performed much better than the US average. Combine that with the fact that Holliston performs much better than the Massachusetts average, and you have a great story of local achievement that deserves a lot more fanfare than it has gotten. And here’s the icing on the cake: Holliston does all this at a per-pupil cost that is lower than average. Proof positive that it’s not how MUCH you spend on education, it’s how WELL you spend what you have.

It’s very popular to criticize spending on our schools because we spend so much money on them. The School Budget dwarfs all others in Town. And many folks have one or two experiences that convince them money is being wasted. But unlike all other budgets, we have objective data that shows the money we’re spending is being very well spent indeed. How did we do this?

First, we have a community that cares deeply about educating kids. Second, that community elects School Committees that make quality education a top priority. Third, those Committees employ a Superintendent who knows what needs to be done and how to do it in order to meet those high expectations. Fourth, the Superintendent and his management team – the school principals – hire the very best teachers for the classrooms, and develop strong curricula to build solid results from kindergarten to High School. Fifth, those dedicated teachers translate all those expectations into well educated and well prepared students performing at the very highest levels in so many dimensions.

Not to dampen our euphoria, but the schools are not perfect. Is every dollar spent in the most efficient way possible? Probably not. Is every teacher performing at a high level? Probably not. Are there ways to do even better without spending lots more money? Probably.

But right now, we need to stop for just a minute and realize what a gem we have. Many communities in this country only dream about what we have in our schools. And right here in little Holliston, we’re living it every day.

At a time when we’re very focused on how much government costs and how to either raise taxes or cut spending, it’s easy to find examples of wasteful spending and dysfunctional government. I have spent a great deal of time doing just that on the Town side for the past two years. As discouraged as I get from time to time with the inability to get the information I request, or to get our elected officials to make the tough decisions needed to keep things affordable and sustainable, I am daily comforted that, at least in our schools, we’ve got a great thing going.

Congratulations to the School Committee, the Superintendent, administrators, teachers, and support staff for doing such a great job with our kids!


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Comments (5)

The Holliston School system is terrific. I appreciate the constant communication tools from the email alerts from Principals to the very complete reports from Erika Plunkett's School Committee summary. It makes me appreciate the town more as an adult than as a child growing up here. As a Realtor, I can also say it is the #1 goal of a large majority of Buyers. It ensures our town's property values will not get "as affected" as some other area towns were during the economic downturn. These great results are the feedback of years of dedicated professionals, thank you!

- Ed Daniels | 1/7/13 9:18 AM

Bill, I know that you have a lot of ideas concerning ways in which we, as a town, can save money. One of those ways involves petitioning our legislators to reform things such as municipal retiree benefits. Can you please explain how your ideal reform would affect the teachers who are doing such a wonderful job of educating our children? I have also heard you say that you are unhappy with some of the items in the contracts the School Committee has negotiated with the teachers and school employees in general. What are these issues and how would they affect hiring "the very best teachers"?

- Michelle Zeamer | 1/6/13 12:43 PM

Finally something that Bill Dowd and I can agree on. While I have had some disagreements with the school budget over the years. Our school system stands as shinning light to attract people to this town and makes it a great place to live and grow up. It happens because the overall dedication of the staff to educating each child is unparalleled. One thing more to be proud of is that as good as it is, Holliston spending per student is about average for the state. That means that we are getting a great value for our investment. The best part is that even while operating at this high level, the schools are not content and continue to find ways to improve.

- Mark Schultz | 1/5/13 4:57 PM

The Holliston Schools are really a top-notch educational system indeed! Thank you Bill for writing this article and giving the praise that is so deserved. We're lucky to have a dedicated and exceptional superintendent in Brad Jackson, with his administrative team and a committed and diligent School Committee that help lead our schools. Nelson Mandela once said "Education is the most powerful weapon which you can use to change the world," Thanks again for a quality article and bringing more attention to this highly deserving subject.

- Ted Dooley | 1/5/13 1:28 PM

Iam glad to see a "positive" article by mr. dowd.. but alas,it is misguided and jaded with his never ending complaining about town govt. why can you just not write a nice article complimenting the schools and teachers on their impressive MCAS results, but rather you have to put another "dig" into the article about your never ending quest for information. . Mr. Dowd you are getting boring... your article started out so positive but in the last paragraph you had to add your "soap box" mentality... sorry you could not just compliment the schools rather than dig the town govt...

- disgusted ! | 1/5/13 9:48 AM



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