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School Commitee Meets, January 3, 2013
New security systems in the schools and special educaion were topics discussed.
The meeting opened with general good wishes for the New Year. The Committee went a little out of order on the agenda, taking care of housekeeping issues and a brief statement by Dr. Jackson on the new security measures in place at Placentino, Miller, and Adams. These schools now have buzzer systems in place, with a receptionist in each lobby. Additionally, specific protocols are being developed for entry into these schools. Dr. Jackson will be meeting, as he has since he arrived in Holliston, with Police Chief Moore and Fire Chief Cassidy to review security and bring any further recommendations to the School Committee. Additionally, he is finalizing review of the purchase of an Employee ID system to print picture IDs for all employees to be worn at all times. Please note: not all security enhancements will be publicly announced, as acknowledging the existence of a security device or procedure may undermine its effectiveness.
Dr. Jackson reiterated his belief (editorial note: and mine) that research indicates that the most effective way to keep children safe in school is to ensure that each student has a trusted adult in whom they can confide and that that adult knows what to do with information that suggests someone is planning to do harm. Holliston Public Schools, Holliston Police, Holliston Fire, Holliston Youth and Family Services, and the Middlesex County Attorney’s Office and Probation Departments formally meet every month to discuss at-risk students and at-risk families. These meetings have been taking place since Dr. Jackson arrived in Holliston nine years ago. They are supplemented by continual and informal exchanges of information that take place between these organizations to ensure that at-risk students and families are getting the support they need in both school and the community. The physical and emotional safety is at the core of our schools and our community.
The Committee then reorganized for the main presentation of the evening: a panel discussion moderated by Dr. Jackson on issues in Special Education. This panel came about from conversations between Mrs. Plunkett and Dr. Jackson, who recognized a need to educate the public (and the Committee) on the complexity of issues surrounding this topic. (The discussion can be seen on Holliston School Committee replays, and HCAT is also making the link available through the District website shortly). The session is well worth taking the time to watch.
As Dr. Jackson noted, over 15% of Holliston’s students qualify for Special Education services, yet there is no other educational issue in our community with more mystery and misperceptions. While the discussion itself was too long to summarize, the panelists introduced by Dr. Jackson included: Dr. Perry Davis, a retired School Superintendent whose distinguished career in education spans decades. Dr. Davis served the communities of Dover and Sherborn as their Superintendent as well as serving as Superintendent in King Phillip Regional School District. Prior to his Superintendencies, Dr. Davis served as Director of Special Education in the Northborough-Southborough Regional School District. Dr. Davis is currently serving school districts as an educational consultant, although, as a Holliston resident, Dr. Davis has volunteered his time to serve on this panel. We are very grateful for his time and expertise.
Next, is Holliston’s current Director of Student Support Services, Dr. Sandra Einsel. Dr. Einsel has served Holliston and other Metrowest communities in this capacity for over a decade. Dr. Einsel received her Ph.D. from Boston College and has worked in the Special Education field for her entire career in education.
Ms. Leslie Leslie is the Coordinator of the MassPAC project at the Boston-based Federation for Children with Special Needs. MassPAC project provides technical assistance to Special Education Parent Advisory Councils throughout the state. She is the parent of two special needs children and lives in nearby Westborough.
The last Panelist is the President of Holliston’s Special Needs Advisory Council, Ms. Beth Sherr. Ms. Sherr has been an active parent in the Holliston Public Schools and has been kind enough to continue in her role as President of our Special Needs Advisory Council even though her youngest child graduated from Holliston High School several years ago.
Dr. Jackson, Mrs. Plunkett, and the entire School Committee are extraordinarily appreciative of the time, dedication, and information that these professionals brought to the discussion. If you find yourself with a free hour, please take advantage of the HCAT taping. Many community members will learn a lot. And of course, please direct any questions to Dr. Jackson, Mrs. Plunkett, or any member of Central Office or the School Committee.
The next School Committee meeting is January 24th. Central to the agenda is a review of the January 18th Professional Development Day and the mid-year Principal reports on School Improvement Plans.
Chair, Holliston School Committee
DID YOU KNOW?..... that Massachusetts was the first state in the nation to guarantee all students a Free and Appropriate Education, regardless of their disability and that our law became the model for the national Special Education laws?
And, Did You Also Know…. that the Feds who created IDEA (Individuals with Disabilities Education Act) were supposed to fund it at 25%. States are currently receiving significantly less than that.
Finally, Did You Know… that all of the Special Education programs that we've developed here in Holliston have two benefits: first, they allow us to serve more of our Special Education population in their own schools and second, they are significantly less expensive than sending a student to an out-of-district placement?"
I apologize, I may not be able to answer your email immediately. I will get back to you as soon as possible.
Erica S. Plunkett (Chair, Holliston School Committee)
Posted in Schools.