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April 17: School Committee Meeting

by Erica Plunkett
April 19, 2014

The School Committee meeting opened with general comments and a specific one from audience member, Joan Sousa.



The School Committee meeting opened with general comments and a specific one from audience member, Joan Sousa.  Mrs. Sousa informed the Committee and the community that at the last PTSA Board meeting, the option was discussed of making the PTSA strictly a volunteer coordination organization, except for at the elementary level, where fundraising is continuing to go strong.  PTSA, she said, is in grave danger of bottoming out.  This year, there is no Auction, even an online one, and the money raised by this event and events like this goes towards supplementing the school curriculums as well as Parent Forums, Scholarships, and Teacher Grants.  Especially at the Middle and High School level, volunteers are desperately needed.

(Editorial note: it will be disgraceful and dismaying if a town like Holliston cannot muster up even enough volunteers, aside from the ones who do so consistently, to keep a local PTSA chapter with a district-wide charter functioning at even a minimal level.  Speech over).

First on the agenda, the Committee voted to amend policy ADF (Wellness Policy on Physical Activity and Nutrition).  

The major presentation of the evening centered around the FY15 budget.  The Finance Committee voted April 8th to reject the School Committee’s budget of $30,394,961 (a 2.8% increase over last year’s appropriation) and instead, voted their guideline of 29,999,741 (a 1.5% increase).  This leaves a gap of $385,220. 

Prior to detailing the methods for closing the gap, Dr. Jackson offered the following guiding philosophies:

·         Budgets are not simply columns of numbers and a budget is not simply an exercise in arithmetic:

·         Budget adjustments needs to made carefully, respectfully, thoughtfully, and minimize the long-term impact of the change from a student, classroom, grade, school and system-wide perspective

·         Budget adjustments need to consider no just the immediate financial impact but the moderate-term and long-term impact.

·         Budget adjustments also must be viewed through the lens of sustainability.  That is, changes cannot be made in Year 1 that will make Years 2 and 3 worse (by creating funding cliffs)

·         Budget adjustments can impact employees’ livelihoods in positive or negative ways.  Adjustments need to be done respectfully and employees who are adversely affected need to be informed as soon as possible.

Dr. Jackson’s tactical approach to budget adjustments is as follows:

·         Re-review all programs and initiatives to ensure they are necessary and functioning efficiently.

·         Review all internal and external revenue sources and maximize their use, being careful NOT to:

o   Create unsustainable dependence by spending more than you project to bring in, and:

o   Increase user fees significantly, exacerbating the unfair burden already being placed on parents while town-wide fees are slated to be further reduced.

·         If necessary, reduce current staffing levels using class-size projections to guide the process while simultaneously taking advantage of naturally-occurring employee vacancies (retirements or resignations) to reduce the adverse impacts of budget adjustments on employees, whenever possible.

Public Hearing was re-opened and the Committee heard questions and comments from the audience.  The plan is to take this list under consideration and bring it back for a final vote at the next meeting (which is the last prior to Town Meeting).

Next, the School Committee voted to establish the last day of school: Friday, June 20, 2014.  It will be a half-day for students and a full day for staff.

Lastly, Mrs. Galeaz-Weber and Mrs. Plunkett read personal statements regarding their decisions to withdraw their names as candidates for re-election to the Holliston School Committee (  http://www.hollistonreporter.com/article/9431/Galeaz-Weber-Withdraws-Candidacy.html and http://www.hollistonreporter.com/article/9432/Plunkett-Folds-Them-Ends-Race.html).

The next meeting is May 1, 2014.  Central to that agenda will be: the Superintendent Evaluation; a vote on the FY15 Budget; a proposal to open some School Choice seats; a demonstration on PARCC; a request to approve a private school; the revised request for the Damigella Field scoreboard; and a proposal for a revised goal setting process.  Office Hours are on the website (http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/sc/SCOH.htm), but the next one is Wednesday, April 30, 7-8 pm at Casey’s Crossing.  In the meantime, if you have any questions or concerns, please don’t hesitate to contact Central Office or any School Committee member.  

Did You Know …  that Town Meeting is Monday, May 5th, at 7:30 in the HHS Auditorium? Really hope to see you there!

 

 

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Comments (4)

That "editorial note" really hurt, because our family is in the same boat as Working Parent. Perhaps our PTSA can survive by evolving. As Past Parent pointed out, Public Education has changed dramatically. Family economics have also changed dramatically. Perhaps the PTSA could consider changing to adapt to the current environment. I think the disgrace and dismay is misplaced in the "editorial note". Parents can't stop working because the PTSA needs volunteers. If the PTSA needs help, they can either make some scheduling changes to accommodate the working parents who would like to volunteer, or they can collapse. Parent's don't have a choice; PTSA does. Let's direct the disgrace and dismay at the party that can adapt, not at the Town of Holliston for failing to "muster up" volunteers. If the PTSA dies, it's not because there are no volunteers in Holliston, it's because the PTSA couldn't figure out a way to engage them.

- working parent too | 4/25/14 2:03 PM

To "working parent"...I totally agree with what you are saying. I worked part-time while my kids were in school, and it was not easy to get involved with the parent organizations. I did what I could by volunteering for small commitments, chaperoned trips, volunteered with fundraisers, but could never accept a position as an officer of PTSA, HEPO or anything else. I'm glad that I did the few things that I did. I got to meet other parents, get to know my children's classmates, and just felt a bit more connected to my community. PTSA is hugely important and it would be a shame to see it die. As a working parent who shouldered the added expense of Extended Day, I most definitely was on a beer budget, as Ms. Plunkett calls it. No Problem, I don't have any highfalutin" needs, no "champagne tastes" here. The chasm that you refer to might indeed stem from those who have the luxury of being able to stay home and focus on all the stuff they think our schools should be providing for our kids. Public Education has changed dramatically from what it was when I was in Grade School. We didn't have things like SPED and IEP's, and we certainly didn't have an "I.T." dept. We had standardized testing, but not MCAS and Quincy Adams scholarships. Now we have Bill Gates telling us what kids should be learning with his PARTIAL funding of this new PARRC test. Maybe I'm just being sarcastic, but it seems that ol' Bill is just grooming his next generation of worker bees. Things have become really out of balance. Today's parents should keep the tradition of PTSA alive and well. There has to be a way to be inclusive of all parents, and once and for all put and much needed end to the mommy wars.

- past parent | 4/22/14 10:10 PM

I feel that there is a huge chasm between working parents and stay at home parents in this town. Meetings are always held in the morning during the week when working parents are well, at WORK. Makes it VERY difficult! I have been told that they have tried to have meetings at different times, but no one came. I was not informed of this and we have been in town for 7 years. As long as I have been here, meetings have been held during the day when parents work. Others are like, well donate money or fundraise. This economy has not allowed that for our family. It is a sad state of affairs that we cannot keep a PTSA, but I feel if they would have been more inclusive of ALL parents in this community things might be different.

- working parent | 4/21/14 6:15 PM

Please please please, we cannot let this town's PTSA go to it's deathbed! The organization is so valuable and contributes so much to the successes of our school system. Get involved, even if it's just to help with one small thing or another. The organization needs volunteers to sustain the contributions the group gives to the whole town. Things like tens of thousands of dollars in grant money to classrooms, thousands of dollars each year in scholarships to graduating seniors, in school Culture Connection programs, are all part of what the PTSA does to support students k-12 here in town. Please consider donating even a little bit of time to help support our schools through this GREAT and what i believe is an invaluable program.

- Ted Dooley | 4/21/14 5:18 PM

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