Holliston School Committee News

Issue Date: 
January, 2018
Article Body: 

These items first appeared in the Holliston School Committee Newsletter Issue #2 -- December 14, 2017
School Committee Discusses Delayed Start Times
After a year of research that culminated in a broad community survey, the School Start Times Subcommittee presented its findings to the full School Committee last month. The upshot: We all agreed to continue research, with a focus on the one scenario that appears most promising. In “Scenario B,” both elementary schools would begin at 8:40 a.m. and both secondary schools would begin at 8 a.m. (This would mean a later start time for every school except Placentino, which would shift 10 minutes earlier.)
This decision means the subcommittee will continue to gather information around the pros and cons of making a change, which, if approved, would go into effect no earlier than the 2019-2020 school year. It’s possible the School Committee will choose to make no change, so please contact us if you would like to share support, questions, or concerns.
Our research into delayed start times for older children was prompted by a recommendation in last year’s report from the Superintendent’s Task Force on Student Stress. There is also a robust discussion going on both nationally and locally because recent scientific findings show benefits to delaying start times for adolescents to better align with their natural sleep cycles. Studies show later start times for older children can decrease symptoms of anxiety and depression, improve academic performance, and even shrink the incidence of injuries from car accidents and athletics. However, the tradeoffs are significant and could impact time after school for academic help or extracurricular pursuits; family time; and the school budget.
The Subcommittee talked to sleep experts, connected with other districts who have considered and/or implemented delayed start times, and identified and investigated the impact areas of this complex initiative. Subcommittee members also created a website to share research and information with the public.
The survey, which was completed by more than 2,000 parents, students, and teachers, showed:
• a majority of middle and high school parents said they want some form of change rather than retaining the status quo.
• Scenario B had the most support across the three survey groups (63% of parents, 55% of students, and 45% of staff).
• Support for Scenario B drops off when the financial implications of transportation are considered: 73% oppose cutting programs or services to fund any additional transportation costs. That means if extra funding can’t be found in the budget, it would have to come from a tax increase, which 46% support, or an increase in bus fees, which received little support at 17%.
This issue is complex and does not have a clear consensus or solution. The School Start Times Subcommittee made the following recommendations, which were all supported by the full School Committee:
• Focus additional study around Scenario B and its impact on after-school jobs; after-school activities (including those not sponsored by HPS, such as religious education classes); athletics; bus routes and times; community service requirements; commute times for parents, teachers, and school staff; family time; homework; and the optimal time(s) of day for student learning.
• Seek opportunities to integrate the costs associated with implementing Scenario B into future school budgets.
• Continue to implement the other recommendations of the Superintendent’s Task Force on Student Stress.
• Encourage the school administration to conduct a review, during the 2018-2019 school year, of the impact that after-school clubs, activities and athletics are having on student stress at Holliston High School, including the level of participation and commitment required and the level of flexibility offered to students when after-school commitments conflict with each other or with a student’s academic work.
Special thanks to the members of the School Start Times Subcommittee for many hours of research, meetings, and hard work: Belinda Hanlon, a parent and independent market research consultant, who shared her expertise to develop the survey and calculate the results; School Committee members Martha Devoe, Cynthia Listewnik, and Stacey Raffi; and Superintendent Brad Jackson.
New Student Information System Coming Soon
PowerSchool will replace iPass as the district’s new Student Information System, starting next school year, 2018-2019.
The Holliston Public Schools Student Information System Selection Committee spent several months reviewing system requirements provided by users (teachers, parents, students), viewing multiple demonstrations, testing products, contacting references, and discussing the findings. PowerSchool best met Holliston’s specific requirements that were developed with input from Holliston staff, students, and parents. The Selection Committee’s decision was also informed by the quality of the support provided by PowerSchool along with the user-friendly and intuitive nature of the product. Below are the base-line products that Holliston has selected as part of the PowerSchool suite of products:
• Student Information System,
• PowerTeacher Pro Gradebook,
• Unified Insights Assessment Dashboard,
• Online Registration, and
• School Notifications (3rd party TBD).

We will also have full access to the Power School Learning Management System for those who would like to use its strong integration with the PowerTeacher Pro Gradebook and Google G-Suite.
Special thanks to the Finance Committee and Town Meeting for recognizing this critical need and allocating capital funds for the purchase.
Alcohol and Drug Addiction: A Pediatric Disease
The Holliston PTO, Holliston Police Department, and the Holliston Drug Addiction and Alcohol Coalition (HDAAC) co-sponsored a Parent Education Night on Wednesday, November 8, featuring Dr. Ruth Potee.
Dr. Potee delivered an engaging, informative, “no-blame” seminar on the physiology of addiction and the developing brain, which was followed by a lively discussion with our panelists from the Police Department, HDAAC, and Holliston schools. We were fortunate to have the support of HCAT-TV, which broadcast the event live and have made it available on their Facebook page. It is well worth the investment of time to watch this. It could change your view on addiction and the science behind it.
School Committee Members
School Committee members are Holliston residents elected to three-year terms. All Massachusetts School Committees have three main purviews:
1. Hire and evaluate the superintendent;
2. Prepare and approve school budgets, which are subject to final approval by the town;
3. Create and amend policies.
Our agendas, meeting minutes, and policies are available on our web site at http://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/home/school-committee
Feel free to contact any committee member with questions or comments. Please note we all have new email addresses:
Anne Louise Hanstad, Chair [email protected]
Stacey Raffi, Vice Chai
[email protected]
Martha Devoe
[email protected]
Lisa Kocian
[email protected]
Cynthia Listewnik
[email protected]
Andy Morton
[email protected]
Joan Shaughnessy
[email protected]