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Holliston - Local Town Pages

Holliston Schools Work to Prepare in a Changing Environment

Jul 31, 2020 10:32AM ● By J.D. O’Gara

At Local Town Pages deadline, Holliston Public Schools, per Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) guidelines, three possible scenarios for the return to school in the fall. The three possible plans included:

1. 100% reopen school with live learning    

2. Re-open school with a hybrid model- 50% remote learning and 50% in person learning 

3.  100% remote learning)

Schools were expected to submit these plans to DESE by the end of July. 

Not only will Holliston Public Schools be looking at changes to instruction due to Covid-19, but it will also be doing this without its Superintendent, as Dr. Brad Jackson resigned on May 13th to take the position of Superintendent Director for Shawsheen Regional Vocational/Technical in Billerica, Mass. 

opted to conduct an abbreviated search hoping to find the best candidate available within the HPS community or outside of it. This search was best served by a small group, which is quite typical for an Interim Screening Committee which recommends candidates to the School Committee for consideration and a majority vote. Often only School Committee members serve on this screening committee, with perhaps a Human Resource officer (we do not have a human resources department)."

According to Stacey Raffi, also of the Holliston School Committee, the following is a timeline of what has taken place in terms of the vacancy:

May 13, 2020 - Dr. Jackson tendered his Letter of Resignation to the School Committee chair

May 26, 2020 - Separation Agreement reached between the School Committee & Dr. Jackson

May 28, 2020 - School Committee approved the job description & posting during open session

May 29, 2020 - Interim Superintendent position posted to School Spring, MASC, MASS

June 4, 2020 - (2) School Committee members approved to serve on the Screening Committee

June 5, 2020 - Deadline extended for applications until June 12th

June 7, 2020 - Screening Committee members approved 1 admin, 1 teacher, 2 SC

June 8, 2020 - First meeting posted for the Screening Committee

June 8-10, 2020 - Screening Committee members sworn in by Town Clerk

June 10, 2020 - Screening Committee - 1st meeting Cynthia Listewnik elected chair, all candidates reviewed & invited for interviews

June 11, 2020 - Interview questions reviewed, determined and assigned

June 12, 2020 - Posting closed in School Spring; Screening Committee held preliminary Interviews with candidates via Zoom

June 15, 2020 - Screening Committee held preliminary interviews with candidates via Zoom

June 16, 2020 - Screening Committee held preliminary interviews with candidates via Zoom

Deliberations of the Screening Committee - potential finalists determined to undergo reference checks

June 17-21, 2020 - Contacted candidates to invite into the next phase of the process & reference checks performed by the Screening Committee

June 18, 2020 -  a potential finalist withdrew their name

June 22, 2020 - Screening Committee Finalists deliberations

School Committee advised & candidates invited to interview with the full School Committee on Thursday, June 25, 2020

June 25, 2020 - Finalist Interviews with the full School Committee in Open Session via Zoom

June 29, 2020 - Deliberations of the School Committee during Special Session/Announcement

The School Committee posted the job description in late May and received 28 applications. A Screening Committee was established that included two School Committee members, Cynthia Listewnik and Dawn Neborsky; Nicole Bottomley, the high school principal; and Erin Squiers, a physical education and wellness teacher for Miller and Placentino. They narrowed down the pool to nine candidates, who were interviewed by the Screening Committee, which then selected four finalists. The full School Committee interviewed the four finalists on June 25.

On June 29 - the Holliston School Committee is announced its unanimous vote to appoint Dr. Susan Kustka as interim superintendent for the 2020-21 school year, pending successful contract negotiations. Dr. Kustka signed a contract with the Holliston School Committee on July 1, 2020 and her first day was July 6,2020.

Dr. Kustka has 25 years of experience as an educator, most recently as assistant superintendent for administration and personnel, Weymouth Public Schools, from 2013 to 2019. Dr. Kustka began her career in Scituate as a middle school special educator in 1994. She then spent 10 years as an elementary educator in Plymouth before transitioning to an administrative role in Hanover in 2009. She holds a Master of Education degree in Moderate Special Needs from Boston College. In 2017, Dr. Kustka earned her doctorate in education from Northeastern University.

“In our deliberations, School Committee members noted her collaborative style and breadth of experience, which includes significant expertise in social-emotional learning, social justice, and communications, including family engagement. Dr. Kustka has worked in every aspect of school management, including human resources, contract negotiations, curriculum, budget, safety and security, and policy,” writes Raffi.

“We are grateful for the dozens of emails from parents, staff members and community partners that we received in recent days offering feedback on the decision,” says Raffi. “Our search for a permanent superintendent will launch during the school year and include a Search Committee of school committee members, Holliston residents, and educators, with the goal of having a permanent superintendent in place by July 1, 2021.

In a letter to parents, Kustka wrote, “I am very excited to be your Interim Superintendent for the school year, and I am hoping to be able to meet many of you in the near future. While I am hoping to schedule meet and greets with parents closer to the beginning of the school year (remotely or otherwise), the number one priority for the immediate future is to develop plans for students for the 2020-21 school year related to the Massachusetts  Department of Elementary and Secondary Education Initial Fall School Reopening Guidance that was released on June 25, 2020. Educating the students of Holliston Public Schools safely and effectively is of our utmost concern.”

Kustka noted that “in addition to HPS pre-existing school-based reopening working groups, parent volunteers were needed for additional district subcommittees to support this work. Applications for the volunteer positions were taken until July 13. Parents, she said, would also be receiving a survey, the results of which would be shared.When Dr. Jackson resigned in May, the School Committee was left with two choices: elevate an internal candidate (typically a member of the central office administration) or conduct an abbreviated search. Guidance we received from both MASC & MASS suggested that we elevate an internal candidate with the expressed intent to begin a robust search process in the Fall/Winter,” wrote Cynthia Listewnik, School Committee member, in response to what the process would be to hire a new Superintendent. “The School Committee