Citizen group rallies to address K-12 race programming in Holliston schools Petition puts two articles on Oct. 18 special town meeting
By Theresa Knapp
A group of Holliston residents has filed a citizens’ petition to add two warrant articles to the October 18 Special Town Meeting:
• The Holliston school committee will halt adoption and implementation of race theory education programs within the town K-12 school system until a citizens majority vote of adoption is achieved in a special session town hall vote.
• The Holliston school committee will halt any and all staffing efforts in connection with any new race, diversity, and or equity curriculum until a vote on adoption of said new curriculum is adopted though a special session town hall vote.
The Office of the Town Clerk confirmed in mid-September that the group submitted more than the 100 signatures required to place the articles on the warrant; the group’s Facebook Page “Holliston United” says they obtained a total of 347 signatures.
Justin Thermos, who helped create the warrant articles, told Holliston Town Pages he believes the School Committee is being “disingenuous” about what is happening in the schools related to Critical Race Theory as well as with the recent hiring of a Director of Social-Emotional Learning & Equity who started in July - a position Thermos says the district does not need and cannot afford.
Thermos, a 2005 graduate of Holliston High School, says “We don’t have racial strife in Holliston, frankly.”
According to a search on www.schoolspring.com, the SEL position was posted in the spring and closed in June.
School Committee Chairperson Cynthia Listewnik addressed the curriculum issue at the committee’s July 29, 2021 meeting, and said the claims are not factual.
“Some residents in town have received a letter from an unknown person with a P.O. Box in Holliston claiming that the School Committee plans to teach Critical Race Theory [to] K through 12 this fall, this is patently false,” she said. “In addition, there is a Facebook group that includes a link to a webpage claiming to be the School Committee’s and a job description that are both fraudulent.”
The website in question is https://schoolcommitteeleaks.org/ which has the following disclaimer at the bottom of its home page:
“School Committee Leaks” and “schoolcommitteeleaks.org” is an information resource published by members of the Holliston community. It is not the official Holliston School Committee website. To visit the official website please go to holliston.k12.ma.us/about/school-committee [sic]. All information posted on this website is from authoritative and reliable town sources.”
At the July School Committee meeting, HPS Superintendent Dr. Susan Kustka said the district has been working with Dr. Kalise Wornum of www.kwdiversityinc.com, a third-party consulting firm that helps organizations “become culturally proficient.” Kustka said the plan is for KW Diversity to finish its work and run this year’s trainings, and for the new Director of Social-Emotional Learning & Equity [Mr. Jariel Vergne] to focus his efforts this year on SEL and take over the train-the-trainer model in year two.
Special Town Meeting will take place on Oct. 18 at 7:30 p.m. at the Holliston High School.
For more information on CRT in the district, Listewnik points residents to the School committee;s official website
https://www.holliston.k12.ma.us/about/school-committee where there is a handout on Critical Race Theory produced by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.