Superintendent's March 2019 Newsletters

March 2019 Newsletter

What a great feeling it was to soak up some springtime sun this weekend, even though it was a bit windy.  March is a month of many milestones in our schools, including the March musicals, Bandarama, MusicFest, the beginning of spring sports, MCAS, Speak Week at WHS, and Pennies for Patients, to name a few.  In this newsletter, I will provide you with an overview of some of the important work that is underway in our District in the coming weeks.

MCAS:  Our sophomores will begin taking their English Language Arts Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System (MCAS) tests this Tuesday for the first time fully online.  All of our students in grades 3-8 took the MCAS last year online, however for our current sophomores, it marks the first official online administration of MCAS across the state.  Watertown is fully prepared for this, as our students have been utilizing Chromebooks for the past several years daily, and we conducted a successful infrastructure trial to make sure that our devices and our network are ready.  The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has rich information for parents regarding the next-generation high school MCAS, including information about the John and Abigail Adams Scholarship, available to students across Massachusetts based on their MCAS performance.   Elementary and middle school MCAS assessments won’t begin until April and May.  The full schedule for all schools can be found here.

As a reminder, MCAS is a standards-based assessment that is used primarily to provide feedback on your child’s progress on the state standards for ELA, mathematics, and science.  Equally important is how the District utilizes the information to make adjustments to our curriculum to ensure that each student is learning the grade-level standards and is prepared for the next year.  We also use the results to determine our students' strengths and opportunities for growth to meet them at their particular level of need or challenge. 

MCAS is just one of many assessments that teachers and administrators use throughout the year to measure growth and progress.  Far more useful for teachers are the ongoing, formative assessments and checks that they are doing on a regular, if not daily, basis.  In Watertown, we incorporate authentic assessments whenever possible to heighten students’ awareness of the relevance of their learning.   We do not “teach to the test” but rather deliver a standards-based curriculum every day, and MCAS is merely a gauge to see how we are doing with our standards-based curriculum.

Building For The Future:  The Watertown School Building Committee continues to meet every two weeks to review progress on the design of the elementary schools.  On April 4, our architects, Ai3, will present further refinements to the projects, which now consist of new construction at the Cunniff and the Hosmer Elementary Schools and addition/renovation at the Lowell Elementary School.  If you want to watch at home, all of our meetings are broadcast on WCA-TV.   And you can always find information on our website at https://www.watertown.k12.ma.us/building_for_the_future.

As for the high school project, we are in the process of identifying our Owner’s Project Manager (OPM).  We are hoping to have the OPM in place by May 6.  The next step will be to secure designer services for the project, which should happen over the summer.  Once these two key resources are determined, we will begin to conduct the Feasibility Study, during which we will evaluate site and building options.   It’s a busy time for the School Building Committee!

Screening of the movie "Angst":  The Watertown Community Foundation and the WMS Middle School PTO are hosting a showing of the documentary “Angst:  Raising Awareness around Anxiety” on Thursday, April 4 at 6:30 pm in the WMS Auditorium.  This important film was created to start open conversations around anxiety, especially for our youth as they face a very complex future.  After the showing, a panel will share information and answer questions that audience members may have.  Please see the information below regarding this event, or see the attached flyer.

Reminder Superintendent's Coffee Tomorrow:  I will be holding my monthly Superintendent's Coffee tomorrow, March 25, at 9:00 am and again at 7:00 pm in room 301 of the Phillips Administration Building.  Feel free to join me and other members of my Central Office staff to discuss what’s happening in the district, to give feedback about your experiences in the Watertown Public Schools, and to answer any questions that you may have. 

On a final note, for those of you watch Jimmy Kimmel, I am living proof that Gonzaga does exist, as an alumna of the Class of 1989.   Go Zags!

 Dede Galdston, Ed.D.

Superintendent of Schools

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IndieFlix Shines the Light on Anxiety with Must-See Documentary,

 “ANGST: RAISING AWARENESS AROUND ANXIETY”

 

NEW FILM CREATED TO START COMMUNITY CONVERSATIONS ABOUT ANXIETY & 

PROVIDE TOOLS, RESOURCES & HOPE SCREENS ON

Aril 4th, 6:30 pm at Watertown Middle School

68 Waverly Ave. Watertown MA.

 

IndieFlix, a leading independent online streaming platform, along with its non-profit arm, the IndieFlix Foundation, is sparking a global conversation about anxiety through screenings of its brand-new documentary, Angst: Raising Awareness Around Anxiety”.  On April 4, 2019, The Watertown Community Foundation and Watertown Middle School PTO will hold a special screening of the documentary at Watertown Middle School auditorium to open up a dialogue between local families, community leaders and experts. The event will feature a viewing of the 56-minute film.

Producers Scilla Andreen and Karin Gornick have one goal: to start a global conversation and raise awareness around anxiety. Through candid interviews, they utilize the power of film to tell the stories of many kids and teens who discuss their anxiety and its impacts on their lives and relationships, as well as how they’ve found solutions and hope. The film also includes a special interview with Michael Phelps, a mental health advocate and one of the greatest athletes of all-time. In addition, the documentary provides discussions with mental health experts about the causes of anxiety and its sociological effects, along with the help, resources, and tools available to address the condition

Free tickets are now available and space is limited! The screening will be held at WMS Auditorium168 Waverley Ave, Watertown, MA at  6:30 pm. Click here to reserve tickets. https://www.showclix.com/event/angst-watertown-middle-school

Part of the beauty of this film is the openness of the children and young adults featured; for some of them, the “Angst” project marks the first time they are publicly sharing their experiences with anxiety. Our hope is that their candidness and bravery will inspire our community to do the same.

While “Angst” documents the struggles some people have with anxiety, it also reveals their hope for the future. Noah, a teenager in the film, describes it this way: “Anxiety doesn’t define me. It’s not just a curse; it also gives me strength.”

"Everybody needs to know that anxiety disorders are real, common and treatable instead of viewing them as a personal choice or something to be ashamed of,” said Dr. Jerry Bubrick, Senior Director of Anxiety Disorders Center, Child Mind Institute. “Getting help early is crucial in giving people the tools they need to feel better. We just need to start the conversation."

"We felt it was important to make a movie that could raise awareness to open up the conversation and provide hope," said Andreen, IndieFlix CEO and “Angst” Producer. "So many people struggle with anxiety and have trouble talking about it. We want to change that."

Anxiety disorders are the most common mental health challenge in the U.S., impacting 54 percent of females and 46 percent of males, with age seven being the median age of onset, according to the World Health Organization. While anxiety disorders are highly treatable, only one-third of those suffering receive treatment. Everyone involved in the development of “Angst” has a personal experience with anxiety – from the producers to the interviewees.

"The conversation surrounding mental health really hits home for me,” said Michael Phelps. “Many people don’t understand how debilitating mental illness truly can be, and even more than that, how common it is, yet people are afraid to have the serious discussions about it. I welcomed the opportunity to be a part of ‘Angst’ to further the dialogue around mental health and to help people understand the impact anxiety has on our mental state and encourage people, especially kids, to ask for help."

“Angst” screens in schools and communities across the world. The IndieFlix original film is expected to reach more than three million people around the world, through 25,000 community and school screenings

PRESS CONTACT: Donna Tuccinardi dmtuccinardi2012@gmail.com