School Committee Updates

Subscribe to the  School Committee Mailing List

April 12, 2024

It has been a busy month for the Watertown School Committee as we wrap up the FY25 budget process. In the last three meetings, our board has heard a number of important presentations, voted on policy changes, and celebrated major accomplishments.

We have come to an agreement with Superintendent Galdston on a 4-year contract extension through 2028. Dr. Galdston has been an excellent leader for Watertown, bringing expertise, commitment and stability. We are thrilled to have her leading the Watertown Public Schools for another four years. We are also excited by the addition of new Assistant Superintendent Emilys Peña, who joins us officially this summer, and the return of Dr. Theresa McGuinness as the new principal at the Early Steps School.

With the budget process wrapping up, Dr. Galdston presented her FY25 Recommended Budget. This budget totals $59,599,263, representing a 3.5% increase from FY24. We encourage you to take a look at the FY25 Budget Book, which highlights our spending plan for each school and many of the accomplishments of the past year. The Budget Book also includes a line item listing of each position in Watertown Public Schools.

We approved the 2024-2025 school year calendar. School will begin on Tuesday, September 3, 2024 with the last day of school (with no snow days) tentatively set for Monday, June 16, 2025. If all five snow days are used, the final day of school will be Tuesday, June 24, 2025.

The School Committee approved adding a 2-year World Language graduation requirement at Watertown High School. This aligns WHS with Masscore standards used by Massachusetts state colleges and universities for admission.The requirement will begin for the class of 2028.

We heard a variety of presentations, including on math gains and additional extension opportunities at Watertown Middle School, school nutrition and the dramatic increase in participation as a result of universal school meals, and DEIB goals for next year. We also heard about the happenings at the Early Steps School in advance of our no-cost Pre-K program rolling out for Watertown 4-year-olds this fall.

The district has gone through a year-long pilot to select a new literacy program at the elementary level. Thank you to the 1st and 4th grade teachers who have led this work. The new program - Wit and Wisdom - will be introduced to students this fall. With the shift, we have a surplus of literacy materials from the former literacy program that includes Lucy Calkins and Words Their Way. We voted to list these items as a surplus so they can potentially be moved to another district,

We held the first reading on some potential changes to our library and technology policies. Most notably, this proposed new language outlines step-by-step how the district would approach reconsideration of library materials in the event a Watertown school community member raises concerns about a book or other materials.

Over the last month, we have had two amazing theater performances by our talented students. The WHS theater program put on an incredible performance of the musical Working in early March and the WMS theater program presented Annie Jr. last week. Both shows were fabulous! The WHS Robotics team won a gold metal at the Greater Boston District competition, qualifying them for the New England Championship. They ended with their highest ever rank in New England and their best robot performance. And, we had an incredibly successful wrestling season this winter, led by longtime wrestling coach, Kevin Russo. Three Watertown wrestlers - Tessa Master, Tommy Dicker and Brady Gleason - were league all stars. Brady was a sectional champion; Tommy was a sectional champion and state finalist; and Tessa won an All-State title and placed third in the New England Interscholastic Wrestling Championship. Congratulations to all!

The Watertown School Committee wishes you a safe and happy April vacation.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

February 16, 2024

The Watertown School Committee met earlier this month and approved a significant initiative for our community.

We are thrilled to share that Watertown will offer free Pre-K to 4-year-olds beginning in the fall. The committee unanimously approved a plan for free Pre-K for 90 children, broken down into five classrooms of 18 students each. The data are clear regarding the positive short and long term impacts of early education and we are excited to make this important investment in our community.

Dr. Galdston has provided information about the application process for the available seats in the early childhood programs for 4-year-olds. Depending on the number of families interested, it may be necessary to hold a lottery for the available spaces, with families with a demonstrated financial need given preference.

We also approved a plan to reallocate ESSER III funding to the air conditioning project in the lower level of Watertown Middle School. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has approved this use, which was a part of our capital improvement plan, as ESSER funds are allowed to be used to improve air quality and HVAC systems.

We heard a teaching and learning showcase from Watertown Middle School on how they are implementing WIN (What I Need) blocks into their schedule. These blocks include a variety of subjects across math, literacy, music, art, physical education, language arts, and more. Students who are receiving targeted intervention have seen significant (and very exciting) academic growth through the first half of this year. And, with 40% of students whose first language is not English and 15% categorized as English Language Learners, our educators are working creatively (ie. merging art and literacy) to reach all kids. They have also created engaging extension opportunities for students who need a challenge such as composting, U.S. democracy, poetry, coding, creative writing, graphing, and robotics.

The next School Committee meeting will be on Monday, March 4, 2024 at 7:00 PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

We wish you a safe and healthy February vacation.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

January 31, 2024

The Watertown School Committee had a busy January, launching the year with new additions to our board and diving into work for the year ahead.

We welcomed Lisa Capoccia and Rachel Kay to the Committee after their election in November. As with each new year, we voted on the composition of our board. We unanimously voted Kendra Foley as Chair, Lily Rayman-Read as Vice-Chair, and Amy Donohue as Secretary. We also finalized subcommittee assignments.

We received an important report from the Wayside Youth and Family Support Network on the wellness of Watertown youth. This survey has been collected for the last three decades and evaluates key factors in youth health and well being. Some of the key findings show that Watertown children are reporting a decrease in alcohol, marijuana, and vaping use, but a rise in depression and stress in recent years. You can learn about this important study here. A focus of the discussion was around the steps the schools continue to take to support our students’ mental health and sense of belonging.

Our newly constructed schools have been designed with school safety at the forefront. As we have moved in and learned these new systems, there have been instances of false alarms going off. So, the Superintendent provided an overview of district emergency protocols and communication.

The Committee voted to increase pay for substitute teachers. This decision was made to increase the competitiveness of our district amid a substitute shortage. Many districts are facing the same challenges finding substitutes on a daily basis. As a result, we also approved the addition of one full-time building-based substitute for each school in Watertown.

We approved two overnight Watertown High School field trips: the WHS Robotics trip to the New England District Championships in Springfield and the annual Performing Arts field trip to New York City. Part of this discussion centered on the importance of making these amazing opportunities accessible to all students, regardless of financial constraints.

We had the opportunity to review the secondary class size report, examining class sizes at the middle and high school as well as opportunities and enrollment in our Advanced Placement, Career & Technical Education, world language, and fine, applied and performing arts courses.

We heard about plans to upgrade the district’s communications platform, focusing on the web presence as well as multilingual communication through text, email and phone.

Dr. Galdston provided a self-assessment of her annual goals at the mid-year point as well as a mid-year report on our four year district Strategy for Success. Dr. Galdston also updated us on the search for our new Assistant Superintendent: interviews are set to begin February 6.

Finally, we voted to approve changes to our district fiscal policies and adopt School Committee operating protocols.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday February 5, 2024 at 6:30PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

Kendra Foley

Chair, Watertown School Committee

December 20, 2023
The end of the calendar year is always a busy and exciting time in our school community, from important moments on the academic calendar to major extracurricular events.

At our December meeting, we honored the Watertown High School field hockey team, who claimed their third-straight state championship in November with a thrilling 4-3 victory over Newburyport. Congratulations to these amazing student-athletes! Fall 2023 proved to be a strong season for the entire Raiders community, with 19 WHS athletes earning Middlesex League All-Star honors.

We received multiple teaching and learning updates from across the school district. Teachers at the Hosmer School gave us an update on the literacy pilot underway in all three elementary schools. And, the Cunniff School’s literacy and math coaches shared more about their efforts this school year to support students and teachers.

There has been a longstanding discussion at the state level about the importance of civics education. At the Watertown Middle School, our 8th grade social studies teachers have been providing an excellent civics course for many years. Starting in the spring of 2024, 8th graders will be taking a Civics MCAS. This test does not have an impact on graduation.

We heard from Principal Chen-Fein and Principal Giacobozzi about equitable grading practices at Watertown Middle School and Watertown High School.

The committee received a report on the state of Career, Vocational, and Technical Education at Watertown High School. WHS currently offers three pathway programs: Engineering Technology, Medical Assisting, and Digital Media Communication.

Denise Maroney, our Director of Public Buildings, walked us through the FY25-FY29 Capital Improvement Plan. In total, the plan spells out $4.2 million in capital improvements to our school buildings for FY25, with $2.9 million in improvements to Watertown Middle School.

We were excited to hear a presentation from Dr. Ceronne Daly, Watertown’s new Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, on this year’s equity efforts. Dr. Daly has hit the ground running since her start this fall, holding a listening tour with stakeholders across the district in her first 30 days on the job.

The committee also approved a plan to waive gym use fees for Watertown youth programs for the 2023/2024 and 2024/2025 school years. The Watertown youth athletic programs are an important partner and we want to support them during the High School construction project.

The 5Essentials survey is now open, offering parents and caregivers an opportunity to share their thoughts on the important elements of school effectiveness. This survey is completely anonymous and is designed to generate a detailed picture of the inner workings of our schools here in Watertown. This is the third straight year this survey has been distributed and has provided administrators with impactful data about the 5 essential indicators that affect and predict school success: effective leaders, collaborative teachers, involved families, supportive environments, and ambitious instruction. If you have not filled it out, please do so TODAY. The survey closes on Friday, December 22nd.

As we head into the new year, we say goodbye to two members of our committee, Lindsay Mosca and David Stokes. Both Lindsay and David tirelessly dedicated themselves to this district and will continue to play important roles in our community. We thank them for their service.

Students have a half day on Friday, December 22, 2023 and return to school on Tuesday, January 2, 2024.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday, January 8, 2024 at 7:00 PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

The Watertown School Committee wishes you a restful winter break and happy new year!

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

November 3, 2023
Our October 23rd School Committee meeting was a busy one, filled with votes, data review, and celebrations.

We recognized the Watertown High School field hockey team, who set the national record for consecutive shutouts earlier this month. Congratulations to Coach Donahue and her amazing team and we are pulling for the Raiders with the playoffs around the corner. Coach Donahue also notched an impressive personal accomplishment, recording her 750th career win. We will also be cheering on the girls volleyball team and the boys soccer team as they enter the playoffs.

We pored through a bevy of MCAS data for all five schools and the district as a whole. We are proud of this year’s numbers, which show our district making significant progress towards targets. Of note, the Hosmer Elementary School has been designated a School of Recognition by DESE for academic achievement and growth. You can examine the data for yourself with this breakdown put together by Dr. Theresa McGuinness, our principals, and curriculum coordinators. The presentation shows our strengths, areas for growth, and importantly, the action steps the district will take to continue to improve.

Additionally, Watertown High School had a very strong year in the world of AP Exams. This has been a significant effort for WHS and we are extremely proud of the results. 54% of WHS students took at least one AP class and 37% scored a 3+ on at least one AP exam. We saw an increase in the number of students taking AP tests, the number of exams given, and the number of students scoring a 3+. And, in order to remove barriers to access, the district covered the cost of all tests. This earned WHS a spot on the AP Honor Roll with a silver recognition from the College Board.

The Committee also received an update on the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education’s 2023 comprehensive review of the district. This audit is required by the state once every 10 years and examines six key factors in the health of school districts: Leadership and Governance, Curriculum, Assessment, Student Support, Human Resources, and Financial and Asset Management. We are pleased with the results, which you can read about here.

We voted to approve the administration’s FY24 budget priorities and calendar, the timeline for the budget process, and Superintendent Galdston’s appointment to the LABBBW Board of Directors. The Committee also voted to reduce athletics and extracurricular fees to a maximum of $200 per high school student and $50 per middle school student for this school year. During the upcoming budget process, we will propose to eliminate fees in FY25, FY26, and FY27.

We are sorry to say goodbye to Assistant Superintendent McGuiness. Dr. McGuinness is heading to Marblehead to become Interim Superintendent. She has served our district well for 8 years and our loss is most certainly Marblehead’s gain.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday, November 6th at 7:00 PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

October 5, 2023

The 2023-2024 school year is underway in Watertown and we hope you are having a good start to your year.

Our year began with exciting news, as the Hosmer Elementary School was honored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a School of Recognition. Hosmer was only one of 66 schools in the state to earn this title as part of DESE’s release of MCAS data and accountability metrics. Our district as a whole also earned high marks from the state. You can read more about the recognition in Ms. Moulton’s newsletter to the Hosmer community.

Watertown High School was also recognized for strong academic achievement, earning a place on the College Board's AP School Honor Roll with a Silver Distinction.

“The AP School Honor Roll recognizes schools that have done outstanding work to welcome more students into AP courses and support them on the path to college success.” College Board

Our district is working hard to open up opportunities and support all students as they challenge themselves academically. This is a testament to those efforts.

With the start of the new year comes significant changes for our district, perhaps none bigger than the move out of the old high school and into the temporary space at Moxley Field. We are pleased to report that there has been a smooth transition into the new building. You can see pictures and learn a little more about the new setup in this presentation from our September meeting.

We also learned about the activities over summer break for staff and students alike. Dr. Theresa McGuinness detailed some of the professional development opportunities for staff in recent months and summer program coordinators Rick Saunders and Deb Cornelius shared highlights from the Summer Success and Summer Explorations programs for elementary school children. You can find that presentation here.

In July of this year, Watertown officially joined the LABBB Collaborative. The mission of LABBBW Collaborative, (Lexington, Arlington, Burlington, Belmont, Bedford, and Watertown) is “to jointly conduct educational programs and/or services for Member Districts and non-

member districts in a cost-effective manner, increase educational opportunities of children ages 3-22 and to improve education outcomes for students.” LABBBW provides programming in the following areas: intensive educational programming, therapeutic programming, vocational programming, consultation services, related services, and recreational programming for students with disabilities at 11 sites located within the member districts. Additionally, LABBBW provides professional development opportunities, including job-alike groups for special education professionals. This is an exciting opportunity for Watertown and a great resource to provide excellent opportunities for our students.

The Committee voted to approve a 2.5% annual compensation increase for Dr. Galdston, in addition to a market adjustment based on her performance evaluation as well as a review of similar communities. With Dr. Galdston’s contract expiring next June, our Committee also voted to begin negotiations with the Superintendent for a successor contract.

Also approved were Dr. Galdston’s goals for the 2023-2024 school year as well as the updates to the wellness policy discussed at the August meeting.

We heard an overview of - and approved - the annual 8th grade field trip to Washington DC, which takes place in early June 2024. 8th grade students and families will be receiving communication about this trip throughout the year. This is an exciting annual opportunity that aligns nicely with our civics curriculum for 8th graders.

The public got their first peek at the newly renovated Lowell Elementary School this week (it’s spectacular) and students move in on October 11th. Congratulations!

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday, October 23 at 7:00 PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

August 30, 2023

We hope you have had a safe and healthy summer. We are excited for a big school year ahead for the Watertown community.

At last week’s School Committee meeting, we heard updates on the final preparations for the start of the school year. There is certainly no bigger undertaking in the district than the move to the new high school at Moxley, which will open to students on the first day of school, Tuesday, September 5. Teachers, meanwhile, will be moving into the building this week.

The community is invited to attend a ribbon cutting ceremony for the Moxley High School on Thursday, August 31 at 4:30 p.m. A tour of the building will follow. We know students and staff will enjoy a more comfortable setting than they were used to in the old Watertown High School. The average classroom at Moxley is 125-150 square feet larger than classrooms at the old building.

This, of course, will not be the only move on the way for Watertown schools. The Lowell Elementary School renovation is speeding towards the finish and we look forward to welcoming the Lowell community back on October 11.

The School Committee approved changes to the district handbook, as well as the high school, middle school, and elementary school handbooks.

Of note, the district has updated the attendance policies for all schools, a decision that leadership felt was warranted coming out of the COVID era. Examples of excused absences are illnesses, religious observances and holidays, court appearances, and the death of a student’s family member. Unexcused absences are cutting class, family vacations, work, or illnesses longer than 4 days that are not documented by a doctor’s note.

We also reviewed the Moxley addendum to the high school handbook that addresses some operational changes based on the temporary space.

There was a first reading of the Wellness Policy changes, with a vote scheduled for the September 18 meeting.

Dr. Galdston gave us a preliminary update on enrollment for the upcoming school year. We are trending towards an enrollment increase from last year at all three levels. As you can see from the personnel report, the summer is a time of transitions and hiring, as the district plans for the upcoming year. And, the Superintendent provided her draft goals for the 2023-2024 school year.

Last year, WPS began utilizing the University of Chicago’s 5 Essentials (5Es) survey to assess how organized the district is for school improvement and success. The 5Es survey assesses the district regarding the following essential conditions for improvement: Supportive Environment, Ambitious Instruction, Collaborative Teachers, Effective Leaders, and Involved Families. We took time at the meeting to review and discuss our year 2 survey results. This survey will serve as an important long term tool as the district focuses on continuous improvement.

There was a proposal to consider adding two Watertown High School students to the School Committee as non-voting members. This will be considered by our policy subcommittee in the coming months.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday, September 18 at 7:00 PM. The dates and agendas for 2023/2024 School Committee meetings can be found here.

We look forward to welcoming the WPS community back to school!

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

August 2, 2023

The Watertown School Committee has been active this summer, meeting monthly to prepare for the upcoming school year and to address routine business.

At our July meeting, the School Committee presented its annual evaluation of Dr. Galdston’s work as Superintendent. The review found that Dr. Galdston is meeting her goals, with all 7 members of the School Committee giving her a proficient or exemplary rating in her overall job performance. You can read the full review, with comments from each member of the committee, here. The committee is grateful for the Superintendent's steady and thoughtful leadership. We are lucky to have her leading the Watertown Public Schools.

Dr. Galdston also presented the school district’s response to the March 2022 Equity Audit, providing us and the public with a dashboard detailing the Equity Action Plan. This document outlines how the district is tackling the 54 recommendations made as part of the Equity Audit and serves as a way for the community to monitor the planning and implementation of equity strategies in Watertown.

Our district had extremely stable enrollment numbers for the 2022-2023 school year. More than 95% of students enrolled by October 1, 2022 remained in the district on the final day of school. You can find more information on WPS enrollment here.

The School Committee unanimously voted to use any remaining funds from Fiscal Year 2023 to prepay out-of-district tuition costs for Fiscal Year 2024. This will hopefully help cover any potential shortfalls that may arise for FY24, with the cost of out-of-district tuition rising across the state. The Committee also unanimously approved a 2.5% salary adjustment for staff members who are not aligned with bargaining units. This represents a cost of just over $68,000.

We were introduced to our new Director of Public Buildings, Denise Maroney. Denise takes over the department at a critical time, with our Lowell project on the verge of wrapping up, the opening of the temporary high school at Moxley Field, and the construction of the new Watertown High School set to begin in the fall. We wish her luck in her new role!

And speaking of our building projects, take a look at the latest pictures from inside the Lowell Elementary School and the Moxley High School. This fall will prove to be an exciting time for our community with the opening of these buildings.

And, on Monday, the State legislature finalized the fiscal year 2024 state budget and sent it to the Governor, who has 10 days to review it. The budget includes additional state funding for our high school building project and universal free school meals for students, among other things. We are grateful to our state legislative delegation - Senator Will Brownsberger, Representative Steve Owens, and Representative John Lawn - for advocating for our students.

We are wishing you a safe and happy summer and look forward to welcoming the Watertown community back to school in the fall.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

May 3, 2023

Happy Teacher Appreciation Day and week to all of our incredible educators in the Watertown Public Schools! Teacher Appreciation Day was yesterday, and we continue to celebrate our educators next week during National Teacher Appreciation Week.

The Watertown School Committee met three times over the last month. The School Committee unanimously approved the superintendent’s budget proposal, paving the way for consideration by the City Council in the coming weeks. This budget was the result of months of hard work put in by Superintendent Galdston, Director of Finance Heidi Perkins, and the Budget and Finance subcommittee. We are grateful for their dedication to this process.

This is a level services budget, meaning all positions, programs, and initiatives supported this year will be covered next year. Despite a 3.5% funding increase from the city, we still had to close a $1.38 million shortfall to meet our goal of providing the same level of services we provided for Fiscal Year 2023. We were able to do this by tapping into state and federal pandemic relief funds. Some of the primary drivers of cost increases include a 14% increase in the cost of out-of-district special education and a 25% increase in busing costs. These cost increases are not unique to our school district and are being faced by districts across the state.

Our committee also approved the 2023-2024 school year calendar, which you can access here. Classes begin on Tuesday, September 6, 2023 with school letting out for the summer on Friday, June 21, 2024 (this includes 5 snow days, if needed).

Last year, our district conducted an Equity Audit. Based on this audit, the district has created a draft Equity Action Plan. The Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging presented on this plan and has been engaging with the school community to gather feedback.

In order to recruit and retain staff at our Extended Day Programs, the Committee unanimously approved compensation increases for extended day program staff.

We heard a final report from the Career, Vocational, and Technical Education Ad Hoc Committee. This committee put in an extraordinary amount of work examining all the options for Watertown students who are interested in pursuing CVTE pathways.

Watertown High School currently offers three vocational programs: medical assisting, engineering technology, and digital media communications. Additionally, for many years, Watertown students have been able to attend Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical High School for a variety of other CVTE programs. But recently, Minuteman has struggled to accept out-of-district students since they are at or over capacity. This led the committee to exploring other options in nearby districts.

The committee recommends students and families interested in outside vocational programs apply to at least two schools, since acceptance is not guaranteed at any one school. More information on CVTE programs both in Watertown and in nearby districts can be found here. The district plans to re-evaluate the landscape of CVTE education every six months and will continue to pursue options that provide access to high quality vocational education for students in Watertown.

Dr. Galdston informed us that the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education has tapped Watertown for a comprehensive audit. This is standard practice and happens roughly every 10 years. State officials will be in the district May 1-5 to meet with staff and our committee.

Our meeting schedule and links to past meetings, agendas, and minutes can be found here.

Kendra Foley

March 6, 2023

The Watertown School Committee met this week for the first time in March and tackled a number of important items.

The School Committee voted to ratify our recent agreement with the Watertown Educators Association on a new three-year contract. We are grateful to both negotiating teams for their hard work and are deeply appreciative for everything our teachers do for our students and our community.

The Committee also approved the first and last days of school for the 2023-2024 calendar year. Students will begin the year on Tuesday, September 5, 2023, with the last day of school tentatively scheduled for Friday, June 21, 2024. Please note the last scheduled day of school includes five snow days built into the academic calendar. So, if we don’t have any snow days next year, the last day of school would be Friday, June 14, 2024. In the coming weeks, we will also consider a proposal from Superintendent Galdston to make the last day before winter break a half day and to add a fifth early release day during the school year for professional development. These details, including the dates for early release days, will be determined at a meeting in the near future.

Construction continues at Moxley Field, the site of the temporary Watertown High School beginning next year. Crews have begun delivering the modular units to the site in recent weeks and the project is very much developing with each passing day. Renovation work also continues at the Lowell Elementary School and members of the School Committee got a chance to tour the building last week. Take this short virtual tour of the Lowell renovations.

The Committee received an update from Watertown Middle School principal Jenn Chen-Fein and reading specialist Chris Cochran on how our educators are helping English Language Learners take amazing strides in the classroom. We also approved Watertown High School’s Program of Studies for the 2023-2024 school year.

This also marks a busy time for arts and athletics. The Watertown High School spring musical, Anastasia, will hit the stage this weekend (Friday 3/10 7 p.m., Saturday 3/11 7 p.m., and Sunday 3/12 2 p.m.). Bandarama returns to the Watertown High School gym on Wednesday, March 15 at 7 p.m., highlighting band instrument students in grades 4-12. The boys and girls basketball teams both made the tournament, as did the boys hockey team. Good luck to the hockey team as they compete in the final four this weekend against Scituate! The Watertown High School cheerleading team will take part in the state meet on Sunday at Worcester State. Go Raiders!

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday, March 27 at 7:00 PM at the Cunniff Elementary School. The dates for all 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here. Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

February 7, 2023

The Watertown School Committee met on Monday for our February meeting.

Before the meeting, our negotiating team sat down with the Watertown Educators Association as we continue to work on a new contract. We remain committed to providing our outstanding educators with a fair and competitive agreement. We thank the members of both negotiating teams for their dedication and for their professionalism, and we will continue to negotiate in good faith towards an agreement that serves our teachers, our town, and supports our students and families. We appreciate the members of the community who spoke during our public comment period to express their views on the negotiations.

This meeting also brought sobering budget news, as we face a projected budget shortfall of nearly $900,000 for the 2023/2024 academic year to keep level services (in other words, to fund every position, program, and service that is paid for in the 2022/2023 budget). This is due, in large part, to general inflation, a 14% state mandated increase in out of district placement costs, and increased transportation costs. This will mark a significant challenge in the coming months. We are fully committed to exploring every avenue possible to cover this funding gap so that our programs and services for students remain strong.

We also received an update on the status of the turf field at Victory Field. Athletic Director Ryan Murphy explained that our current synthetic turf, which was installed 12 years ago, has reached the end of its useful life and needs to be replaced. The decision to fund the replacement project and install new turf ultimately lies with the City, but the School Committee voted to recommend replacing the turf in a 6-0 vote (with one member voting present). A Q&A about this project can be found here.

Construction of the modular high school continues at Moxley Field, in preparation for opening in the fall. Meanwhile, the renovation of the Lowell Elementary School remains on track to be completed this summer. We are excited to welcome students back to Lowell in September.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday March 6 at 7:00 PM. The dates for all 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here. Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

December 8, 2022
I hope you all had a relaxing Thanksgiving weekend. The School Committee has met three times in the last 1.5 months. Below are some updates.

The Watertown High School field hockey team won the State Championship with a 2-0 win over Sandwich. The team played with poise, intensity and impressive technical ability en route to an undefeated season, their second-straight state title, and the 20th state championship for head coach Eileen Donahue. Congratulations on an incredible season!

Watertown had other athletic successes this fall: girls soccer had a fantastic season, qualifying for the state tournament and winning two exciting matches; boys soccer and football both made the state tournament; the cross country team had two runners advance to All-States; cheerleading advanced to States; lots of fun (and a great 21-7 win) was had at the 100th Annual Thanksgiving Football Game at Fenway Park.

The WHS put on a fabulous production of Clue in November. And, the spring musical, Anastasia begins rehearsal this week. The new Chess Club has a record number of participants, and our high schoolers continue to practice non-violence at Kingian Club. The high school is full of school spirit with a recent pep rally, powder puff game, and student/faculty basketball game.

The number of WHS students receiving the Seal of Biliteracy, which requires a test to show linguistic proficiency, has exploded in the last year. We are very proud of our bilingual students! 40% of Watertown students speak a language other than English at home, adding richness and diversity to our community.

Parent-teacher conferences have already happened in the elementary schools and middle school and are happening now at the high school. Make sure you take the time to meet with your child’s teachers. It’s a great opportunity to understand what is happening in the classroom and identify ways to help your student succeed. The schools have created flexible meeting options - both in-person and online - for caregivers.

We’ve heard great presentations from the Lowell School about the WIN block, our Farm to School program, and the Cunniff School about the science curiosity challenge. There are a lot of exciting things happening in all of our elementary schools.

A CVTE Committee was created earlier this year to explore vocational technical education options for Watertown students. The Chair of the Committee, David Stokes, provided an update on the committee’s work to date. He reviewed the committee’s charge, options that were investigated and considered, challenges, findings, and draft recommendations. A final report is expected next month.

MCAS data was released this fall. The district has received its 2022 Accountability Data as well as MCAS District Data. Because of the pandemic, the state is not providing accountability scores as part of the accountability data. But chronic absenteeism has been identified as a challenge in Watertown (and across the state) and continues to be a priority moving forward. As for the district data, the state is treating this year’s MCAS as the new baseline and therefore should not be compared to previous years. This data helps us identify areas of strength and weakness, and helps the district make adjustments and improvements to curriculum and delivery.

The policy subcommittee met in late November to discuss a number of policy changes. These changes were presented as a first reading to the School Committee. These changes will be voted on at the January 9, 2023 School Committee meeting. They are: AC - NON DISCRIMINATION; GCF - PROFESSIONAL STAFF HIRING; JB - EQUITABLE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES; JBC - EDUCATIONAL EQUITY; JFBB - SCHOOL CHOICE.

For all you school budget enthusiasts, see the FY24 budget priorities and calendar. The budget preparation for FY24 (2023/2024 academic year) has already begun. Recommendations are discussed in the winter and the budget is voted and presented to the City Council in the spring.

The building projects are moving forward. The renovated Lowell School will open for the start of the 2023/2024 school year. Preparation for the WHS modular building at Moxley has already begun. The new WHS 90% construction documents will be presented to the School Building Committee at their December 21st meeting. Want some inspiration? Check out the WHS Virtual Tour. To stay up to date, zoom into the School Building Committee meetings. Find meeting dates and agendas here.

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday January 9, 2022 at 7:00 PM. The dates for all 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here. Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

September 19 and October 3, 2022
The School Committee has met twice over the last few weeks (September 19th and October 3rd).

Our own Jackie McCready (Lowell ESL teacher), was nominated by Latinos for Education for exceptional work at the Lowell Elementary School and within the community. She was also honored at the State House in early October. Congratulations, Jackie!

Bianca Skraly, Watertown High School Student Advisor, provided an update on the happenings at WHS, including: academics, athletics, the new drop/add period and the upcoming school play Clue. Sophomores and juniors are taking the PSATs this week, with all costs covered by the district, as a way to help prepare them for SATs and college planning. The district is also covering the cost of all AP tests as a way to eliminate financial barriers to student academic success. Want to attend the 100th Watertown/Belmont Thanksgiving football game at Fenway Park? Get your tickets here.

We voted in favor of a budget transfer from the School Capital funds line to the High School Capital Fund for the new high school project.

We heard an excellent update from Heather McManus, chair of SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council) about the important work they are doing on behalf of the district. Joining SEPAC is a great way for parents to get involved (you don’t need to have a student with a 504 or IEP to participate). Please email [email protected] with questions or to get involved.

Every 3 to 4 years, the district revisits its district wide strategy. This collaborative process includes administrators, educators, School Committee members, parents and community members. The strategy team kicked off their work in late September and will wrap up by January.

We heard an equity update from Dr. Henry, the WPS Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging; a personnel update; and, an enrollment update (enrollment remains steady).

The elementary school projects remain on schedule. The Hosmer playground should be complete by November and the Lowell Elementary School should be ready for the start of the 2022/2023 school year.

The renderings of the new Watertown High School continue to look fantastic. Cost estimates based on the 60% construction design documents will be discussed at the October 12, 2022 School Building Committee meeting. Agenda with zoom link can be found here.

Below are additional meetings/events you might be interested in:

  • SEPAC Disability-Centered Equity Listening Session on October 17, 2022 at 6:00 PM, zoom link here

  • Ad Hoc CVTE Committee meeting on Monday, October 17, 2022 at 6:30 PM

  • Conversations with the Superintendent on Tuesday, October 18, 2022 at 9:00 AM

  • School Building Committee meeting on Wednesday, October 19, 2022 at 6:00 PM

The next School Committee meeting will be October 24, 2022 at 7:00 PM. The dates for all 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here. Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

August 29, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, August 29, 2022.

Over the summer, the School Committee completed and presented the 2021/2022 Superintendent evaluation. Dr. Galdston was rated as proficient or exemplary by all members on all four standards in addition to her overall performance. She continues to show strong and steady leadership and we are grateful she is leading the Watertown Public Schools.

Minor changes were approved for the Middle School handbook, High School handbook and District handbook. No changes were made to the Elementary School handbook.

There was a second reading and vote of approval for a new policy on the use of breathalyzers to ensure student safety. Their primary use will be for high school extracurricular events, such as proms, where students often drive. For more information, please read the linked policy.

A detailed Equity Report was presented reviewing the work being done and the plans for the year.

The Superintendent presented her draft 2022/2023 goals, which will be finalized at the September 19, 2022 meeting.

The district is beginning the process of building out our next 4 year district wide improvement strategy. This will be a collaborative effort with administrators, teachers, school committee members, and parents involved. The work begins this fall and should be complete by January.

The summer months are very busy times for hiring in any school district, and Watertown is no exception, exemplified in the district personnel report.

Our elementary school building projects continue to move forward. The Hosmer playground should be complete by November (this has been slightly delayed due to supply chain issues). O’Connell Field should also be complete by November, although the grass will not be ready for athletics until the spring of 2024. Lowell is set to open its doors in the fall of 2023.

The renderings of the new high school are looking amazing. In September, the 60% construction design documents will be submitted. Cost estimates based on the submission will be reconciled and presented to the School Building Committee on October 5, 2022. This is an important phase for the high school project. Special gratitude to the School Building Committee, chaired by City Council President Mark Sideris, who continues to work hard to move this important project forward.

The dates for 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here.

Below are upcoming meetings/forums:

  • First day of school for students is Tuesday, September 6, 2022

  • School Committee Meeting, September 19, 2022 at 7:00 PM

  • Conversations with the Superintendent, September 20, 2022 at 9:00 AM

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

June 6, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, June 6, 2022.

We started the meeting by celebrating and thanking our WPS retirees.

As part of the teaching and learning showcase, members of the WHS Robotics Team, known as the KwarQs, demonstrated the robot they built for competitions this year (their most successful year to date!). The team is an extracurricular group that teaches engineering, teamwork, and leadership skills while spreading the interest of STEM education throughout the Watertown Community. Their robot was impressive and the students were full of joy and curiosity!

Each spring, schools present their School Improvement Plans (SIP) for the following year. Our elementary principals presented a powerpoint overview of the Elementary School Improvement Plan. Our three elementary schools are doing a fantastic job aligning curriculum and goals so that all students receive a similarly rich experience, regardless of the WPS elementary school they attend.

Dr. McGuinness reviewed district level curriculum work focused on equity, ESL, literacy and math.

The District Management Group (DMG) was hired to conduct a review on district practices and supports for students who struggle, with and without IEPs. Their recommendations focused on the following areas: school schedule, content expertise, use of Instructional Assistants, social emotional learning, and ESL support. These recommendations are crucial as we identify ways to better support all our students. Some are already being implemented and others will be incorporated into our district strategy moving forward.

The Superintendent reviewed our ESSER III funding and implementation plan. These funding priorities may shift as student growth goals are identified each year.

As noted in a past update, an Attendance Zone Committee was created and has been working over the past few months to review elementary school zones. This work has been done in partnership with AppGeo, a consulting firm that specializes in school redistricting and geographical information system mapping. The School Committee unanimously voted to approve their recommendation (option 3). The proposed changes will not impact any current placements. Changes would take effect in September 2023 and only for incoming Kindergarteners without older siblings.

Finally, the committee approved gifts, and reviewed the FY22 Budget, Enrollment, and Personnel Reports.

The summer meeting schedule for the School Committee is as follows: July 25, August 29, September 19, 2022 at 7:00 PM.

Below are upcoming meetings/forums:

  • Ad Hoc CVTE Committee Meeting, June 13, 2022 at 6:30 PM

  • Last day of school for students, Friday June 24, 2022 (half day)

  • School Committee Meeting, June 27, 2022 at 7:00 PM

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

May 23, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, May 23, 2022.

On Tuesday, we, as a nation, experienced another senseless mass killing at a school in Texas, where 19 children and two educators needlessly lost their lives. I’m trying not to let my feelings of despair overwhelm my hope that we, as a country, can face this tragedy and take steps to address it.

And, now, the School Committee update…

The meeting kicked off with Class of 2022 Valedictorian, Taylor Lambo and Salutatorian, Zachary Paquette. Congratulations to Taylor and Zachary for their impressive accomplishments, and to all our 2022 graduates.

The spring is a busy hiring time for schools. The Superintendent introduced the following new WPS administrators: Laura Sanchez, WHS Assistant Principal; Jennifer Chin Fein, WMS Principal; and, Casey Andrews, 8-12 ELA Coordinator. We welcome these new administrators to Watertown.

We heard a presentation about digital literacy and Fine, Applied, and Performing Arts (FAPA) at Watertown Middle School. It is exciting to see the growth and interest in our FAPA programs.

As noted in a past update, an Attendance Zone Committee was created and has been working over the past few months to review elementary school zones. This work has been done in partnership with AppGeo, a consulting firm that specializes in school redistricting and geographical information system mapping. Their recommendation (option 3) was presented and discussed at the meeting. Note that any proposed changes will not impact any current placements. Changes would take effect in September 2023 and only for incoming Kindergarteners without older siblings. The School Committee will vote on the recommendation at the June 6, 2022 meeting.

Each spring, schools present their School Improvement Plans (SIP) for the following year. The Watertown Middle School SIP and the Watertown High School SIP were presented and discussed.

The district continues weekly COVID testing and remains flexible as we move in and out of “mask optional”. Thank you to the school community for your flexibility and to the Superintendent for creating clear metrics with which to make decisions. Here are the weekly metrics.

The demolition of the old Hosmer Elementary School is nearly complete and asbestos abatement at the Lowell Elementary School is finishing up. The work on O’Connell Field has begun and will be complete this fall, although the grass will not be usable for a few seasons. The planning for a state-of-the-art high school and high quality swing space continues. The high school project breaks ground in one year and the swing space construction begins in November 2022. To learn more about Watertown’s school building projects, attend the School Building Committee (SBC) meetings the third Wednesday of each month on zoom. SBC agendas can be found here.

Below are upcoming meetings/forums:

  • WHS Graduation, June 3, 2022

  • School Committee Meeting, June 6, 2022

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

May 2, 2022
The School Committee met on Monday, May 2, 2022.

Last week was Teacher Appreciation Week. We are so grateful to all the educators who help support our students.

Superintendent Galdston introduced newly appointed Cunniff Elementary School Assistant Principal Michael Kenney. Mr. Kenney is completing his Master’s degree from Boston University and is currently at the Martin Luther King Jr. School in Boston. He’ll join the leadership team at the Cunniff on August 31, 2022.

With our three elementary schools being rebuilt/renovated, an Attendance Zone Committee was created and has been working over the past few months to review elementary school zones, with a goal of equitable distribution of students across Watertown. Their recommendations will be presented at the May 23, 2022 School Committee meeting. A community forum will be held on May 25, 2022. The School Committee will take a vote on the recommendations at the June 6, 2022 meeting.

In terms of our school building projects, the demolition of the old Hosmer building will start within the coming weeks. The groundbreaking ceremony at the Lowell Elementary School took place on April 27 as the district moves forward with the anticipated opening for the fall of 2023.

During the month of May, fifth-grade students are offered an evening Growth and Development/Puberty lesson as it relates to the Massachusetts Frameworks and National Sex Education Standards, as part of their Physical Education/Health/Wellness curriculum. In past years, around 50% of our fifth-grade students and parents/caregivers participated in this evening event. However, in order to provide all students equitable access to the curriculum in a gender-inclusive setting, the Physical Education, Health, and Wellness Department has designed a lesson for all fifth-grade students to attend during the school day. This change will be implemented this month. For families who wish to opt-out of the in-school lesson, a digital version of the lesson will be available.

Below are upcoming meetings/forums:

  • Community Conversations with the Superintendent, May 10, 2022 at 9:00am & 7:00pm

  • Equity in WPS Speaker Series, May 17, 2022 at 6:15pm

  • Policy Subcommittee Meeting, May 18, 2022 at 4:30pm

  • High School Community Forum, May 18, 2022 at 6:00pm

  • Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting, May 19, 2022 at 4:30pm

  • School Committee Meeting, May 23, 2022 at 7:00pm

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

March 21 and April 11, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, March 21, 2022 and Monday, April 11, 2022.

The March 21st meeting was focused on the Equity Audit report and presentation. The Committee had a discussion and asked questions. School Committee meetings are not ideal forums for questions and answers from the public, so the administration has scheduled a community forum to discuss the audit findings on Monday, April 25, 2022 at 6:30pm in the Watertown Middle School auditorium. All are invited to attend.

The April 11th meeting was focused on the FY23 budget. The Superintendent presented an overview of the FY23 budget, followed by a discussion. This is the culmination of numerous in-depth meetings at the Budget & Finance Subcommittee as well as months of work by the administration. The budget will now go to the City for review and approval.

Hosmer principal Erin Moulton presented on the elementary writing program. There is a lot of exciting work happening in all three of our elementary schools!

There have been some amazing things happening this winter in our Middle and High Schools. We took a few minutes to hear from Rick Saunders, the WPS Fine, Applied and Performing Arts Director about the incredible accomplishments in art, music and theater. We also heard from Ryan Murphy, the WPS Athletic Director about the individual and collective successes in our athletic programs (boys basketball and boys hockey made it to the state finals, among other things). Our WHS Robotics Team also did very well in its competitions, placing the highest they have in several years, coming very close to moving on to the District Championship.

At the April meeting, there were updates on the ongoing equity work in the district, the FY22 budget, personnel and enrollment.

In other business, we approved an overnight field trip to NYC for WHS Performing Arts; approved the EDCO district assessment; welcomed two WEA members’ children to attend WPS; and approved slight changes to five policies.

Below are upcoming meetings/forums:

  • Ad Hoc CVTE Committee Meeting, April 25, 2022 at 6:30PM, Cunniff, Learning Commons

  • Community Forum to Discuss the Equity Audit, April 25, 2022 at 6:30PM, Watertown Middle School Auditorium

  • Your Voice Matters Series: BIPOC Listening Session, Thursday April 28, 2022 at 5:30PM, Attendance via Zoom and 30 Common St 3rd Floor

  • School Committee Meeting, May 2, 2022 at 7:00PM

  • High School Community Forum, May 4, 2022 at 6:00PM via Zoom

The last day of school will likely be Friday, June 24, 2022. I say “likely” because we have used only 3 snow days, so the last day cannot be made official until June 4, 2022.

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra FoleyChair,
Watertown School Committee

March 7, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, March 7, 2022.

Watertown High School student advisor Emma Fallon provided an update about winter sports, college acceptances, MCAS prep, and the alleviation of COVID restrictions at the high school.

The Superintendent presented the updated WPS Mask Policy and we heard feedback and questions from members of the community and SEPAC. The School Committee voted unanimously in favor of the updated mask policy. As of Wednesday, March 9, 2022, masks are optional in the district. Built into the Superintendent’s recommendation is a set of metrics that we will continue to monitor, with adjustments to the mask policy being made accordingly.

Each year, the school committee is asked to participate in or withdraw from the “School Choice” Program, which would allow non-resident students to attend WPS. WPS has never participated and declined again this year for reasons of space, class size and financial equity.

We approved minor changes to the 2022/2023 WHS Program of Studies, the 2022/2023 School Calendar (first day of school will be Tuesday, September 6, 2022) and Gifts to the district.

The School Committee approved the February 7, 2022 meeting minutes, February 14, 2022 Budget and Finance Subcommittee report, February 28, 2022 Policy Subcommittee report, March 3, 2022 Budget and Finance Subcommittee report, and February 28, 2022 CVTE Ad Hoc Committee Report. Finally, we did a first reading of six policies.

At the March 21, 2022 School Committee meeting, the district will present a detailed analysis of the Equity Audit.

The Superintendent presented WPS enrollment projections, class sizes and the monthly enrollment update. The district continues to provide an impressive range of academic opportunities and low class sizes. In Watertown, 84% of students attend Watertown Public Schools; 13% attend private school spread evenly through all grade levels; 1.5% are homeschooled; 1.5% attend a vocational technical school.

In our Building for the Future projects, the Massachusetts School Building Authority voted to support our WHS building project last week. This is an exciting and important milestone for this project. And, the Lowell Elementary School project contractor/builder will be announced next week by the School Building Committee.

Finally, we reviewed the FY22 Budget Update and Personnel Update.

Below is a list of upcoming WPS related events and meetings.

● Equity in WPS Speaker Series, Part 4, March 10th, 6:30-8:00pm

● School Building Committee, March 16th, 6:00pm

● Budget and Finance Subcommittee Meeting, March 8th & March 10th, 3:30pm

● CVTE Ad Hoc Committee, March 14th, 6:30pm

● School Building Committee, March 16th, 6:00pm

● School Committee Meeting, March 21st, 7pm

● School Committee Retreat, March 30th, 6pm

Additionally, the Watertown High School Musical “Into the Woods” will be held March 17-19, the WHS Boys and Girls Basketball teams and the Boys Hockey teams continue post-season tournament play. We wish all of our students the best in these events.

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

February 7, 2022

The School Committee met on Monday, February 7, 2022.

Watertown High School student advisor Emma Fallon provided an update on midterms, Black History Month lessons, and athletics.

The district provided a teaching and learning update focused on K-8 WIN (What I Need) Blocks. WIN is the intervention/challenge structure in our elementary schools and middle school.

The School Committee discussed, amended and voted in support of the creation of the Vocational Technical Education Ad Hoc Committee. The School Committee amended the proposal by creating one Chair rather than Co-Chairs, and replaced the role of facilitator with consultant to better reflect the role that the individual will play. If you are interested in serving on this committee, please email Susan Clark at [email protected] by Tuesday, February 15, 2022. Please include the reason for your interest and your qualifications. Members will be notified on Friday, February 18, 2022.

The district provided an equity update. The Public Consulting Group has completed a full-scale equity audit, which will be presented at the March 7, 2022 School Committee meeting.

The COVID update provides the most recent vaccination and case numbers. With the weekly COVID cases in the district declining, classrooms will no longer be required to be in rows. The Hosmer and Lowell schools are setting up their new classrooms in groups for after vacation in their new spaces.

The Building for the Future projects continue to move forward. The Hosmer School ribbon cutting on February 1st was well attended and showcased a fabulous new learning environment for thousands of students this year...and many years to come. The high school building project is at a critical point. The district provided schematic design responses in preparation for the Massachusetts School Building Authority (MSBA) March meeting, where they will take a final vote to invite Watertown into their grant program.

In addition, the Committee approved gifts to the Watertown Public Schools, approved minutes from the 1/24/22 School Committee meeting and the 2/2/22 Curriculum Subcommittee meeting, reviewed the FY22 budget update, enrollment update, and personnel update.

The Budget and Finance Subcommittee will meet on February 14th at 4:30pm, March 3rd, 8th, and 10th at 3:30pm. The Curriculum Subcommittee will meet on February 28th at 4:30pm. The next School Committee meeting will be March 7th at 7pm.

Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here. All supporting documents have also been linked in the update above.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

January 10, 2022
The School Committee met on Monday, January 10, 2022. The meeting began with the annual School Committee Reorganization. Kendra Foley was elected Chair, Lindsay Mosca was elected Vice Chair and Amy Donohue was elected Secretary.

WHS student advisors Eleni Hum and Emma Fallon provided an update on high school activities, sports and new COVID protocols.

The Committee unanimously supported the inclusion of Harriet Hosmer in the rededication of the Hosmer School. Harriet was an internationally renowned sculptor, Watertown resident and cousin/niece to the two men currently honored by the Hosmer Elementary School. The new dedication will include Harriet Hosmer, Dr. Hiram Hosmer and Dr. Alfred Hosmer.

The Committee discussed the Superintendent’s proposal for the Vocational Technical Education Ad Hoc Committee. The Superintendent will make adjustments based on the feedback she received and present an updated proposal at the January 24th School Committee meeting.

The Superintendent outlined the new COVID-19 protocols and COVID-19 district metrics. The changes to the protocols are focused on the CDC-approved quarantine shift from 10 days to 5 days, definition of close contacts, and “return to school” protocols. The updated COVID-19 Addendum can be found here.

Dr. Henry, Director of Inclusion, Equity and Belonging, talked about the status of the District Equity Audit: she is reviewing the report and will present the findings and recommendations at a future meeting.

The Hosmer Elementary School is in its final construction phase with furniture and other items being delivered. There will be a ribbon-cutting and tour on February 1st at 6pm for the public. The high school project is moving forward smoothly with the Schematic Design submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority in late December. There will be a community forum on February 2nd at 6pm focused on the Moxley site and the modulars.

The Committee also heard updates on the FY22 Budget, Enrollment and Personnel.

There are several upcoming meetings: School Building Committee on January 19th at 6pm; School Committee on January 24th at 7pm; Equity Speaker Series Part 3: Defining Implicit Bias on January 13th at 6:30pm on Zoom; High School Project Community Forum on February 2nd at 6pm.

The Watertown Annual MLK Day Unity Breakfast will be hosted on January 17th at 10am on Zoom. Please join this wonderful community event by signing up here.

All Watertown School Committee agendas can be found here.

Kendra Foley
Chair, Watertown School Committee

December 6, 2021

The School Committee met on Monday, December 6. The meeting started with two recognitions. First, the field hockey team was introduced as the Division Three State Champions. Coach Eileen Donohue introduced each team member and her assistant coaches. Also of note, Coach Donohue won her 700th game during this past season. The second recognition was for John Portz who did not run for re-election and leaves the School Committee at the end of the year. John served for sixteen years on the committee, after serving nine years on the Town Council.

The Teaching and Learning Showcase provided information on new protocols for dyslexia screening. This included an overview of MTSS (multi-tiered systems of support), screening tools and strategies to identify dyslexia, and related professional development for educators.

The Committee approved a FY2023 capital budget request of $2,585,000. Most of the capital improvements are for the Middle School, including air conditioning on the first floor. Also included are over $800,000 in projects for the Phillips Administration building, although these are contingent upon decisions by city officials as to the future of the Phillips building.

The Committee also approved a set of principles to help guide an ad hoc committee that will be formed in January to begin the review process for possible attendance boundary adjustments for the elementary schools. Adjustments are possible for the fall of 2023 upon completion of construction and renovation at all three schools.

Superintendent Galdston presented information on vocational education options for Watertown students. She highlighted the availability of programs in the High School, including Chapter 74 programs of Engineering Technology and starting next fall, Medical Assisting and Digital Media Broadcasting, as well as pathway programs in several other areas. She also outlined opportunities outside Watertown, including Medford High School, which has 15 Chapter 74 programs. A representative from Medford will come to the Middle School in January to talk about their programs. Many Watertown students attended Minuteman Regional Vocational Technical School in past years - and can still apply this coming year, but available seats are limited in the new, smaller building. The deadline for students applications to outside vocational programs is March 15. Following the recommendation of the Superintendent, an ad hoc committee with community representation will be formed in January to review and report on the needs and full range of vocational education options within and outside the district for Watertown students.

In other reports, the Athletic Subcommittee reported on its recent meeting, and the Superintendent provided an update on COVID-19 protocols and testing in the district. Other updates included the FY2022 budget, student enrollment, and personnel changes.

On Wednesday, December 8, there were several important events. The School Building Committee met yesterday at 6 PM to review the new high school schematic design, site plan, and cost estimates. If approved on December 15, they will be submitted to the state as a key step in the planning for a new high school. At 6:30 PM, the district hosted the second workshop on cultural proficiency, led by Dr. Kalise Warnum. Also on that day there was another vaccination clinic at the Middle School from 3 PM - 7 PM.

In other upcoming events, Superintendent Galdston will host her Community Conversations on Zoom on December 14 at 9 AM and 7 PM. The School Building Committee meets again on December 15 at 6 PM, and the School Committee has its first meeting of 2022 on January 10 at 7 PM. Participants can attend in person, on Zoom, or watch on WCATV.

Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

November 8, 2021

There was a full agenda for the School Committee on November 8. The Teaching and Learning Showcase featured the elementary Spanish program. As of this year, all elementary grades include Spanish instruction. This has been a major commitment by the district and staff. Beginning next year, the Middle School program, which used to be the first year of Spanish, will be re-designed to accommodate these Spanish-speaking students from the elementary schools.

The 2021 MCAS results also were presented. Taken in the spring, this was a unique year for MCAS since students were in remote or hybrid instruction for much of the year. The test was limited in scope and is not deemed comparable to previous tests, nor is it being used by the state for accountability purposes. While acknowledging these unusual circumstances, the results indicate some areas of strength and other challenges. It was noted that students generally scored better on curriculum standards that were prioritized during the year, a practice encouraged by the state. The presentation identified student subgroup differences as well as response strategies by educators at each level.

The FY23 Budget Calendar was approved. The budget process has begun, and includes capital planning this fall, followed by budget meetings in the winter and spring before a final budget is presented to the Manager and Council in May. To help guide this process, the Committee approved FY23 Budget Priorities recommended by Superintendent Galdston. These are organized around four key objectives: equity, excellence, community, and Building for the Future projects.

Information was presented to the Committee on a new School Quality Framework and the 5 Essentials survey. The School Quality Framework is organized around inputs and outcomes that show progress in meeting major goals for the district, such as academic achievement and a supportive school culture. This is a draft document that will be further developed with input from school staff, administrators, parents, and the Committee. The 5 Essentials survey provides an opportunity for parents, students, and teachers to reflect on their experiences with the Watertown schools. Some of these responses will be used as metrics in the School Quality Framework. The survey window will be open December 1-23.

Superintendent Galdston provided an update on COVID-19 protocols. Wearing face masks and testing continue across the district. For Watertown children ages 5-11, a vaccination clinic sponsored by the state will provide free shots on Wednesday, November 17, from 2-7 pm in the Middle School cafeteria. The second dose will take place on December 8. A signup form will be emailed to families from the Superintendent shortly. This clinic is open to all children ages 5-11 regardless of where they live or where they attend school.

In the Building for the Future update, the Hosmer continues to move toward a February opening, although supply chain disruptions have slowed some aspects of the work. Schematic design continues at the High School with the next presentation planned for December 8.

The Chair noted that the Committee will meet on November 22 at 7 pm to discuss the latest draft of the School Quality Framework as well as initial priorities to help guide possible changes to elementary school attendance zones. When construction projects are completed at all three elementary schools the district will need to evaluate the best use of each building, which may require attendance boundary adjustments. Any changes would not become effective until at least the fall of 2023 when all elementary projects are completed.

At the outset of the meeting, two new staff were introduced: James Kane as the Director of Public Buildings, and Brendan Casey as the Interim Coordinator for Physical Education, Health & Wellness. Other presentations included the FY22 Budget Update, Enrollment Update, and Personnel Update.

In upcoming meetings, the School Building Committee meets next on November 17. As noted, the School Committee meets on November 22 and again on December 6 for its regular monthly meeting.

Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

October 18, 2021

The School Committee meeting on October 18 took place in the Learning Commons of the new Cunniff School. Principal Mena Ciarlone provided a slideshow tour of the new building. The slideshow included opening-day activities, such as a classroom ribbon cutting, and pictures from classrooms, the gymnasium, cafeteria, and outside the building. Teachers and students are very excited about their new building. Many thanks to custodians and teachers who worked over the October 10 weekend to prepare for the opening.

Superintendent Galdston provided an update on COVID-19 protocols. The “Test and Stay” program is operating at Lowell West (former St. Jude’s in Waltham). With this program, students who are unvaccinated and close contacts with someone who tested positive can continue to attend school as long as they have negative COVID-19 test results for seven consecutive days. The program runs from 7:00 am to 7:45 and includes a rapid test that produces results within 20 minutes. If the result is negative, the student can attend school rather than be quarantined. To date, 208 elementary and 16 Middle School students have participated.

Beginning October 21, symptomatic testing will be available at Lowell West from 8:15-10:00. This also is a rapid test. If a student tests positive, they would quarantine for 10 days. If a student tests negative, a PCR test may be required depending upon the nature of their symptoms. The state has provided guidelines and a flow chart for how this will work.

For grades 7-12, the School Committee approved a recommendation from the Superintendent to end mandatory testing for students who are vaccinated. Students who are not vaccinated will continue to be tested, and vaccinated students can choose to be tested. However, students in Middle School sports will continue to be tested. There have been no COVID cases among vaccinated secondary students while in school, and this adjustment will allow nursing resources to be focused at the elementary level.

The Superintendent provided a brief overview of planning for vocational education opportunities for Watertown students. Minuteman has had only a few seats available for Watertown students due to its smaller building that recently opened and the increase in participation by member districts. However, Watertown students interested in a vocational technical education have other options, including Medford High School, which has a full set of programs. In addition, we are growing our vocational technical opportunities at Watertown High School. We currently offer Engineering Technology and are developing several other programs, including Medical Assisting, Media Broadcasting, and Early Childhood Education, along with pathway programs in several areas. The Superintendent is meeting with surrounding districts next month to explore additional partnerships. A more detailed presentation will be made at the December School Committee meeting.

In other news, the Equity Audit continues with participation by students, staff, and the community in focus groups, and that there will be an additional opportunity for families to provide feedback via email to the consultants. It also was noted that the Town Manager recently made the FY2023 preliminary budget presentation in which he outlined the path forward for funding all school construction projects without requiring a Proposition 2½ vote by the community. This is an extraordinary commitment by the town in support of the school system.

In upcoming meetings, the School Building Committee will meet on November 3. The Curriculum Subcommittee meets at 3:30 on November 4 and the Budget and Finance Subcommittee meets at 5:00 on the same day. The School Committee meets on November 8.

Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

October 4, 2021

The School Committee met on Monday, October 4. The Teaching and Learning Showcase included an introduction to the new Atlas Curriculum Portal for Parents. This portal provides curriculum maps for subjects and courses for grades K-12. Each curriculum map includes five key parts: a course description, unit description, standards and benchmarks, enduring understandings, and essential questions. These maps provide parents with an overview of courses and subjects, including a timeline for coverage of key curriculum standards.

Among votes taken, the Committee approved hiring Stoneman, Chandler & Miller, with Colby Brunt as the lead attorney, as legal counsel for personnel and collective bargaining. On the previous Monday, three finalist firms were interviewed by the Committee. All three firms are well-qualified to provide legal services, but the Committee was most impressed with the collaborative and open approach of Stoneman, Chandler & Miller towards collective bargaining and the firm’s experiences and services that are provided for clients.

The Committee also approved Policy IMB, which covers the teaching of challenging and controversial topics. The policy outlines the important role played by the school curriculum to help prepare students as critical thinkers and civically empowered participants in a diverse society. The administration will work with teachers to develop guidelines for implementing this policy.

Superintendent Galdston provided a detailed update on COVID-19 protocols. The district’s first in-district transmission of COVID-19 took place at the Cunniff. Nine individuals are impacted. Protocols and procedures are being reviewed to minimize such events. This week begins the Test & Stay program in which students who are unvaccinated and close contacts with someone who tests positive can continue to attend school as long as they have negative COVID-19 test results for seven consecutive days. The district will provide this daily testing at the Phillips Administration Building at 7:15 AM. Parental consent is required for students participating in this program. Also, the district will soon survey Middle and High School students on their vaccination status. In addition, the district plans to provide testing for symptomatic individuals in the near future.

In other reports and news, Dr.Kimberly Henry provided an update on the equity audit conducted by Public Consulting Group that is currently underway in the district. Focus groups are taking place now with students, parents, staff, and community members.

In news on Building for the Future, the ribbon-cutting ceremony and tours of the new Cunniff School took place from 4-7 PM on October 5. Students will start at the new school on October 12. The High School project continues in the schematic design phase and received recent support from the Town Council with bridge funding to continue on schedule. Also, a review of MCAS results will begin with a Curriculum subcommittee meeting on Nov. 4 at 3:30 and a presentation to the School Committee on Nov. 8. Other updates included enrollment and personnel changes.

The School Committee and Superintendent also thanked Ariel Kennebrew for her two years as Executive Assistant to the School Committee and Superintendent. She is leaving for a similar position in Cambridge. She will be missed.

In upcoming meetings, the School Building Committee meets on October 6 at 6 PM and the School Committee meets on October 18 at 7 PM at the new Cunniff School.

Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

September 13, 2021

On September 13 the School Committee held its first meeting of the new school year. The meeting began with a presentation on the Acceleration Roadmap that will help guide the district in providing a focused and phased approach to supporting students in the new school year. The Roadmap is recommended by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and is organized around three key principles: fostering a sense of belonging and partnership among students and families, continuously monitoring students’ understanding, and providing grade-appropriate instruction with just-in-time support as needed. This is combined with the district’s Multi-tiered System of Support (MTSS), a framework that provides tiered supports and interventions for students that provide progressively intensive support for students who need additional intervention to be successful.

A report on summer professional development also was presented. Over 160 Watertown educators participated in workshops during the summer on a variety of topics related to teaching and learning.

The Committee also heard from the new High School advisors to the Committee, Emma Fallon and Eleni Hum. Both students reported on events at the High School and the excitement of returning to school in person.

In other reports, Dr. Kimberlee Henry, the new Director of Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging, reflected on her first several months in Watertown. She identified strengths and challenges for Watertown schools in creating a more diverse, equitable, and inclusive school district. Over the last few months, she has met with many members of the community as well as the Police Department and other community groups. She outlined a series of steps to help move forward the equity and anti-bias work of the district.

The Superintendent provided a report on COVID-19 statistics and protocols. The Metrics Dashboard shows Watertown to be at or below county-wide levels in the number of cases and positivity rate. In the schools, the Hosmer School had two positive cases that resulted in 36 students/staff in quarantine. In the elementary grades, all students in a class are considered “close contacts.”

COVID-19 pool testing begins for all students this week. In addition, on October 4 the “Test and Stay”’ program begins. In this program students who are close contacts and are asymptomatic and unvaccinated have the option to be tested for five consecutive days with a rapid test that provides the results in 45 minutes. As long as the result is negative, the student can attend school that day. Without this rapid test, the student must quarantine for seven days

The Superintendent also reported on the very high level of COVID-19 vaccinations among staff. In a recent survey, 98.6% of 502 staff reported being vaccinated. This survey included 95% of teachers and instructional assistants.

The School Committee approved the Superintendent’s goals for 2021-22. The six goals include important areas around maintaining health and safety, supporting equity and anti-racism, fostering trust and connections with students and families, providing support for student learning, supporting the school building projects, and developing a new district improvement strategy. For the Superintendent, the Committee also approved a 5% compensation increase and a travel allowance. This adjustment recognizes the very strong evaluation of the Superintendent for her work this past year as well as the fact that she did not accept a raise in 2020/2021 when initial budget cuts were made due to the impact of COVID-19.

The school building projects continue on track. The new Cunniff will open in mid-October with a ribbon-cutting and open house for the community. The new Hosmer will open in February, and planning continues for the new High School.

In other business, an ad hoc committee of the School Committee recommended three legal firms for finalist interviews to provide personnel-related legal services to the Committee and district. The Committee also approved one policy revision related to special instructional programs (IHB) and heard the first reading of a policy supporting the purposeful teaching of challenging and controversial topics (IMB). In her report, the Superintendent noted the need for school crossing guards and substitute teachers. Updates also were provided on the budget, enrollment, and personnel.

The School Committee will meet on September 27 at 7 PM to interview the attorney finalist firms, and the next regular meeting of the School Committee is October 4.

Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

August 2, 2021

The main topic in this mid-summer meeting on August 2 was the School Committee’s annual evaluation of the Superintendent. Evaluations by individual members were completed prior to the meeting, and a composite was presented by the chair. Dr. Galdston received a very positive evaluation. In the Overall Performance rating, she received six “exemplary” marks. This is the highest rating for a superintendent in recent years. Most cited by Committee members was the Superintendent’s leadership during the pandemic. She worked closely with educators, parents, and the community to prioritize safety for students and staff while continuing remote and in-school learning opportunities for students. As one member wrote, “I am very grateful for the steady leadership of the Superintendent during this tumultuous year We are lucky to have her in Watertown.”

In the report section of the meeting, the Superintendent announced that PCG (Public Consulting Group) has been hired to conduct an equity audit of the district. The audit will involve an in-depth look at equity issues throughout the district. This includes a review of different types of data, including student outcomes and student discipline, for disproportionate impact on different student populations. Hiring practices also will be reviewed. In addition to data analysis, the audit will include in-person and virtual interviews as well as focus groups. The review begins this fall and ends with a final report in January.

In her general report, the Superintendent announced that a survey of parents, educators, and students will be done this fall using an instrument from the University of Chicago called the “5 Essentials.” This tool will help the district better understand its strengths and challenges.

The Superintendent is continuing to receive information on the status of the pandemic and will consult with state officials, other superintendents, and local health officials on expectations for the start of school in September. She did note that weekly COVID19 testing will continue and students to be attending in school buildings. Families with a child who may not be able to attend in-person for health reasons should contact the district’s Office of Student Services.

In the Building for the Future update, the Cunniff continues on track for completion with students moving in by mid-October. The Hosmer also is on track, despite the recent rain, for completion in February 2022. For the Lowell project, contractors have been pre-qualified and the bid information will go out soon. At the High School, the recent building plans will be presented to a subcommittee of the MSBA this week and the full MSBA board later in August.

In other news, the Committee approved a meeting calendar for next year. The first meeting of the new year is scheduled for September 13. Also, it was noted that the Committee met briefly on July 8 and approved changes to the three-year contract for the SEIU Local 888 for Cafeteria, Maintenance, and Custodial Workers. Included were compensation adjustments of 2.25% on 7/1/2019, 2% on 7/1/2020, and 2% on 7/1/2021.

The next School Committee meeting is August 18 at 1 PM The first two hours will be a retreat with district leadership followed by a short business meeting for the Committee. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz

Watertown School Committee

June 21, 2021
The School Committee met in person on June 21 in Town Hall for the first time since March 2020. Remote Zoom participation also is still available as a way to participate in Committee meetings. The meeting began with introductions and welcome for three new administrators: Susan Carle, Assistant Principal at the Middle School, Qi Chen, Assistant Principal at the Lowell School, and Susan Bisson, Coordinator for Digital Learning and Libraries.

The Teaching and Learning Showcase featured the School Improvement Plans for 2021-22 from the Middle School and High School. The Middle School plan includes practices to close opportunity gaps among different student populations; promote rigorous curriculum and instruction; build technology and collaborative structures to enhance communication and relationships, and establish whole-school social-emotional practices. The High School plan focused on practices that promote high expectations as well as authorship and agency to help students reach their full academic, social, and emotional potential. Also included is an emphasis on building relationships within schools, families, and community members as well as developing physical spaces that will support the school’s mission and vision.

In official actions, the School Committee approved a revised policy that clarified age 5 as the starting age for kindergarten and age 6 for first grade. The Committee approved compensation adjustments for non-union personnel for 2021-22 of $63,352 to be distributed among staff with independently negotiated contracts. The average increase is just above 2%. The Committee also approved adjustments of 2% or an increase to the minimum wage for most hourly staff.

Several reports were presented. The Superintendent presented her end-of-the-year report on accomplishments related to goals for 2020-21. This covered a number of key activities, including policies and practices to continue teaching and learning during the pandemic; moving forward with major elementary and high school building projects; creating systems and structures to ensure equity and anti-racism in the district; developing tiered systems of student support, and continuing the District Improvement Strategy. Using this report, School Committee members will complete their evaluation of the Superintendent with the composite evaluation presented at the August 2 meeting.

Another report highlighted the many summer learning opportunities available in the district. Programs are available at all grade levels and are free for students. A third report described professional development activities during the past year as well as those planned for this summer. Teachers and administrators at all levels are engaged in a wide variety of activities and programs designed to help them enhance the student learning experience.

In the Building for the Future update, it was noted that the new Cunniff School will reach substantial completion by the end of August, with a move-in planned for October, and part of the Preferred Schematic Report for the new High School was presented to the Massachusetts School Building Authority last week.

In other news, the Superintendent noted that the district is working with a group from UMass-Lowell to develop a School Quality Framework and Dashboard that would use metrics beyond test scores to assess the performance of the district. Also, she noted that a lottery is being used for elementary Extended Day services for next year, although the district will attempt to expand capacity for those families on the waiting list, if possible.

Also, the Superintendent thanked the many teachers and administrators who have helped Watertown schools successfully navigate the many challenges of the pandemic. Members of the Committee noted the leadership of the Superintendent in this process as well as the support of educators, parents, students, and the broader community.

The next School Committee meeting is on August 2 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the WPS website at

John Portz
School Committee Chair

June 7, 2021

Nine retirees from the Watertown Public Schools were recognized at the most recent School Committee meeting on June 7. Collectively, they have worked for the students of Watertown for over 190 years! Retirees included Mary Anne Billings, Paula Czyrklis, Virginia Courtney, Pauline Forte, Patricia Garber, Deborah Johnson, Wayne Macleod, Patricia Menton, and Lina Petluck.

The Committee meeting also featured the important work of the elementary schools, beginning with the Hosmer school as the designated school for this meeting. Principal Erin Moulton, Vice-Principal Mary Kate Fitzpatrick, and teachers Kelly Graves, Marguerite Patterson, Marissa Nickl, and Chris Hill spoke about how the Hosmer has built a supportive environment for teaching and learning during the pandemic. Relationships are the important foundation for that environment. They described activities used during the year to help create classroom communities as well as a school community. This included building family and student connections and integration with the elementary curriculum.

Principals from the other elementary schools joined in presenting an overview of the School Improvement Plans. All three schools share five central goals for the coming school year: complete moving into or out of their school building as part of Building for the Future; continue with their anti-bias and anti-racism curriculum; strengthen the use of Writers’ Workshop; further develop the multi-tiered assessment for literacy, and continue the math workshop block.

Prior to the elementary presentation, Cara Coller spoke about the work of the SEPAC (Special Education Parents Advisory Council) in supporting special education services in the district. She invited members of the public to learn more about the SEPAC and special education services.

An overview of the new High School project was presented by representatives from Ai3 Architects and Compass, our Owner’s Project Manager. This included the proposed site and floor plans as well as the use of modulars at Moxley Field for the temporary High School during the 30+ months of construction. Moxley Field will be used for 4-4.5 years for this purpose, a timeframe that includes complete renovation of the field after the new high school is completed. The WHS project is funded by the town, with assistance from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The School Committee voted unanimously in support of this project and also to rename the temporary site, “Watertown High School at PFC Richard Moxley Field.”

Based on recommendations from the Budget and Finance subcommittee, the School Committee approved several fee changes for the coming school year. The hourly rate for attendance at the Pre-K Program will increase slightly to $7.25/hour; the rate for tuition-paying students in the Preschool will become uniform at $8.60/hour, and several rate changes were approved for programs in Community Education. The Committee also approved the use of available funds at the end of the fiscal year for school capital projects.

The Curriculum and Policy subcommittees also reported on a recent joint meeting. Based on their recommendation, the Committee voted in support of the district’s new Bullying Prevention and Intervention Plan and also heard the first reading of revisions to Policy JEB which clarifies that six-year-olds will enter school in first grade unless there is a waiver by the Superintendent.

In other business, the Committee approved two payments to EDCO, totaling $70,551, as part of the district’s annual assessment and to cover costs for the dissolution of EDCO. As reported in an earlier Committee meeting, EDCO will close for financial reasons as of June 30, 2022. The Committee also approved an RFP for legal services. Near the end of the summer and into September the Committee will complete a process to hire legal services covering areas of personnel and labor relations. In addition, the Committee briefly discussed the likely format of meetings when the state pandemic emergency ends on June 15. Depending upon additional state guidance and rules, the current plan is for the June 21 Committee meeting to take place in Town Hall with allowance for Zoom attendance by the public and Committee members.

In her report, the Superintendent announced that Susan Carle has been hired as the new assistant principal at the Middle School and Qi Chen as the new assistant principal at the Lowell School. Both will be introduced at the June 21 meeting. The Superintendent also announced that a firm has been hired to assist the district with possible adjustments to elementary attendance zones that better reflect the capacities of the new elementary buildings. As a final note, John Portz announced that he will not be running for re-election this year. He encouraged others to consider running for the School Committee during this election cycle.

The next School Committee meeting is June 21 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the WPS website at

John Portz

School Committee Chair

May 24, 2021

The feature event at the May 24 School Committee meeting was a presentation by Cunniff teachers on their summer program for students, titled Sharing our Stories, Building Community, and Cultivating a Sense of Belonging. The Instructional Leadership Team of Lidia Diieso, Cristina DeFabritis, Janelle Lacy, Erica Lauria, Barbara Barry, Julie Erwin, and Helda Shirinian described how students in each grade will complete projects on their family, school, and community connections. This is part of developing skills to counter racism, prejudice, and discrimination while building a stronger sense of self and community.

The valedictorian, Caiden Kiani, and salutatorian, Henry Yusem, also spoke briefly at the meeting. They commented on their activities at Watertown High School and future college plans, with Caiden attending Princeton and Henry attending Vanderbilt.

The Superintendent provided an update on COVID-19 and the schools. The health metrics in Watertown remain in the green band and the schools have recorded very few positive cases. Testing continues and students continue to wear masks.

The Superintendent also reviewed the District Improvement Strategy, Year 4. The plan is organized around the key themes of equity, excellence, community, and Building for the Future (school building projects). The Superintendent highlighted several initiatives under each theme while noting that equity has become a major driver for achieving both the excellence and community goals.

Continuing with the equity theme, the Superintendent highlighted a number of equity-related activities, including recent workshops by Dr. Kalise Wornum for the district’s leadership team, the School Committee, and parents. In addition, a district-wide equity audit will begin soon, providing valuable information to support equity-related programs and activities in the coming school year.

In the Building for the Future update it was noted that the elementary projects continue to move forward. The School Building Committee visited the new Cunniff, which will be ready for a move-in by mid-October. For the high school, a Community Forum is scheduled for this Wednesday, May 26, at 6 PM to provide additional opportunities for community input on the project, particularly the proposed use of Moxley field as swing space for the high school while the new building is constructed. The Building Committee will vote on the next stage of the high school project at its June 2 meeting.

The School Committee had a brief discussion on preferences for their meeting structure when the state of emergency is lifted in mid-June. Under the emergency rules, committee meetings have been virtual with members and the public joining via Zoom. State officials are considering options of how parts of this format might be allowed in the future. Several Committee members spoke in favor of continuing with Zoom, particularly for the public but also for committee members. Zoom has allowed much greater public participation. The Committee will consider options once the state has provided more guidance.

In other news, the Superintendent noted that the assistant principal searches are continuing for the Lowell and Middle Schools. These will be completed in the next 2-3 weeks. Also, it was announced that the Policy and Curriculum subcommittees will meet jointly on June 1, 4-6 PM, to discuss the School Committee policy around teaching controversial or challenging topics.

The next School Committee meeting is June 7 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the WPS website at

John Portz
School Committee Chair

May 3, 2021

Preparing for summer was the main topic at a recent meeting of the Watertown School Committee. At this May 3rd meeting, several summer programs for Watertown students were introduced. These include Summer Explorations for K-5 students and Enrichment activities for grades 6-12. Summer Explorations offers theme-based learning for six weeks during the summer, while the Enrichment program will include a range of physical, social, and academic activities for middle and high school students. In addition, there are other summer programs for students with disabilities, English learners, and those who can benefit from supplemental support or need to recover credits at the high school level. All programs are free for students due to federal grants.

Students at all five schools in the district are now back in school five days a week. Mandatory COVID-19 pool testing continues at each school, and most teachers have been vaccinated. Students who are 16 and over are encouraged to get vaccinated, as they are currently eligible. The recent health metrics show Watertown in the green zone.

The School Committee heard a number of reports. From the Superintendent, an equity audit will soon be undertaken by an outside party to review policies, procedures, and practices in the district. Also, as part of the district’s equity work, Dr. Kalise Wornum will do a presentation on May 20, 6:30-8:00 pm, on “How to talk about racism.” The Athletics subcommittee of the School Committee reported on recent sports activities, and the Policy subcommittee summarized several topics discussed at a recent meeting, including policies about the teaching of controversial issues, entrance age for starting school, and the assignment of homework, especially around vacations.

In the Building for the Future update, members of the Committee and the Superintendent thanked the Town Manager, Town Council, and community for the recent announcement that the town plans to pay for its part of the new High School from within the budget, without requiring a debt exclusion vote. This is an extraordinary commitment by the town and provides greater financial stability while moving forward with this project. In the meantime, construction at the Cunniff and Hosmer continues with completion dates in the fall and winter of the coming school year. The next School Building Committee meeting is on May 19, 6 pm, and will include an update on elementary projects as well as additional discussion on the Watertown High School building plans and swing space. A community forum on the High School plan is scheduled for May 26 at 6 pm.

In other business, parent conferences and release days were added to the approved School Calendar for next year. June 22 will be the last day of school this year, assuming no events happen that require the schools to close. Monthly updates were provided on the FY21 budget, enrollment, and personnel changes.

As part of Teacher Appreciation Week, Committee members and the Superintendent thanked teachers and other staff throughout the district for their exceptional work during the past year under very difficult circumstances. This has been a very challenging year with remote and hybrid instruction, but one in which educators throughout the district are providing the best learning experience possible for Watertown’s students.

The next School Committee meeting is May 24. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

April 12, 2021

The School Committee met on April 12 in Zoom conferencing:
At the beginning of the meeting a public hearing was held on the FY22 school budget. The presentation began with a list of academic accomplishment for last year’s senior class, followed by student demographic and enrollment statistics, then an overview of the proposed budget. The budget uses 88% of the proposed 3.5% increase from the Town Manager to cover costs to keep services at the level provided in the current fiscal year. This includes contractual salary increases as well as several positions added to the budget during the current year. The remaining 12% of the increase will be used for new priorities, including a 4th grade teacher, custodial support for the new school buildings, and a Help Desk technician. The proposed FY22 budget from the Town Appropriation is $53,755,121. The presentation also listed grants received by the school district, a summary of budget offsets from grants and fee accounts, and a per pupil spending comparison with neighboring and comparable districts. The School Committee will meet at 6 PM on April 15 to vote on the budget.

The Teaching and Learning Showcase featured virtual introductions to areas of academic study at the Middle School and High School. These introductions were developed by curriculum coordinators and teachers to help new students develop their class schedules. The introductions are available on the website of each school.

All schools are reopening to full-time student attendance this month. The elementary principals spoke about the excitement of their students returning last Monday; the Middle School principal welcomed back students to that building today; and the High School principal is preparing for students to return full-time on April 26. The Superintendent provided an update on school reopening. About 10% of students across the district will remain in all-virtual school for the remainder of the school year.

Weekly COVID testing continues to ensure the health of students and staff. Almost all elementary and Middle School students participate in pool testing. With the increase in student attendance, there is an increase in the number of students in a quarantine situation, but the district remains in the yellow zone. Staff continue to be tested as well, and 80% have had at least one vaccine dose.

Superintendent Galdston introduced Dr. Kimberlee Henry as the new Director of Diversity, Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Henry has experience as a teacher and principal and currently serves as a principal at a STEM academy in Lowell. She has extensive experience working in schools to develop programs and services to enhance equity and inclusion. Dr. Henry will be visiting the district over the next few months prior to her formal start on July 1.

The Superintendent noted in her report that since the district has not used all five of its snow days, it cannot formerly designate the last day of school until June 1. However, barring any reason to close school, she anticipates that the last day of school will be June 22nd.

In the Building for the Future update, the Cunniff and Hosmer projects are moving forward and transition planning for the Lowell school was announced. Lowell students will move out of their school while construction takes place, with the following schedule:

  • February 2022 through June, 2022:kindergarten and grade 1 students move to the Phillips building and grades 2, 3, 4 and 5 move to St. Jude’s in Waltham (currently referred to as “Cunniff West”).
  • September 2022-June 2023: kindergarten, grades 1 and 2 will remain at the Phillips building and grades 3, 4 and 5 will continue at St. Jude’s (Lowell West).

For the new High School project, a Moxley playground neighborhood meeting will be held at 6 PM on April 14 on Zoom to discuss the use of Moxley field as a transition location for high school students while the new High School is built. The Building Committee will hold a meeting on April 21 at 6 PM to discuss and vote on a Preferred Schematic Report that will identify the basic path moving forward for this important project.

And finally, several members of the School Committee and the Superintendent spoke about a recent incident in which a sticker of a Native American caricature holding a thin blue line flag was attached to a post in Victory field. This caricature was once used as the High School logo, but has not been used for a number of years. The caricature is antithetical to the work in the district to become antiracist and inclusive of a diverse community of students and staff.

The Superintendent’s next coffee is April 28 at 9 AM and 7 PM. The next School Committee meeting is May 3. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

March 22, 2021

The School Committee met on March 22 in Zoom conferencing with 51 community attendees.

The Teaching and Learning Showcase featured five teachers from the High School: Sadye Vogel, Sean Morris, Melissa Pearlman, Will MacLaughlin, and Jim Buck. Each spoke about creative strategies in their respective subject areas to engage students in a hybrid learning environment.

The Superintendent provided additional information on the school re-opening process. Full school days will begin at all levels in April: elementary schools on April 5; Middle School on April 12; High School on April 26. School-based meetings are scheduled at each school prior to full re-opening. Social distancing in classrooms will be three or more feet between desks. Families and students have completed surveys to indicate their preference for in-school attendance or completely remote. The result is a shift to more in-person attendance, from 75% in hybrid, which includes in-person, to 85% in-person with the full re-opening. In related news, the Superintendent noted that lunch will continue to be free at all schools, with grab-and-go meals and a preference for outdoor seating, when possible.

COVID testing and vaccinations was an important topic. Mandatory testing for students begins on the April dates when schools re-open to full days. This will be done through pool testing at each school. Testing all students helps keep students and staff safe and healthy as schools re-open to full-time schedules. Vaccinations also are important. Currently, over half of the staff in the district have been vaccinated, with many more scheduled for vaccinations in the coming weeks.

The Budget and Finance Subcommittee reported on its recent meetings that included an in-depth review of the proposed FY2022 operating budget. The proposed budget includes a 3.5% increase in the town appropriation to the school department. Most of this increase is needed to maintain current services, with the balance projected to cover costs for an additional kindergarten teacher, custodial services, and technology support. A public hearing on the proposed budget is scheduled for April 12. The School Committee also approved an increase in hourly compensation for teachers and site coordinators for summer special education programs.

The 2021-22 school calendar was approved. Wednesday, September 8 will be the first day of school, and the last day is June 20, if there are no snow days. The start of the year was moved to September 8 since many students and staff observe the Jewish holiday of Rosh Hashanah on September 7. The Committee also heard a report on updates to the High School Program of Studies, which lists the many course opportunities for students.

The Superintendent introduced Dr. Kimberlee Henry as the just-appointed Director of Equity and Inclusion. Dr. Henry spoke briefly and was greeted by the Committee. A more detailed introduction will take place at a subsequent meeting.

In the Building for the Future update, work continues at both the Cunniff and Hosmer schools. As noted at a previous meeting, both are ahead of schedule, with completion dates of October 21, 2021 at the Cunniff and February 22, 2022 at the Hosmer. The most recent High School proposal includes one building on the existing site, with modular classrooms on Moxley field for students while the new building is constructed. A community forum is scheduled for Wednesday, March 24 at 6pm. The zoom link to this community meeting can be found here. The next School Building Committee is scheduled for April 7.

The next School Committee meeting is April 12. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

March 15, 2021 School Committee Update


The School Committee met on March 15 in a special meeting focused on school reopening plans.This was a Zoom meeting with 225 attendees from the community.

The Superintendent and school principals presented Phase 4 of reopening that will begin in April.The following dates were set for a full reopening of schools: April 5 for elementary schools and the preschool, April 12 for the Middle School, and April 26 for the High School. All schools will operate on a schedule similar to the pre-pandemic schedule. Health mitigation strategies will continue, including mask wearing, weekly COVID-19 testing, social distancing, hand washing, air purifiers, daily room sanitizing, along with close monitoring of health metrics. Classroom desks will be set apart by at least three feet, which will allow more students in classrooms compared to the current hybrid schedule. Lunches will be provided at all schools, although there will be different arrangements at each school that include outside eating possibilities. Other program changes may be made within the school day to accommodate student needs.

Students have the option of continuing in full remote learning for the remainder of the year. The sign-up deadline is Tuesday, March 16 at midnight. Once these family decisions have been made, student classroom assignments at the elementary school may be adjusted to balance in-school and remote sections. At all levels, students who choose remote should stay remote for the remainder of the school year. Students who are in-person will remain in-person unless they are in a quarantine situation.

COVID testing will continue for students and staff. In addition, to ensure even higher testing participation, mandatory testing was discussed. This will be on the School Committee agenda at the next meeting on March 22. In other changes, school buses will return to their pre-pandemic schedule, although social distancing will be required for boarding and exiting the bus. Additional information will be sent to participating families.

At the next School Committee meeting on March 22 further updates will be provided. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz

March 9, 2021:  School Committee Statement on Recent Events

The Watertown School Committee is committed to becoming an anti-racist school system by acknowledging the structural and institutional racism that is pervasive throughout this nation and its many institutions, and also consistently working to present that reality and incorporate those lessons into the Watertown Public Schools' curriculum.

We also support the Watertown Police Department and acknowledge their work with our schools to create transparent and safe community relations between the Police Department and the WPS.

These two statements are not at odds with one another, despite the growing public divide: We can both support the important work of the Watertown Police Department and condemn long standing institutional and systemic racism.

Recently our community has been challenged and hurt by an incident at Watertown Middle School involving a video played to a group of students. Instead of fostering open discussion in the classroom, this video sparked divisions in our community, particularly around policing and, by extension, the Watertown Police Department. This is regrettable and should not have happened; the Superintendent will address this issue as the administrative leader of WPS. Our Watertown Police Department has been working, including with members of WPS, to do their own training and work to better serve all members of our community.

The painful nature of this incident serves as a reminder that we must work harder to have conversations in meaningful, appropriate ways. And, we need to revisit and review norms to guide and support all members of this community moving forward.

We condemn any action that does harm to any members of the Watertown community due to their race, position of employment, or other identity, and we believe that when harm is done, it must be addressed in a way that restores community and engenders trust that we can move forward responsibly and equitably.

We all want to create a society in which our children can feel safe and included while they learn and grow. That is the goal of the Watertown Public Schools and that is what our School Committee stands behind.

We stand united in our community to help Watertown become an anti-racist school district and also acknowledge the harm that was done to officers of the Watertown Police Department and their children due to this incident within our schools. We also acknowledge the pain and trauma experienced and described by many of our community members of Color and the lack of an effective response to many of those incidences, and we deeply appreciate the work of our community members who have advocated for and helped us to work towards becoming a more anti-racist district.

We apologize for the harm caused to any and all of our community members, and we will work both as a Committee, and within the community to learn, grow, and do better moving forward.

John Portz, Chair
On Behalf of the Watertown School Committee

February 8, 2021
The Watertown School Committee met on February 8 using Zoom conferencing.

The Teaching and Learning Showcase featured school activities in every school in recognition of Black History Month.

The Superintendent presented several updates on WPS equity work, district COVID metrics, and the mid-year survey.

KW Diversity is now a partner with the district to provide workshops on cultural proficiency. This will include workshops with district leaders, the school committee, and the community. A district-wide equity audit will be conducted, and additional training will take place at the Middle School. The new Director of Equity and Inclusion position has been posted and will close on February 21 with a plan to complete the hiring process by March 22. A screening/interview committee that includes educators, students, parents, and others will be created for this process. Also, an equity website has been created to highlight this area of work.

Recent health metrics show Watertown in the yellow zone with lower COVID cases per 100,000 and positivity rates compared to Middlesex and Suffolk counties. Pooled testing continues for both students and staff.

The Superintendent also reported on mid-year surveys of parents, students, and staff. For parents, featured questions show 65-70% satisfaction with the current learning model. Parents also requested more in-person learning time for students. For students, among the findings, grades 3-5 students feel more connected to their teachers and classmates than do 6-12 students. For teachers, over 60% are “satisfied” or “very satisfied” with the current learning model. Teachers are generally confident that they can provide effective instruction and engage students in the current learning model.

The district continues to work to increase instructional time for students and will shift the elementary school’s afternoon asynchronous social studies/science block to a synchronous live block starting on March 1. The Middle School is also exploring options for additional synchronous instructional time.

Budget planning is beginning for the 2021/2022 academic year, which begins July 1, 2021. An overview of the level services budget was presented. Based on a 3.5% projected increase from the town, the school department anticipates an increase of $1.8 million, bringing the FY22 anticipated budget to $53,755,121. The level service budget takes 94.3% of that increase, leaving 5.7%, or $103,922, for new priorities. Level service spending includes contractual salary increases for staff as well as several positions added during the current school year or required in the coming year for approved new programs.

In other reports and actions, the School Committee approved the collective bargaining contract with the SEIU Local 888 for administrative assistants. This contract covers the period from July 2019 to July 2022. Financial changes include annual 2% increases and an adjustment in longevity payments. The Committee also approved changes to student activities accounts recommended by the administration. In addition, the Committee approved a request by two non-resident teachers to allow their child to attend the Watertown schools; and the Committee heard reports from the Budget and Finance subcommittee and the Athletics subcommittee. Other reports included updates for the FY21 budget, enrollment, and personnel.

The Committee also discussed the audit recently completed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. The audit was conducted by the state based on their concern that the district did not start fall in-person instruction as soon as the state thought it should. The audit provides information on relevant factors to the re-opening decision and the state’s position. The district’s position continues to be that it followed the re-opening plan approved in August and moved to hybrid instruction using a phased-in approach that best served the community of Watertown. In the discussion it was noted that Watertown today has more students engaged through in-person instruction than many other districts.

In the Building for the Future update, the Cunniff and Hosmer projects continue on-track. The High School project is in the midst of a review prompted by questions from the Massachusetts School Building Authority. The last meeting included an updated space summary, and the next meeting, on February 17, will include additional discussion. Parents and community members are encouraged to attend to add their voices to the discussion.

The next meeting of the School Committee is March 1, 2021. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz

Watertown School Committee

January 25, 2021

The School Committee met on January 25 using Zoom conferencing and included 74 participants. The meeting began with several presentations from the Middle School. Kraig Gustafson, the social studies curriculum coordinator, presented along with three social studies teachers: Kerri Lorigan, Laura Shock, and Karen Kline. They started with an overview of the new thematic approach to the social studies curriculum that covers grades 6 and 7. The current theme, for example, is the role of culture and religion in shaping world history and ancient civilizations. Grade 8 social studies focuses on civics and engaging students in understanding and becoming part of the political process. This includes a state-required Civics Action Project in which students identify problems and solutions to community challenges.

Another presentation focused on diversifying the types of literature used in the Middle School. Curriculum coordinators Susanne Dunn and Deb Opar provided an overview of the review process to identify different literary works that offer a diverse range of perspectives. Students engage with these writings through book clubs and other reading activities. The Middle School teachers also reflected on opportunities and challenges in the current hybrid teaching model. They described the challenges of simulcasting with student “roomers” in the classroom and remote “zoomers.” Despite the challenges, they spoke about the importance of making in-person connections with students.

The Superintendent provided a general update on teaching and learning as well as COVID testing. Hybrid and virtual teaching and learning models continue at all grade levels, and the district continues to explore ways to increase in-person learning time. Early February is the midpoint of the school year and will be an opportunity for families and students to apply to switch their current learning model between hybrid and virtual learning. On COVID metrics, the district continues to monitor key metrics, which are within limits to allow for hybrid learning. COVID testing continues for students and staff. Participation is increasing, but all staff and students who are in the schools are encouraged to participate.

The Superintendent also presented an early look at results from surveys sent to staff, students, and parents. Selected results were organized around several themes including types of learning time, connectedness, learning supports, effort needed, and COVID testing. More analysis will follow, although several key points emerged, including the interest in more in-person learning as well as the importance and appreciation among staff for COVID testing.

In addition, the Superintendent reported on important work planned around equity and inclusion. Kalise Warnum will provide workshop support with district administrators and the School Committee on cultural proficiency, and Carroll Blake will assist with an equity audit of the district focused on activities and programs that can support greater equity and inclusiveness. The Superintendent continues the process of hiring a new Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion, and Belonging.

In other reports and actions, the School Committee heard a report from last week’s Curriculum subcommittee meeting in which a variety of topics were discussed, including the changes noted earlier at the Middle School. The Superintendent also presented her “mid-cycle review,” whichfocuses on the status of achieving six key goals set for the Superintendent last fall covering student learning, school operations, and construction of the new school buildings.

In the Building for the Future update, a tour of the new Cunniff School by the Building Committee showed important progress in construction. If there are no interruptions, the building should be completed by mid-fall. For the High School, in a recent review the Massachusetts School Building Authority raised a number of questions that are being addressed. With this review, it is likely that the plan for the High School will go before the MSBA board in April. The Building Committee meets next on February 3.

The next meeting of the School Committee is February 8, 2021. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

January 4, 2021


The School Committee met in its first meeting of 2021 on Monday, January 4, using Zoom conferencing. As it does at the first meeting of every new year, the Committee elected officers and approved subcommittee assignments for the calendar year. The current officers were re-elected: John Portz as chair, Kendra Foley as vice-chair, and Amy Donohue as secretary. Current committee assignments also continue in 2021. Athletics: Amy Donohue (chair), Lily Rayman-Read and Kendra Foley; Budget and Finance: Kendra Foley (chair), Lindsay Mosca and David Stokes; Buildings and Grounds: David Stokes (chair), Amy Donohue and John Portz; Curriculum: Lindsay Mosca (chair), Lily Rayman-Read and David Stokes; Policy: Lily Rayman-Read (chair), Amy Donohue and Kendra Foley.

The Superintendent provided an outline of the recent Memorandum of Agreement with the Watertown Educators’ Association. Negotiations began in July and continued through the fall to come to an understanding on important issues related to the reopening of schools. Key topics covered in the agreement include leaves and accommodation requests, facilities, health and safety protocols, teaching and learning provisions, teacher evaluations, the role of instructional assistants, and other general issues. Thanks to all parties for coming to an agreement on these many issues important to teaching and learning during the pandemic.

A survey will be sent out shortly to students (grades 3-12), parents, and staff to learn more about their experiences with the various teaching and learning approaches used in the schools. This will include those in both hybrid and all remote learning modes. Results should be available for the January 25 School Committee meeting. The Superintendent noted that about 25% of students are in the all-remote, virtual program. This includes 254 at the High School, 109 at the Middle School, and 295 at the three elementary schools.

The Superintendent presented an update on current COVID-19 metrics for the district. They continue to be favorable, with a positivity rate of only .15% in the surveillance testing program. Participation in testing continues to increase. Participation among students and staff who are in school buildings as part of hybrid learning is 90% for staff (352 staff), 74% at the High School (317 students), 72% at the Middle School (322 students), and 66% at the elementary schools (573 students).

As action items, along with approving meeting minutes and gifts, the Committee also approved the request of a non-resident teacher to have her child attend the Watertown public schools. This is permitted under the policy rules of the Committee.

In the Building for the Future update, the new Cunniff School is making good progress and will be completed later this year. Work on the Hosmer also continues. For the High School, the Preferred Schematic Report was submitted to the Massachusetts School Building Authority and will be part of a discussion with the Facilities Assessment Subcommittee on January 13.

In the budget update, the Director of Finance and Operations reported that the recent federal stimulus law will make COVID-19 related monies available through 2021, which will help the district cover expenses related to the pandemic.

In his report, the Committee Chair highlighted several key challenges in the coming year: helping all students reach their learning potential as we move beyond the pandemic; continuing school construction at the elementary schools and a debt exclusion vote for a new High School; strengthening the work in the district on equity and inclusion; and continuing to engage the public in the work of the Committee and district in a post-Zoom environment. In her comments, the Superintendent highlighted the key role of equity in all the work of the district.

The next meeting of the School Committee is January 25, 2021. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

December 21, 2020


The School Committee met on Monday, December 21, using Zoom conferencing. This meeting had a limited agenda, focused primarily on recent events and activities related to race, equity, and social justice. The Committee heard a report from the Policy Subcommittee on its meeting last week. A key topic at that meeting was the creation of a Policy Community Advisory Board to be composed of parents, particularly representing families of color, and created by the Superintendent. It will advise the Superintendent as well as the School Committee on matters related to discrimination, race, and social justice in the schools. The School Committee voted in favor of this proposal for the creation of an Advisory Board by the Superintendent.

Also discussed at the Subcommittee meeting, and reported to the School Committee, was the issue of posting Black Lives Matter signs in the district. The Subcommittee did not make a recommendation, pending the collection of additional information, and crafting an appropriate policy. Of particular importance are legal issues around undertaking this in the context of “government speech” by the school department as opposed to “student speech” facilitated by the school department. There was a brief discussion at the School Committee meeting, noting the importance of this issue and pending a recommendation from the Policy Subcommittee.

In a related action, the School Committee approved the creation of a new position in the district: the Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion. The Superintendent presented a proposal outlining the importance and scope of this position, which she hopes to fill in the early part of 2021. The Director will have wide-ranging responsibilities in the areas of equity and inclusion, including services for students, training, and coaching for staff, hiring and retention of diverse staff, and overseeing the bias/harassment reporting systems. The Superintendent noted that supporting diversity and inclusion across the district remains the responsibility of all members of the WPS community, but this person will play a critical role in helping to focus and move this important work forward.

In other actions, the Committee approved an amended resolution related to MCAS testing, sponsored by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees that requests a moratorium on the use of the 10th grade MCAS test as a graduation requirement in the current school year.

The next meeting of the School Committee is January 4, 2021. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz

Watertown School Committee

December 7, 2020

The School Committee met on Monday, December 7, using Zoom conferencing. There were a number of important presentations. Jim Jordan, an architect from Ai3, presented the latest drawings and planning information on the proposed high school. The architects are beginning to fine-tune the schematic design which includes a three-floor structure on the Phillips school site as well as a two-floor structure on the Columbia Street site. The Phillips site includes most of the academic components and the Columbia side includes the gymnasium, auditorium, cafeteria, arts, and technology, along with space for district administration, the Council on Aging, and facilities. A bridge across Common Street connects the two buildings.

Two presentations were related to science and technology. One presentation focused on Computer Science Ed Week, which is happening this week. The theme is “Computer Science for Social Justice.” On the district’s website are links to a number of related curriculum units as well as a student contest. A second presentation focused on the “Family Ed-Tech for All Resources Hub.” This part of the district’s website provides a variety of resources to help parents and families use the various technologies and learning platforms employed in the schools. This includes videos on using Zoom, SeeSaw, and other tools. Related to this, the district announced that over 400 touch-screen chrome books have been distributed to students in grades 1 and 2.

And finally, another presentation provided information on iReady testing. iReady is a diagnostic assessment in math and reading that is used in grades 1 through 9. It is given two or three times a year, depending upon the grade level, and provides important information that helps teachers and other educators assess and support the academic needs of individual students as well as make revisions in curriculum to better reach all students. The presentation focused on a comparison of test results from the fall of 2019 to the fall of 2020.

Superintendent Galdston provided an update on teaching formats in the schools as well as COVID testing. Since the High School began hybrid instruction on December 2, now all schools are in a hybrid format. Attendance has been good across all schools, and the Superintendent noted that High School and Middle School students who are sick or in quarantine can attend classes via Zoom. Within the next two weeks a survey will be sent to families, students, and staff to learn about their school experiences. Another survey will take place in mid-January in which students and families can review their decision to be hybrid or remote in Virtual School after the school year’s midpoint in early February.

COVID testing is very important to keep the schools open and is continuing for both staff and students. Each week an average of 380 staff are tested. For students, after a baseline initial test, students are now part of pooled testing in which up to ten tests are combined for one test. If the pool test is positive, individual students are tested again to identify the person with a positive result. Overall, about 50% of students have participated in testing. More students are encouraged to participate to help keep themselves and others safe. Parents/guardians can find more information and sign-up forms here.

Near the end of the meeting Superintendent Galdston spoke about the recent Community Forum on bullying, anti-racist and anti-bias activities. At the Forum a number of parents, students, and community members spoke about their concerns and frustrations with bullying and racist experiences at the Middle School and the school district’s response. The Superintendent expressed her sympathy and support for all who have been hurt by these events and reiterated her commitment to address these issues. She spoke of several new actions to be taken, including adding three parents to the Equity Leaders team; creating a Parent Advisory Council on issues of diversity and inclusion; and proposing the creation of a Director of Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion for the district. She also will review the process for conducting an outside assessment of anti-bullying procedures and related activities.

Following Superintendent Galdston, the Chair of the School Committee spoke in support of the Superintendent’s proposals and asked for support from the entire community to help in addressing issues of bias and racial injustice. He announced that the Policy subcommittee will meet on December 15 and include in its discussion ways in which the School Committee can work with the community to address these important issues. Committee member Lily Rayman-Read also spoke and noted that one point of discussion at the subcommittee will be creating a community advisory group. Committee member and Town Council President Mark Sideris added his support, committing the town to be a partner in addressing these issues.

Also at the meeting, the School Committee approved Budget Goals and Priorities for FY2022, which include a number of specific goals under the broad categories of Equity, Excellence, Community, and Building for the Future. The Committee also approved the Capital Improvement Plan for FY2022. Almost all capital projects are at the Middle School and include air conditioning, fire suppression systems, and bathroom remodeling. The total request is for $3,586,000. This request goes to the town for its consideration. There were additional reports on the current FY2021 budget, student enrollment, and personnel changes.

Upcoming meetings include the Policy Subcommittee on December 15 at 5:45 PM; School Building Committee on December 16 at 6 PM; Anti-Bias Coalition on December 21 at 5 PM; and the Superintendent’s Coffee on December 22 at 9 AM and 7 PM.

The School Committee will meet on December 21 at 7 PM and January 4 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

November 23, 2020 School Committee Update

The School Committee met on Monday, November 23, using Zoom conferencing. The Superintendent made two presentations related to COVID-19 and school reopening. The first presentation featured a draft website dashboard for COVID-19 information and school reopening decisions. This dashboard includes five key metrics: school building readiness, COVID-19 case rate in Watertown (per 100,000 population), percent positive tests in Watertown, district and school-specific conditions, and community spread. The dashboard also links to a scenario table in which different levels of COVID-19 spread in the schools are presented with possible anticipated actions. It was emphasized that the decision to shift among teaching and learning modes (hybrid and remote) is made on the basis of reviewing all metrics and not one metric in isolation. The Watertown Department of Public Health also will play an important role in this decision making.


The second presentation was an update on COVID-19 testing that is available for students and staff. The Superintendent has worked with others in the district, parents, and community to develop a robust testing system for Watertown schools. The basic plan is to have a baseline PCR test for individual students and staff, with follow-up testing weekly for staff and weekly pool testing of ten or fewer students. In pool testing, individual samples are grouped together for a single test, then if there is a positive result, the students in the pool are tested again individually to identify the person who is positive. Testing has begun for middle school students and will begin for high school and elementary schools after the Thanksgiving break. Testing is voluntary – but highly encouraged – for all students and staff. While free to the school community, testing is funded by federal monies received by the district and through the town.

In other business, the Committee approved winter sports, which will include basketball and ice hockey at the high school. Both sports will operate with several modifications to limit physical contact. Practices can begin December 14. Spectators are not allowed for games, although home games will be live-streamed. There will be no middle school sports, although the district will attempt to develop physical activities in lieu of formal sports.

The Policy Subcommittee reported on its meeting the previous Friday. This meeting focused on the procedures and steps followed by the district in response to reports of bullying and harassment. These steps include an investigation as well as a plan to protect and support the target of bullying or harassment and a plan that specifies consequences for the instigator of the actions. A revised Bullying Prevention Plan is nearing completion and will be shared with the community. Members of the subcommittee and school administration spoke about bullying-related events at the Middle School and the importance of having comprehensive and effective procedures in place to protect the health and safety of all members of the school community. Procedures used by the district will be reviewed by an outside party to provide input on strengthening the process.

The Superintendent and Committee Chair thanked educators, staff, and the parent community for their support during the many challenges this fall. In new business, a subcommittee referral was made to review whether a Black Lives Matter flag or banner can be displayed at the Middle School.

Upcoming meetings include a Building and Grounds Subcommittee on December 1 at 4:30 and Budget and Finance Subcommittee on December 1 at 6:30. In addition, there is a WPS Community Forum (on bullying and race issues) on December 3 at 6:00. In Building for the Future, there is a High School Building Community Forum on November 30 at 6:00 and a School Building Committee meeting on December 2 at 6:00.

The next regular School Committee meeting is December 7 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website.

John Portz
Watertown School Committee

October 19, 2020 School Committee Update

The School Committee met on Monday, October 19, using Zoom conferencing. There were 287 participants at the meeting. The meeting was held at the Lowell School with five Committee members present and two members remote. Superintendent Galdston and Principal Phelan also were present. Principal Phelan provided an update on current services at the Lowell for 81 high-needs students who attend with teachers and support staff. In addition, the 5th grade Lowell team of Stefanie Brodeur, Kathy Burton, Anne Sudbay, and Elizabeth Walker provided an overview of their remote instruction program organized around four themes: community and connections; access and support; building independence; and a challenging and engaging curriculum.

The major presentation and topic of discussion was an update from the Superintendent on the status of moving towards hybrid instruction in the schools. The presentation outlined key steps in assessing the readiness of the district to move to hybrid instruction. October 22 is a key assessment date. If the data are favorable, the elementary schools would move to hybrid on October 27 and the Middle School on November 10. November 23 would be the assessment date for the High School, with hybrid instruction beginning on November 30 if relevant criteria are met. The report also described the criteria used for these determinations, including the color-coding system presented by the state, as well as how contacts are defined, COVID-19 communications and symptoms, and mitigation strategies that are being instituted. The principals described hybrid schedules for each level. The Superintendent also noted that currently there are at least 160 staff working in school buildings as well as 330 high-needs students receiving services.

After the public forum, School Committee members asked additional questions and spoke about the school reopening and moving to hybrid instruction. No motion was made or vote taken, although Committee members supported the continuation of the Reopening Plan approved in August as well as moving up hybrid instruction at the Middle School by two weeks. In general, the Committee viewed the August plan as providing general guidance, recognizing that the Superintendent will make adjustments along the way depending upon changing circumstances. As noted in the August plan, October 22 is the date for an assessment as to whether reopening can continue along the path outlined in the plan.

Larry Ramdin from the Watertown Board of Health also spoke about the current status of COVID-19 in the state and Watertown as well as the role of the town Health Department in contact tracing and reviewing school reopening plans. He has reviewed the district’s plans and supports the path outlined.

With Building for the Future, construction continues at the new Hosmer and Cunniff schools, and a community forum was recently held for the High School. At the forum, the architect presented more details on various scenarios to construct a new building on the current High School site with a pedestrian bridge to another building at the current location of the Phillips school and Senior Center.

In other reports, the chair of the School Committee noted that the Committee received that day a letter from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stating that an audit will be conducted of the district related to the school reopening process.

The next regular School Committee meeting is November 9 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz

Watertown School Committee

October 5, 2020 School Committee Update

The School Committee met on Monday, October 5, using Zoom conferencing. There were 161 participants. In Public Forum, participants spoke on different topics related to the fall reopening, including their current experiences as well as the timing for phasing in hybrid instruction. A petition was presented encouraging the district to consider bringing students back into the schools earlier than listed in the plan if COVID metrics in Watertown continue to be favorable.

The Superintendent provided an update on the first two weeks of the new school year. Most students are remote, with attendance averaging about 95% across the district. Fall Open Houses are planned at each school over the next two weeks to provide parents and guardians an opportunity to meet with teachers and learn more about the curriculum. About 330 students are in school buildings receiving various levels of instruction and support. These are students in specialized separate programs as well as English Language Learners, preschool students, and students with individual education plans. In addition, 18% of students have chosen to be remote until February. The district continues to monitor COVID-19 metrics, including the Daily Incident Rate and Positivity Rate. To ensure safe buildings, air purifiers are being added and other modifications are being made in classrooms across the district. Members of the School Committee asked a number of questions, with several encouraging the district to be flexible with the phase-in process and consider bringing some students into school buildings earlier than proposed in the plan, provided COVID metrics continue to be favorable, the buildings are ready, and hybrid programming is in place.

The School Committee approved two policies to be added to the Policy Manual. Following state requirements, one policy specifies that all students must have a flu shot this fall, no later than December 31, 2020. The second policy is only for the current year and provides the Superintendent with additional authority to take various actions during the pandemic. Both were recommended by the Massachusetts Association of School Committees.

Among reports to the Committee, the Superintendent identified several strategies to update and improve the organization of the WPS website. Each school and the overall district have a curator to update respective parts of the website. The Superintendent and Committee discussed other ways to improve the websites. The Superintendent also reported on voluntary COVID-19 testing for staff that began October 1. Ninety staff participated on the first day for the PCR test. Results were available in less than 24 hours through the Broad Institute and CIC Health.

With Building for the Future, the “topping off” ceremony for the highest steel beam on the new Cunniff was held earlier in the day. The new Cunniff is ahead of the construction schedule with a plan to have the exterior closed-off by the end of the calendar year. The Hosmer is a larger building with foundations being poured now. For the High School, a forum is scheduled for October 8 at 6pm to present the latest plans to the community. The School Building Committee meets on October 7 at 6pm.

The Superintendent also reported on the creation of Instructional Leadership Teams at each elementary school and the Middle School. In each school, nine teachers covering different parts of the curriculum work with the principal to identify ways to strengthen the curriculum and teaching practices in each school. The Committee also heard brief updates with respect to the budget, personnel, and enrollments. Initial enrollments are lower this year than last, primarily at the elementary level. The School Committee also welcomed two new High School student advisors, Shabnam Begum and David Manoukian.

The next regular School Committee meeting is October 19 at 7 PM. Additional information is available on the Watertown Public Schools website at

John Portz
Watertown School Committee