Superintendent's Newsletter

June 4, 2020

Looking Forward as Best We Can

Good afternoon, WPS Families and Staff:


As we head into the last 8 days of school, I want to extend my deep gratitude for the support, understanding, and patience that you have shown to our teachers and to your children as we partnered together during these most challenging times. These last few weeks have a different feeling than our more traditional sprint to the finish, but we want to celebrate all that our students, teachers, and parents have accomplished during this very challenging time. Even though this is not how any of us imagined the end of the year to be, many of you shared that you were able to find some joy or ‘silver linings’ in this remote learning experience.


While winding down this school year, we are turning our attention to what next fall may look like for our students and staff members. Amidst uncertainty and without guidance from the State at this point, we are moving ahead with preliminary planning, enlisting a large and broad team of school community members. We established a School Reopening Task Force comprised of 40+ members representing teachers, administrators, parents, directors, and soon, students. This working team began meeting in May and will continue to meet throughout the summer, charged with considering all likely scenarios for the fall. This Task Force will work primarily in subgroups focusing on the following framework:


    • Teaching and Learning: Remote, Face-to-Face, Hybrid

    • Physical Learning Environments: Retrofitting our existing buildings to follow all safety, social distancing, and health guidelines while delivering high-quality instruction

    • Student Support: Social/Emotional and Behavioral Health, Special Education & Health Services - We are prioritizing relationships and healthy human connections as we plan for academics and social-emotional wellness

    • Operations: Food Service, Finance, Custodians, Human Resources


Additionally, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has established a ‘Return to School Working Group’ comprised of various stakeholders from across the state and is scheduled to provide guidance to districts by the middle of June. Once DESE establishes state-level guidelines, we will develop a specific plan for Watertown designed to meet the various needs of our community.


We would like to include three parents on the Task Force as well, one from each level. Please send an email to ariel.kennebrew@watertown.k12.ma.us with a brief description as to why you are interested in serving on the Task Force and on which subgroup you would like to serve. Meetings will be held every Thursday via Zoom at this time.


Safety: Our goal is to return to face-to-face teaching and learning as soon as we are able to do so safely, for both students and staff, based on the recommendations from DESE and the WPS School Reopening Task Force, in conjunction with our local Board of Health. Based on our current understanding of the pandemic, this will more than likely be in a way that promotes physical distancing along with strong protocols for cleaning and sanitizing, personal hygiene, and the use of personal protective equipment, including the wearing of face coverings at all times--not just in the classroom, but in all walks of school life.


While we await specific guidance from DESE regarding school next year, it is more than likely we will continue with some form of remote learning in the fall as part of the larger school experience in order to achieve the necessary physical distancing. We will take all that we have learned over the past months in our extended learning experience, along with the growing body of knowledge regarding distance learning, to continue to support our students’ learning into the future. We understand that this may be a hardship for you and your families. We must ensure the health and safety of our students and staff in the midst of this global health crisis.


Professional Development: The WPS Professional Development Team is creating a plan in support of our excellent educators to further facilitate learning about various educational technologies to include: blended learning, differentiating online, engaging students virtually, distance learning, and more. We will move to 1:1 Chromebook devices for students in grades 1 through 12 and continue to provide access, support, and training for any family who needs it throughout the year.


Summer Programming: WPS will offer summer programming for students K-12 this year, albeit remotely. Information on our Extended School Year (ESY), English as Second Language (ESL), and K-5 Literacy summer programming will be available soon. WHS will be offering a fee-based credit recovery program for high school students. In addition, WPS Community Education will offer a FREE virtual and voluntary Summer Explorations Program with 10 weeks of programming for students in grades K-5. Students will also have the opportunity to continue with self-paced online learning programs such as IXL and i-Ready throughout the summer. Our Teaching & Learning Team and principals will be sending out more information on summer programming when finalized shortly.


School Nutrition: Our School Nutrition breakfast and lunch distribution will continue on Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays through June 30th. We are exploring options for continuing this service through the summer and will let you know as soon as we have more information.


As you can see, there is much to consider in the coming months, and as information becomes available, we will continue to update the WPS community. Given our successful shift to online learning in March, I have full faith and confidence that we will continue to provide the best educational experience for Watertown students, no matter what the structure is in the fall.


With kind regards and deep admiration,


Dede Galdston, Ed.D.

Photos of Our Remote Learners

Several families submitted photos for the High Five Campaign, and below are a few. The other photos can be found in the online photo gallery.

Statement to the Community from WPS Administration

On Tuesday, the Watertown Public Schools Administration sent out the following message:


WPS prepares all students for life by engaging them in a challenging and meaningful education within an inclusive, diverse community. ~Watertown Public Schools


Dear Watertown Public Schools Community,


We are profoundly disturbed by the tragic and unnecessary death of George Floyd as well as Ahmaud Arbery’s killing in Georgia and Breonna Taylor’s in Kentucky. We are all negatively impacted by such acts, whether as victims, perpetrators, or bystanders. The families, friends, and community members of these individuals, and the countless others who have been lost to violence, are forever impacted.


To our Black Families, Students, and Community Members, although we recognize and empathize with the hurt and the fear you live with on a daily basis, we know we need to and can do more. Please know, we will work every single day with others throughout our strong Watertown community to make our schools and community places for all of us to thrive and prosper, regardless of race or any other aspect of human diversity.


We, in the Watertown Public Schools, are committed to confronting racism in our school community, as well as creating and ensuring welcoming, affirming, and supportive learning spaces for every single one of our students and their families. We commit to our efforts to promote and live anti-racism and social justice in our schools, as well as to serve and support the distinct needs of our students and families of color who are far too often targets of racism and racist acts. We will continue our efforts to ensure our system is one that aims to engage in purposeful dialogue, dismantle institutional racism, and commit to our students and families to see themselves represented in our staff. We have a long road ahead of us. We have already begun the journey with our Equity Leaders Team, our Kingian Non-Violence and Responsive Classroom programs, our Anti-Bias Coalition, and our community outreach efforts.


In a different time, a time when we were not engulfed in a pandemic, we would call our community together and work on healing through a shared experience, both in school and out. At this time we are not safely able to do so, and we struggle with how best to provide support to our students and staff who are hurting now and may not have an outlet. Even though our buildings are closed, we remain committed to working together to create a better world. We have a strong mental health team that will help and assist. Please reach out to your principal who can help to find the appropriate support for you, your children, or your family should you need assistance.


Thank you for your continued efforts to support our students and families, as well as each other. While we cannot be physically together, we share your hurt, your grieving, and your anger for this continued senseless and unjust loss of life of people of color.

With kindest regards,


Dede Galdston, Ed.D., Superintendent

Theresa McGuinness, Ed.D., Assistant Superintendent for Teaching, Learning, and Assessment

Kathleen Desmarais, Director of Student Services

Heidi Perkins, Director of Finance and Operations

Kenneth Storlazzi, Director of Human Resources

Mena Ciarlone, Principal, Cunniff Elementary School

Erin Moulton, Principal, Hosmer Elementary School

Stacy Phelan, Principal, Lowell Elementary School

Donna Martin, Principal, Watertown Middle School

Shirley Lundberg, Principal, Watertown High School

Karen Feeney, Early Childhood Director


Excellence * Equity * Community

WPS 2020/2021 School Calendar

The WPS 2020/2021 School Calendar has been officially set. The first day of school will be Tuesday, September 8. The last day with five snow days will be June 25. The first day back for staff will be Tuesday, September 1. All early releases, vacations, conferences, and holidays can be found on the final calendar.
Last night, the School Building Committee met to further discuss and refine the preliminary design options for the high school. Our architects, Ai3, provided the Committee with options at two locations: The existing high school site along with the Phillips Administration Building and Victory Field.


Two options were discussed for the new high school at the Phillips Administration Building location, with the "24/7" Watertown options being located at the existing location (gymnasium, auditorium, and Council on Aging). One option included a bridge between the two buildings over Common Street, with the second one not having a bridge. There were other adjustments as well. Both of these options included underground parking underneath the 24/7 Watertown structure and a small outdoor non-competition field.


The architects provided one option for locating the high school at Victory Field. This option placed the new high school on the existing turf field, preserving the Oval, with the high school facing the Oval. Additionally, this option would create a stadium and field at the existing high school site.


The School Building Committee will be hosting a public forum via Zoom at the end of June to present these options to the larger committee for feedback. As soon as details become available, I will share them with the larger WPS community. We welcomed Joel Giacobozzi, the new high school principal as of July 1, to the SBC meeting last night as he begins his transition into his new role!


As for the elementary projects, construction begins shortly! After almost three years of planning for the new buildings, we are finally ready. The School Building Committee recommended Brait Builders to be the General Contractor for the Cunniff and Hosmer projects and the Town Council will be considering the loan order for the project on June 9.


All of our teachers who will be moving from the Cunniff to Cunniff West, from the Early Steps Preschool at the Hosmer to the Phillips, and from the Hosmer Connector to the Hosmer main building, have packed up their classrooms and offices and are ready to move. The movers start moving the classroom materials next week at the Cunniff and the week after at the Hosmer.


We anticipate breaking ground in early July for both projects. We will be hosting meetings for the abutters and residents who may be impacted by the project tonight at the Cunniff and next Thursday for the Hosmer.

Watertown Students Shine Remotely

Below you will find amazing examples of our students' talents virtually showcased. It is inspiring to see what our students can accomplish together even if they are alone in their homes. Take a moment to peruse and enjoy the art and music of our fine Watertown students.


You can start with the Virtual Art Show that features hundreds of pieces of art digitally displayed across all grade levels. This monumental undertaking will bring our students' artwork into homes across the town and beyond.


Thank you to all of our community members, students, staff and parents, who helped put these together!

News from the Community

Town Manager's COVID-19 Update- May 29, 2020

The Town Manager's Weekly COVID-19 Update for May 29, 2020 contains excellent and detailed information for Watertown community members.

Watertown Free Public Library: Summer Reading and Open For Curbside Pickup

The Watertown Free Public Library is pleased to announce the 2020 Summer Reading Program: Imagine Your Story!


As the school year winds down, we know there’s a lot on your mind. That’s why Watertown Free Public Library is here to help keep your student on track with our annual Summer Reading Program. Just like last year, we’re playing Bingo this summer! Pick up your Bingo card on Tuesday, June 16 at our Drive-Thru kickoff event! Visit www.watertownlib.org/summerreading for more information.


Beginning Monday, June 1, the new phone number to place curbside pickup orders at WFPL is 857-203-8009. In the past three weeks, we've received SO MANY orders for library books and materials. Keep 'em coming!

Did you know that Hatch Makerspace is also offering curbside pickup for 3D prints and laser-cut creations? Submit your designs here.

This week via Zoom, Monday Morning Meditation begins, Aimee is hosting Friends Fandom Trivia, and our Mad About the Movies group will unpack Francis Ford Coppola's The Conversation. For children, we have a new creative writing program inspired by a mysterious book, and Children's Baking returns soon.

Keep scrolling to see what else is new...

New Curbside Pickup Phone Number: Beginning Monday, June 1, the new phone number to place curbside pickup orders is 857-203-8009. Learn how to place your order for Library books and materials.

Open a Library Card: Yes, you can open a Library card from home! Complete this registration form<> to sign up.

Contact WFPL: If you’re having trouble logging into our digital services because of account issues, we’ll do our best to get you connected. Click here to ask a question.

Resources for families during this critical time

Welcome to the Watertown Mutual Aid Network!


In these fast-moving and uncertain times, it’s important that we show up for each other and build strong connections with our neighbors here in Watertown. We all have something to offer and we all have something we need. Please use our Mutual Aid Network to get help when you need it, help others when you can, and stay connected with our community.


How mutual aid works:

  1. To request aid: If you are a Watertown neighbor in need of some support during this time, you have come to the right place. No ask is too big or too small. By filling out this form, you will be matched with someone who has offered to provide help with that need. Your information will only be seen by the Community Coordinator.


  1. To offer help: Please share how you could help a Watertown neighbor. By filling out this form, the Community Coordinator will be able to share your contact information with a neighbor whose needs can be met by your offer. Please feel free to list as many offers as you wish.


Please do not hesitate to ask for or offer anything, and we expect most neighbors to both ask for and offer aid. Aid may include: cleaning and safety supplies, personal care items, clothing, food and delivery, translation services, social support, care package, transportation, housing, storage, child care, activities for kids, dog walking, tutoring, and technology support.


Email or call Sophia, the Community Coordinator at sophia_suarez-friedman@waysideyouth.org or 617-744-9585 for any questions or to remove yourself from the lists. If you do not feel comfortable filling out the form or need a translator, please call to be added to either list.


Additional resources:

  • For resources such as food access, money, health & safety, housing, utilities, joblessness, elder care, etc., please visit the Watertown COVID-19 Resource Guide created by the Watertown Free Public Library.

  • If you need further services or resources that cannot be fulfilled by the Mutual Aid Network or the Resource Guide, please call the Watertown Social Services Resource Specialist (SSRS) Program at 617-744-9585. Our mission is to serve Watertown residents by connecting them to services and resources.


Help us build the Mutual Aid Network:

  • Spread the word: Share with your friends and neighbors!

  • Translations/Language Justice: Please reach out to the Community Coordinator if you have the capacity to translate some of our materials into other languages, such as Spanish, Portuguese, Arabic, Urdu, Armenian, or Pashto. Translation in any language is welcomed and appreciated.

Upcoming Events in the Watertown Public Schools

Virtual Morning Coffee with Superintendent

Monday, June 8th, 9am

This is an online event.

Click here to join Zoom Meeting

Virtual Evening Coffee with the Superintendent

Monday, June 8th, 7pm

This is an online event.

Click here to join Zoom meeting
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