Superintendent's Newsletter

April 23, 2022

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A Message from the Superintendent

I trust that you are enjoying these beautiful days we are having during our April Break. Seeing the trees blossom and the flowers peeking through provides us with a sense of renewal and inspiration as we welcome Spring and approach the end of the school year. Below are a few pertinent updates:


Educator Appreciation Week: As a reminder, Educator Appreciation Week is rapidly approaching, celebrated the week of May 2-6. Everyone working in the Watertown Public Schools serves as an 'educator' for your children, and as such, I wish to extend my appreciation for all of our teachers and nurses, our mental and behavioral health staff, our related service providers, our instructional assistants and aides, our technology support personnel, our school nutrition workers, custodians, and maintenance staff, our administrative assistants, our community education staff, our school and district leaders, our coaches and advisors, and all else who serve in roles that support the education and social-emotional support of Watertown's children. I welcome you to consider taking a moment during Teacher Appreciation Week to reach out to those who support your children each and every day.


FY23 Budget: I am pleased to share the FY2023 Superintendent’s Recommended Budget of $55,636,55, an increase of $1,881,429 or 3.5% over FY2022. Our budget was developed collaboratively with school and district administrators (who gathered educator input), curriculum and program coordinators, and the School Committee. The budget development process asked every participant to consider the needs of our students and staff, identify outcomes that should be expected from any new resource, and be creative in using the resources available. Next year's budget maintains level services for all of our programs and staffing, and also provides the opportunity to add key staff to continue our mission to prepare all students for life. The City of Watertown's continued support for education Watertown is greatly appreciated!


Key additions to the FY23 budget include:


  • 2 additional elementary classroom teachers: one at the Cunniff and one at the Hosmer
  • .5 ESL teacher at the Cunniff
  • .4 PE teacher at the Cunniff
  • .6 Spanish Teacher at WMS
  • .2 World Percussion Teacher at WHS
  • 6 stipends for Equity Facilitators - 1 at each school
  • 2 stipends for social/emotional health and RSP support
  • .4 instrumental music teacher (district-wide)
  • Increase of .2 for the high school drama teacher
  • .2 drama teacher at the middle school
  • Assistant Principal at the Cunniff
  • Assistant Principal at the Middle School
  • Family Engagement and Communication Strategist


Please note that over the course of this school year, several positions were added to meet the needs of our students as they transitioned back into full-time school including additional ESL teachers, social workers, special education teachers, increases to Kindergarten Aides to full time, ELA and math tutors, and other support staff. Funding for these positions came from federal grants including ESSER or from the FY22 operating budget.


Administrative Positions: WPS is currently engaged in hiring five administrative positions, two of which are newly created positions as part of the FY23 budget (noted above). We have active searches in progress for the High School assistant principal, the Middle School principal and the newly created second assistant principal, and the 8-12 English Language Arts Coordinator. Principal Ciarlone recently announced the appointment of Michael Kenney as the new Assistant Principal at the Cunniff Elementary School. We look forward to working with the new members of our district Leadership Team!


The initial review of applicants for all administrative positions is done through a Screening Committee, comprised of the various stakeholders with whom the administrator will work. People serving on these committees give much time and effort to select the best candidates to move forward as finalists. I am grateful for their thoughtful dedication and commitment to this process.


I look forward to welcoming our students and staff members back after April Break, and anticipate very exciting weeks ahead as we move closer to the end of the school year!


With kind regards,


Dede Galdston, Ed.D.,

Superintendent of the Watertown Public Schools

WPS Equity Audit

Beginning last summer, Watertown Public Schools engaged Public Consulting Group to conduct an Equity Audit of our schools. The audit in Watertown was designed to examine all areas of the school system’s operations through the lens of equity with the goal to identify structural and programmatic strengths and barriers that may inhibit an inclusive and equitable learning environment.


We embarked on this audit to support our Strategic Initiative, “To engage all WPS faculty and staff in embracing anti-bias and inclusive practices that promote equity and ensure all students feel valued and supported in their learning." In order to advance WPS’ efforts, we sought a partner organization to conduct an external audit that would develop a set of customized recommendations for us to consider then prioritize, grounded in WPS’ data. Our continued commitment to this work is designed to ensure a safe, supportive and inclusive educational environment where each student feels valued, challenged and prepared for life.


In March, the final audit was provided to the District and the larger community through a presentation to the School Committee. The audit identified that as a community still have important work to do, especially around: opportunities and access for all students; incorporating student and family voice and experience; disproportionate referrals for special education and discipline; communication about our equity work; diversifying our faculty and curriculum; and professional learning around equity, inclusion, and belonging. The full report can be found here.


The four key priorities identified in the report are as follows:


1. Set a clear vision and common language for equity across WPS.

  • Revisit the WPS Equity Vision Statement. Ensure that this statement explicitly includes a vision specific to racial equity as a part of the district’s focus on equity for all marginalized classes.

  • Engage Stakeholders. Ask various stakeholders to help build a shared equity vision that all can rally around. Student voices should be actively included throughout the process.

  • Publicize the Vision. Place the Equity Vision Statement front and center throughout the district in multiple languages.


2. Create an Equity Action Plan.

  • Set a Clear Vision and Shared Language for Equity
  • Form an Equity Task Force for Strategic Planning
  • Create an Equity Communication Plan
  • Assign Ownership for Completion
  • Set Equity Data Targets


3. Use an explicit equity decision-making lens for all decisions made within WPS.

  • Adopt an equity decision-making framework through which all decisions are reviewed

  • Leaders must consistently apply an equity-lens to every decision

  • Necessary to stay true to the vision of equity for the district


4. Expect accountability from all staff

  • Adhering to the goals and strategic actions of the Equity Action Plan should be an expectation set for all staff members in any position in the district

  • There should be no belief that equity is someone else’s job

  • Everyone is responsible and held accountable for systemic change

  • Include goal setting or individual performance plans with an equity focus as part of the annual review and evaluation process


The Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion and Belonging, Dr. Kimberlee Henry, is currently assembling the Equity Plan Steering Committee to engage in the work of creating the vision, goals, and strategies for our continued equity work in WPS. We will be holding a Community Forum at Watertown Middle School on Monday, April 25th at 6:30 to share the findings and recommendations, then to answer any questions that the community may have regarding our next steps (see information below).

WPS Visual Art Show at Watertown Mall

You are invited to view several amazing pieces of art created by our students in grades 6-12 at the Watertown Mall. The Art Show continues through April 28. The exhibit is outside of the mall entrance to Target.
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Building for the Future

It is very exciting to see our new school buildings open and thriving! While there is still landscaping to be done at the Cunniff, it is nearing full completion. The Hosmer will be nearly complete over this summer, with the demolition of the old Hosmer building commencing shortly. Landscaping around the building, the installation of the new playground on the old Hosmer school site, and the renovation of the two softball fields at O'Connell Field will begin soon after the building comes down. And work is beginning at the Lowell Elementary School with interior demolition starting soon! There will be a ribbon cutting ceremony at the Lowell on Wednesday, April 27 at 4:30. All are welcome to attend. The newly renovated and expanded Lowell will be open in the Fall of 2023.


Progress continues on the Watertown High School Project. The design documents are nearly complete and will be submitted to the MSBA in June. Construction of the modular high school on Moxley Field will begin in the late fall, and WHS students will begin school in their temporary location in the fall of 2023. Hearing many of the questions that are out there about the temporary high school space both on Moxley Field and on the ground floor of the middle school, here are a few of the frequently asked questions and answers. There will also be information nights for middle and high school parents beginning this fall as the plans are finalized.


Will the middle school and high school students still be able to access the same level of programming during the construction project? YES! Our goal throughout the process of developing the swing space option is to ensure that students are able to access the same depth and breadth of courses and opportunities that they are currently able to enjoy. It does mean that doing so will involve creative planning and use of space, but our goal remains to provide the same robust level of opportunities. An added bonus is that the modular school will provide state-of-the-art science labs, larger classroom space in many cases, effective HVAC systems, an outdoor courtyard and recreation area, and will provide ample off-street parking for faculty, staff, and visitors.


Will the high school students be sharing spaces with middle school students in WMS? No. We are creating a separate space on the ground floor for the high school students. Core academic subjects including world languages, art, music, and specialized programming will take place in the modular building on Moxley, with all of our Vocational, Career, and Technical Education classes including engineering, construction technology, medical assisting, digital media production, and culinary arts, taking place on the ground floor of the middle school. PE classes will be held outdoors and in the lower gym on the ground floor of the middle school. Middle school PE classes will be held in the larger middle school gym or outdoors.


Will the high school students be eating in the middle school cafeteria? No. We are currently determining the best way to serve lunches to high school students either on the ground floor of the middle school, outdoors in the courtyard of the modular building, or inside the modular building.


What will drop-off and dismissals look like? In order to mitigate the increased traffic and the number of students around the campuses, we will be staggering the start of middle school and high school. Beginning in the fall of 2023, WMS will start at 7:45 and end at 2:15, with high school starting at 8:30 and ending at 3:05. This will allow for efficient drop-offs and dismissals.


Will there be transportation to the Middle School/Moxley Field campuses? YES! We will be offering expanded busing options for middle school and high school students during the time of the construction of the new high school. This will allow for better traffic flow in the neighborhood during drop-off and dismissal times.


What about athletics and other extracurriculars? We are working on solutions that will ensure that every student will have the same or similar opportunities that they would have had prior to the construction project. Fortunately, we have full-size gyms at both the Cunniff and the Hosmer, as well as the two-court middle school gym for use. We will utilize our partnership with BB&N to use their fields in the early evening, and maximize the scheduling of the other fields and gymnasiums available. For performances, we will be sharing space in the middle school auditorium and exploring other options that may be available. The modular building on Moxley will have a full-size music room, an art room, and a graphic arts room as well. You can see more information about the rooms in the modular building using this link.


For more information about the Building For the Future Initiative, please visit our website.

WHS at Moxley Site Plan

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Employment Opportunities in WPS- Click Here!

WPS has several openings for our summer programs and the 22/23 school year.

UPCOMING EVENTS

Community Forum - Presentation of WPS Equity Audit Findings and Recommendations

Monday, April 25th, 6:30pm

68 Waverley Avenue

Watertown, MA

Join us for a facilitated conversation to understand our organization’s core, common, and critical strengths and opportunities as they relate to equity, and the proven action steps for continuous improvement. This community forum will be held in person and led by Ms. Lisa Smith-McQueenie of LMS Consulting for Change.


Through the contracted services of the Public Consulting Group, Watertown Public Schools has undergone a guided external view of equity in our organization, providing us with recommendations and creative strategies for continuous improvement in our educational program. Following the presentation of the Equity Audit Report, there will be time for questions and answers.


*In Person Only- Childcare provided.

Advanced Registration required for childcare.


Flyer

Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Meeting

Tuesday, April 26th, 6:30pm

This is an online event.

The new SEPAC leadership board invites all interested members of the Watertown Community to join us at our upcoming Relaunch Event Tuesday, April 26, at 6:30 via Zoom.


Come meet the new leadership board, learn about the mission of the Watertown SEPAC, find out about upcoming events, and connect with other caregivers invested in accessible education for all Watertown students. SEPAC membership is open to all and we are striving to include all voices, contributions, and perspectives. If you have additional questions you can reach the SEPAC at wps_sepac@watertown.k12.ma.us

BIPOC Families and Parents of BIPOC Children Listening Session

Thursday, April 28th, 5:30pm

31 Marshall Street

Watertown, MA

The School Department acknowledges that not all people of color face equal levels of justice, and we are committed to continuous improvement, making concerted efforts to serve the community more successfully. Recognizing that Black, Indigenous, and People of Color (BIPOC) are severely impacted by systemic racial injustices, we want to learn how best to serve and support all in our school community.


Please join us, either in person in room 301 of the Phillips Administration Building, 30 Common Street, but use 31 Marshall Street for navigation or online via Zoom.


For the first of several listening sessions, we are specifically inviting our BIPOC community, including families of BIPOC students, to speak openly with our school district leaders in a respectful exchange of ideas. If preferred, you are welcome to post questions and concerns, anonymously, using this link. Here is the Flyer.

Watertown School Committee Meeting

Monday, May 2nd, 7pm

This is an online event.

The next School Committee meeting will be held on Monday, May 2. The agenda, once posted, can be found here.


Zoom link: https://watertown-k12-ma-us.zoom.us/j/85741017316

Community Conversation with the Superintendent

Tuesday, May 10th, 9am

This is an online event.

The Superintendent will be hosting her monthly Community Conversation with the Superintendent on Tuesday, May 10 at 9:00 am and again at 7:00. This is a great opportunity to learn more about what the district is doing as well as to ask questions and provide feedback to the leadership team. These conversations will be held on Zoom.


Zoom link:


https://watertown-k12-ma-us.zoom.us/j/88475076352

Equity in WPS Speaker Series Part 6: Modern Day Racism

Tuesday, May 17th, 6:30pm

This is an online event.


Join us on May 11 for a virtual conversation at 6:30 pm via Zoom with WPS families and caregivers, facilitated by Dr. Kalise Wornum. In this session, participants will engage in a discussion about modern day racism.


Participants will have an opportunity to raise questions and discuss challenges in real-time. This is the final part of an ongoing series with Dr. Wornum designed to provide families with information about our equity work in the Watertown Public Schools and to help parents and caregivers navigate difficult conversations around race and bias. Please join whether you are able to participate actively or just want to listen in.


Dr. Kalise Wornum is an Educational Consultant at KW Diversity Inc. Earlier in her career, she served as the METCO Director in the Wellesley Public Schools. As part of the equity work in WPS, Dr. Wornum has collaborated with the WPS Leadership Team in providing resources and training to become Culturally Proficient Leaders, and she delivered this year's keynote speech to all WPS staff on Opening Day, September 1. This work moves WPS towards achieving its mission of preparing all students for life by engaging them in a challenging and meaningful education within an inclusive, diverse community.


Link to Flyer

Additional Events within the Watertown Community

Race Reels: What Will Become of Us? A film remembering the Armenian Genocide. Wednesday, April 27 at the Watertown Public Library. Pizza at 5:45, screening at 6:00.


Watertown Business Coalition's Life Sciences Panel and Exbibition- Wednesday, April 27 5:30- Hosmer Elementary School


School Building Committee Community Forum: Watertown High School. Wednesday, May 4 at 6:00. Zoom link available shortly.


Watertown Walks for Peace: Sunday, May 8


Watertown Helps Out- throughout the month of May. Sign up to volunteer here.