WPS Leadership October Update

October 29, 2021

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A Message from the Superintendent

Happy fall! The colder weather is settling in and it definitely feels autumnal. We have been busy in WPS throughout the month of October, especially with the opening of the new Cunniff School. The days and weeks leading up to the grand opening were certainly busy, following several years of planning. It was all worth it the moment the ribbon was cut and the children ran into the building. And the Cunniff is just the first of many grand openings and excellent improvements that are being made to our schools, due to the generous support of this community for education and its commitment to ensuring the best possible learning opportunities for Watertown's children for decades to come.


WPS is currently engaged in several improvement projects and program reviews to provide information and data to inform our next round of improvement strategy development, which begins this February. One of these reviews is a comprehensive Equity Audit, that began this summer and will continue through November. We look forward to providing the community with the review, the findings, and the recommendations from the Audit in January 2022. You will find information below regarding an opportunity for you to provide your feedback and voice in the process.


I encourage everyone who is registered to vote to do so on November 2. Local elections have the most direct bearing on your experience as a resident of Watertown, and there are several open seats this year, including on the School Committee. As a reminder school is in session that day, with voting taking place at the Lowell, the Phillips, and the Middle School. Voting may impact arrival and dismissal as well as parking at these locations.


Enjoy your weekend!


Dede Galdston, Superintendent

Scenes from Opening Day at the Cunniff

Community-Wide Request for Feedback via Email for the Equity Audit

Watertown Public Schools has hired Public Consulting Group (PCG) to conduct a districtwide Equity Audit. The goal of this audit is to identify strengths and areas for improvement in WPS and to make recommendations on how we can move towards achieving the best outcomes for each student in our community. An essential component of this work is hearing from a wide range of voices from across our district. As such, we invite you all, as valued members of the WPS community, to share your perspectives with us about equity and inclusion in the district via the project email managed by PCG: WPSequityaudit@pcgus.com. Your feedback will go directly to PCG and will be completely confidential.


Here are some guiding questions to consider in your response:


  1. What do you believe WPS is doing well related to equity or addressing inequity, and what are areas for improvement in the district?

  2. To what extent do you see evidence that diversity is seen as an asset, rather than a deficit, in the district? Can you provide examples?

  3. Do students feel a sense of belonging to their school?

  4. How does the school communicate with staff, parents, and community members and what opportunities do stakeholders have to provide feedback?

  5. What do you hope will change as a result of this Equity Audit?


Please send your thoughts by Friday, November 5, 2021.


We appreciate your participation as we work towards identifying and addressing practices, policies, and communications that may contribute to inequities across our district. We are committed to building a WPS in which each learner reaches their full academic and personal potential in safe, welcoming, equitable, inclusive learning environments.


Sincerely,


Dede Galdston, Superintendent

Equity in WPS Speaker Series Part 2: Educational Equity and Cultural Profiency

Monday, Nov. 1st, 6:30pm

This is an online event.


Join us on Monday, November 1, 2021 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 gain a clear understanding of the meaning of educational equity and cultural proficiency. Participants will have an opportunity to raise questions and discuss challenges in real-time. This is the second session of a four-part 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.


Continuing on with the Series, Session 3 -Defining Implicit Bias- will be held on January 13 at 6:30 via Zoom and Session 4 - How to Have Difficult Conversations- will be held on March 13 at 6:30 via Zoom. Mark your calendars for these upcoming events.


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.


Zoom link for Monday's Session with Dr. Wornum:


https://us02web.zoom.us/j/85469700537?pwd=ZEJ6UDlPMld2eFdaWTJmZkxrL0Z5Zz09

COVID-19 Updates

Watertown has successfully implemented its Test & Stay program at the Lowell West School in Waltham every day for the past four weeks. It has been very successful, with no students who were identified as close contacts testing positive during their 7-day quarantine and testing cycle. We are also offering symptomatic testing at Lowell West from 8:15-10:00. If you are interested in having your child tested, please fill out the following form prior to arrival.


The metrics for the week of October 18 can be found here. Last week we only had one positive pool and this week, only two. Our numbers appear to be going down- keep up the great work distancing and mask-wearing even when your children are not in school. Due to the lower numbers, we have lifted the outdoor mask mandate for our elementary students. Together we can continue to keep our children and staff safe during this pandemic while attending school every day.


Below you will find a joint message from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and the Department of Public Health regarding the pediatric vaccine for children ages 5-11. We anticipate the CDC approving the Pfizer vaccine for emergency use early next week, and our health care providers and pharmacies are getting ready to schedule appointments soon after. WPS is pursuing opportunities to provide a vaccine clinic here in our district once the emergency use authorization is granted. We will inform the community as soon as we have any information about a school-based vaccine clinic.

A Letter from DESE and DPH regarding vaccinations for children ages 5-11

Dear Parents and Guardians,


In the coming weeks, we expect the FDA and CDC to recommend COVID-19 vaccinations for

children ages 5 to 11 years old. We’d like to provide you with current information and

resources on vaccination and, when vaccination is approved for this younger age group, we

encourage you to have your child vaccinated to protect themselves, your family, and the

school community.


While COVID-19 is generally less serious for school-age children than for older adults, children

can become infected, and some may get very sick or suffer serious complications. Children can spread COVID-19 to others. Fortunately, the Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine has been approved for individuals ages 12 and up and is currently under review for recommendation for children ages 5 to 11. The COVID-19 vaccine has been shown to be safe and effective against infection, serious illness, hospitalization, and death. Over 70 percent of Massachusetts youth ages 12-17 have received at least one dose of the COVID-19 vaccine. Getting your child vaccinated will help limit COVID-19 spread in our school and community, and it can help keep your child and their schoolmates in school.


Please speak to your child’s doctor about their plans to administer the vaccine once it is made available and raise any questions or concerns you have about the vaccine and your child.


There are hundreds of vaccination sites across the state that have indicated their

willingness to vaccinate children 5 to 11. Many accept walk-in appointments, including CVS and Walgreens pharmacies, Market Basket and other grocery chains, and community health

centers. More information on these sites, as well as safety information and helpful questions

and answers, are all available at www.mass.gov/covidvaccine.


As a reminder:


  • The COVID vaccine is free for all, and no ID or insurance is needed to be vaccinated;
  • You can get vaccinated even if you are undocumented. Getting a vaccine will not impact your or your family’s immigration status. The Public Charge rule does NOT apply to getting the vaccine.


Getting your family vaccinated is the best way to protect yourself and your loved ones. We

appreciate your help to keep all of our students, faculty, staff, and volunteers, as well as our

community, safe and healthy this fall and all year long.


Margaret R. Cooke

Acting Commissioner

Massachusetts Department of Public Health


Jeffrey Riley

Commissioner

Massachusetts Department of

Elementary and Secondary

Education