14th Annual Perkins Gala Raises More than $1 Million

The Perkins Chorus joined Grammy award-winning group, the Blind Boys of Alabama, for a few songs. The 14th annual Perkins Possibilities Gala was held earlier this month, and raised more than $1 million for the Watertown-based school for the blind. Perkins serves not just the blind and visually impaired in the Boston area, but worldwide, said Perkins President and CEO Dave Power. “I’m always moved by the outpouring of support our friends and partners show to Perkins on this particular night. Simply put, we would not be able to positively impact so many children and young adults who are blind without it,” Power said.

Council Approves Funds for Design of Elementary School Projects

An illustration of what the new Hosmer School will likely look like when completed, The view is from the east looking at the new main entrance. The Town Council approved the first major funding piece for the $170 million reconstruction of Watertown’s three elementary schools on Tuesday night. The project will be paid for within the Town’s budget, without requiring a debt exclusion to pay for the work, Town Manager Michael Driscoll said. The Council approved a loan order for $12.441 million for design services. Town Council President Mark Sideris noted that the project, and the price tag has changes significantly.

Free Celebration of Spring Concert Features Revels, Perkins School Students

Revels and Perkins School for the Blind students do the Circle Dance as part of the “Celebration of Spring” concert. The following information was provided by Revels:

Join us for a joyful and inspirational concert of traditional music, dance and song as Revels celebrates spring with the talented students from Perkins School for the Blind. A Celebration of Spring, Directed by Patrick Swanson;  Music Direction by Megan Henderson, will be held Thursday, May 23, 2019, 7:30 p.m.Perkins School for the Blind, Dwight Hall, 175 No. Beacon Street, Watertown. Admission is FREE

Revels directors Megan Henderson and Paddy Swanson lead this special one-hour program featuring Perkins’ talented singers with Revels’ adult and children’s choruses, a children’s morris team, and a great band of musicians.

Committee to Re-Interview Project Manager Firms, Discuss Options for Lowell School

An image of the latest plans for what Lowell Elementary School will look like after it is renovated. The School Building Committee could not choose one of the finalists for owner’s project manager for Watertown’s elementary school construction projects, so they will bring them back in for second round of interviews. At the same time, they discussed how to approach the renovation of Lowell School, and progress on the high school project. On May 7, the three finalists for the firms that will oversee the construction of the schools on behalf of the Town made presentations to the School Building Committee. The finalists — Hill, Leftfield and Skanska — were chosen from seven firms that submitted proposals.

State Funding for Local Schools to be Discussed at Meeting Co-Hosted by Sen. Brownsberger

State Sen. Will Brownsberger

The following information was provided by State Sen. Brownsberger’s Office:

State Sen. Will Brownsberger will co-host a listening session on state funding for local schools with State Senator Jason Lewis, Senate Chair of the Joint Committee on Education, to learn more about the needs of schools in Watertown, Belmont and Boston in advance of the senate’s FY20 budget debate, which will begin May 20. The first segment of the event will provide local education leaders the opportunity to share their schools’ experiences and concerns with state funding. After community presentations, the remaining time will be spent providing attendees the opportunity to make comments and ask questions. The hearing will be limited to two hours and is open to the public. All are encouraged to attend.

Watertown’s Dancing With the Stars Coming Up Soon, Tickets Available

The Watertown Rotary Club will host Dancing With the Stars charity event featuring local celebrities teaming with professional dancers on May 10, 2019. This year’s competitors are Town Councilor Lisa Feltner, Watertown Savings Bank’s Bill Burgess, Rhode Moise from the Watertown Boys & Girls Club, Watertown Firefighter Mary Piotrowski, Watertown Police Officer Kerilyn Amedio, Jae Smith from the Watertown Public Schools, Watertown Realtor Ari Koufos, Watertown Firefighter Andrew Vega, and Chad Foster from Watertown Middle School. The event will be emceed by Watertown Town Council President Mark Sideris. Judges are dance teacher Lynda Messina, dance teacher Nicole Keuchkarian, Officer Tony Physic (last year’s winner) and Rotarian John Airasian. Doors open at the Hellenic Cultural Center, 25 Bigelow Ave., Watertown, at 6 p.m. and the competition begins at 7:15 p.m.

Cocktails and hors d’oeuvres will be available.

Perkins, Spaulding Rehabilitation Team to Make Info More Accessible

Perkins School for the Blind provided the following information:

While the landmark 1990 Americans with Disabilities Act has made great strides specific to physical access, there is still a significant gap around accessible digital information. Assistive technology tools exist, such as audible screen readers, but the success of those tools hinges on the thoughtful and inclusive design of digital information. Spaulding Rehabilitation Network has taken a major step to close that gap by teaming with Perkins Access, the commercial consulting group at Perkins School for the Blind, to design a patient-first website (spauldingrehab.org) which sets a new standard for usability and accessibility. Spaulding patient Chris Hoeh tested the new site and commented, “I use my phone for most of my online needs and navigate using my thumb, which doesn’t work on most sites. It would be incredible if all organizations followed Spaulding’s lead and considered users of every ability when designing their sites.”

The Web Content Accessibility Guidelines (WCAG) specify how to make content accessible and usable by audiences of varying needs and abilities.

School Committee Debates Whether Foreign Exchange Students Will be Allowed

While students from another country attending local schools can add to the experience of both students from Watertown and the one from abroad, legal liabilities may stand in the way of the Watertown Public Schools accepting foreign exchange students. On April 22, the School Committee discussed the issue of how to accept foreign exchange students, but continue to be stymied by the legal issues. The problem arose when the School Committee looked at updating the policy for foreign exchange students to require them to be living with a legal guardian. School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer, who chairs the Policy Subcommittee, said that poses a problem with the companies running the exchanges. “Under these programs what we found out — many times — the program does not designate the host family as legal guardians, and they (the programs) are not the legal guardian,” Hsu-Balzer said.