School Committee member Eileen Hsu-Balzer left the board after serving for nearly a quarter century. Few people have touched the lives of as many Watertown children as retiring School Committee member Hsu-Balzer. Last week, the School Committee honored her during her final meeting on the board on which she served six terms.
“Eileen is stepping down after 24 years — an amazing commitment to the Town’s Schools.,” said School Committee Chair John Portz. “You have to go back to 1896 to find anyone who served as along as Eileen has on the Watertown School Committee.” Former School Committee member Tony Paolillo served 12 years with Hsu-Balzer.
Keeping class sizes small is one of the School Committee’s goals each year, but Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said the budget may prevent lowering class sizes. The School Committee requested a $42 million budget, which would be $6 million more than Fiscal 2014 and would pay for 22 new teachers. The budget proposed by Town Manager Michael Driscoll last week gave the schools a $2.267 million, or 6.18 percent, increase. Fitzgerald said the first priority will be filling the positions that will keep Watertown in compliance with state and federal mandates, including special education and English as a second language. After that, class size and other needs “may go unresolved,” Fitzgerald said Monday night.
The message at Tuesday’s Town Council meeting where the budget was revealed was clear from Watertown parents, said School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer. The budget presented by Town Manager Michael Driscoll which included $38.9 million for education is a $2.267 million or 6.18 percent increase over Fiscal 2014. But it came in below the $6 million, 16 percent increase requested from the School Committee. Parents were upset and let the Town Council know they wanted the full request from the School Committee. Hsu-Balzer said that the budget is not done yet, and will not be voted until June 10.