Challenges for Town Council Term: School Projects, Charter Review, Development

Local Girl Scouts lead the Pledge of Allegiance during the 2019 Watertown Inauguration at the Mosesian Center for the Arts on Thursday night. The newly inaugurated Town Council has several challenges coming down the road over the next two years, including school building projects, the Town Charter review and the development in town that just keeps going. Town Council President Mark Sideris discussed the issues that will face Watertown in the upcoming Town Council term at Thursday night’s Inauguration Ceremony at the Mosesian Center for the Arts. Town Clerk John Flynn administered the oath of office to Town Council President Mark Sideris; Town Councilors Anthony Donato, Tony Palomba, Caroline Bays, John Gannon, Angeline Kounelis, Lisa Feltner, Vincent Piccirilli and Kenneth Woodland; School Committee members Kendra Foley, Lindsay Mosca and David Stokes; and Library Trustees Sheppard Ferguson and Teddy Kokoros. Coming Challanges

Town Council President Mark Sideris spoke about the priorities for the upcoming Town Council term at Thursday’s inauguration.

School Committee Member Departs After 24 Years of Devotion to Watertown’s Children

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.

Crowded Field of Candidates for Town Council At-Large Seats

Watertown voters will have one big race to follow in this fall’s Town Election, Meanwhile, the other elected posts have uncontested races, but there will be some new faces. Seven candidates are running for the four Councilor at-large seats on the Town Council. There will not be need for a preliminary election in September. Three incumbents will be running in the Councilor at-large race: Tony Palomba, Caroline Bays and Anthony Donato. The fourth seat was vacated by Michael Dattoli when he moved out of town, and his term was filled by former-Councilor Susan Falkoff.

Several Candidates Running for Town Council, Library Trustee Spots Not Yet Filled

The open At-Large seat on the Watertown Town Council has drawn significant interest from potential candidates, meanwhile, there are not enough candidates to fill the openings on the Board of Library Trustees. On Nov. 5, 2019, Watertown residents will vote for Town Council, School Committee and Library Trustees. Eight of nine Town Councilors have taken out papers to run for Town Council, and the last seat is currently filled by a temporary councilor. Former-Councilor Susan Falkoff agreed to fill the remainder of the term left vacant when Michael Dattoli left town, and she agreed not to run for reelection.

School Committee Seeks Raise, Would be First Increase Since 2008

A lot of money was raised and spent on the 2015 Watertown Election. The Watertown School Committee voted to request a pay raise for its members on Monday night, and the increase would not take effect until the next term. The pay hike would be from $3,200 a year to $4,500 a year, but the request must first be approved by the Town Council. The request came because School Committee members who have to find childcare during meetings say the pay does not cover that cost. “After everything is taken out, we get less than $200 a month,” said School Committee member Lily Rayman-Read.

Watertown School Committee Puts Hold on Purchasing Vans with End of Year Surplus

The School Committee balked at using funds remaining at the end of the year on two vans, at least for now, but approved spending money to prepay special education tuition and to add funds to the Town’s Special Education Stabilization Fund. The proposal came Monday night, at the last planned School Committee during Fiscal Year 2018, and if funds are not spent or designated they go back to the Town’s general fund. The Watertown Public Schools is projected to end the year with a $785,928, said School Committee Vice President Kendra Foley. The surplus came about due to lower than expected special education costs, vacancies left unfilled and hires that were not made, Foley said. The School Committee’s Budget and Finance Subcommittee discussed what to do with the funds at a prior meeting, and proposed using $400,000 to prepay special education tuitions for the first three months of the next fiscal year, put $200,000 into the Special Education Stabilization Fund and purchase two 12-seat vans (10 passengers plus the driver and the front passenger seat) with $100,000.

School Committee Passes Resolution Calling for Gun Safety, More Mental Health Services

In the wake of the recent school shooting in Parkland, Fla., the Watertown School Committee passed a resolution asking for strengthening gun control laws and improving mental health services for students. Also, some students at the high school will have their own response to the shootings. 

The School Committee began its meeting Monday with a moment of silence for the 17 people killed during the shooting at Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida on Feb. 14, 2018. Later in the evening, the School Committee unanimously passed the resolution at Monday night’s meeting. The resolution calls for State and Federal lawmakers to support laws and regulations that:

Insure thorough background checks and waiting periods before adults can purchase or own guns
Prohibit the presence of guns on school property, unless by a law enforcement officer
Ban the sale of semi-automatic, assault-style weapons as well as high-capacity
magazines or clips
Strengthen counseling and mental health services for students

School Committee member Lindsay Mosca said she thinks that the resolution was the right step for the board to take, and said that she does not see it as a political issue but one of concern for students’ safety.