School Committee Chair Hears Parents Loud and Clear

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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. One thing is clear, she said and that is the desire of the parents.

“I understand (the Councilors) have to juggle the needs of all the departments, but what I heard from parents is they want the schools to be a high, high priority,” Hsu-Balzer said. “Because that is the kind of town they want to live in.”

Tuesday was just the latest meeting which had heavy turnout by parents and other school supporters. The effort has been organized this year, largely in part to the Watertown Strong Schools group that formed this year to start a dialogue with school and town officials in an effort to improve the town’s schools.

Hsu-Balzer is in her fifth term serving on the School Committee, serving more than 18 years. She said she has seen parents organize like this in the past, but probably not as quickly.

“Because of the internet people have been able to find information and analyze it,” Hsu-Balzer said. “And they were able to communicate more quickly. The internet really has changed everything.”

Whatever the amount of funding the schools get from the town, it will be up to Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald and her staff to figure out how to use it, Hsu-Balzer said. Under the state’s Education Reform, the Town Council and town staff do not have a say over how school funding is used.

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