Here’s my take on the 6/29 Monday night First Community Forum to discuss the framework for evaluating Watertown’s aging school buildings and facilities in light of changing educational needs, teaching modalities, and enrollment numbers.
Some topics that were touched upon: What is a Master Plan? Existing Conditions, 21st Century Skills, 21st Century Design Patterns. There was a bit more but without a written agenda, I’m sure I missed something. There were no handouts regarding the power point presentation that often could not be read on screen. Approximately 50+/- people attended the forum. After the presentation we were broken into four groups. We were asked to brainstorm the strengths, challenges, opportunities, and goals (SCOG) regarding Watertown’s facilities and educational environment. Upon completion of this task we were given sticky dots and told to pick our top three issues on any group’s list. And that ended the forum.
I asked for a copy of the power point presentation to distribute to the broader community given the low turnout, multiple community meetings, and various resident constraints. I was told by Michael van Hamel, the presenter – No, that he doesn’t work that way. I then asked for a summary after each meeting that could go out to the community to keep people informed as to what’s happening. Again, No.
This really concerns me. I hope it concerns you. I then spoke to Joel Seely, the SMMA Project Director, about the need to provide some info to the broader community about this process as people need and desire clear information, face multiple time constraints and may only be able to attend one meeting, the tight project timeline (presently to be completed by late August), and that community buy-in will be critical down the road. I also asked if SMMA could give us a list of communities that they had worked with that were similar to Watertown – old buildings, land constraints, population, socio-economic demographics, and $$$ constraints. I was heard, but received no commitment on his part.
So if any of this concerns you, if you have any questions or suggestions, please reach out to these Steering Committee members: John Portz, Co-chair; Liz Yusem, Co-chair; Dr. Jean Fitzgerald, Superintendent; Charles Kellner, Director, Business Services; Vincent Piccirilli, Town Council Vice-President; Michael Dattoli, Town Councilor; Steve Magoon, Assistant Town Manager and Director, Community Development and Planning; Deb King, WEA President and WMS teacher; Toni Carlson, K-12 Educational Technology and Library Coordinator; Dr. Kimo Carter, WMS Principal; and Alyson Morales; Pete Caron; Mike Shepard; Elaina Griffith; Chris Lowry – parents.
The educational future of Watertown’s kids is a stake, your tax dollars are at stake, and thoughtful, transparent, quality decision-making is at stake. Fifty people cannot possibly speak for the entire Watertown community.
Again all meetings, whether listed as a Steering Committee meeting or a Community Forum, are open to the public.
Please get involved and let your voices be heard.
Elodia Thomas, Ph.D.