Superintendent finalist Arthur Unobskey said he likes the atmosphere of the Watertown Schools, and if he were appointed head of schools he would stress transparency, communication, collaboration between teachers and staff, and wants to use data to improve how to best teach students.
Unobskey, who is assistant superintendent in Gloucester and lives in Lexington, spent the day touring the Watertown Public Schools, meeting teachers and answering the questions of parents and the School Committee.
He said he felt a warmth among students, who seemed happy to be in school. He also likes the fact that students come from a diverse set of backgrounds.
In the classrooms, Unobskey hopes the school system can create an environment where the ambitious students feel comfortable staying in the town’s schools through high school, while educating those who are not as advanced without splitting students into lanes. As an example he said he said there may be one student who excels in math and science, and another who is not as academic but who enjoys art and could use those subjects to do design or engineering.
“The holy grail is to get those two kids together in a very vigorous setting,” Unobskey said.
Data can be helpful, if used correctly, Unobskey said.
“The best data is the most current data,” Unobskey said. “You can give common assessments and if teachers can get data back quickly and easily it is useful.”
It is important for teachers to have time to prepare and time to meet so they can collaborate.
He said he loves to write, and he said communicating through frequent newsletters is important and helps the district be transparent.
Unobskey also wants the school budget to be transparent, which he said can be helpful when dealing with tough decisions during bad economic times.
“It is important for the budget book to be totally transparent, showing line by line how money is spent, including salaries,” Unobskey said. “There is no reason not to be as transparent as possible.”
In the first several months, Unobskey said he wants to learn about the school, and work with staff and parents to create a shared vision, and then build the budget around the vision. He does not favor adding programs to test them out if they are not going to become a regular part of the system, or fall victim to budget cuts.
“If dark (budget) clouds appear we need to be prepared,” Unobskey said. “I have found stability in a system is extremely important.”
Watertown has already started planning for renovating or rebuilding the five schools. Unobskey said he has been part of building one new school in Gloucester with the help of the Massachusetts School Building Authority, and that district is in the process of applying for to the state for funds for a second project.
Unobskey said he would like to spend several years as superintendent in Watertown, adding, “Beyond 5 years, I am not sure.”
“I absolutely feel it is a commitment to a community,” Unobskey said.
Those interested can give their input by filling out the following survey: https://www.surveymonkey.com/r/unobskey.
The second and final candidate, Deanne Galdston, assistant superintendent in Billerica, will be in Watertown on Monday, March 6 and a public forum will be held at 6 p.m in Town Hall, followed by the School Committee’s interview at 7:15 p.m. It will be televised live on Watertown Cable’s Government Channel.