Superintendent Finalist said She Believes Watertown is a Good Fit for Her

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Charlie Breitrose

Dede Galdston, current assistant superintendent in Billerica, interviewed for the Watertown Superintendent's job Monday night.

Charlie Breitrose

Dede Galdston, current assistant superintendent in Billerica, interviewed for the Watertown Superintendent’s job Monday night.

Dede Galdston, one of two finalists in the search for the town’s next superintendent, said she is looking for a particular kind of district, and Watertown fits well. She discussed her priorities, style of leadership and values Monday night during a public forum and interview with the School Committee.

For the past six years, Galdston has been assistant superintendent in Billerica, and she has worked in that district for more then 20 years, starting as a Spanish teacher before becoming foreign language coordinator, assistant principal at Billerica High School and then humanities coordinator. Her current district is nearly twice the size of Watertown’s, at 5,000 students, and has a more homogenous population.

Before coming to Massachusetts, however, she worked in very diverse communities – first in San Jose, Calif., and then in the Bronx.


When looking for a place to become superintendent, Galdston said she wants to work in a diverse community, with a smaller school system so she can have personal relationships with all the teachers and staff, and a district which is close to her home in Newton.

“Watertown, in my estimation, meets my criteria,” Galdston said. “It’s a community I want to move into.”


Her primary focus as superintendent would be the students. She said in Billerica there is a belief that all students will learn. She added that the time teachers have with their classes is sacred, and they should make the most of it. To do so, teachers need to look for ways to make it more effective.

Common planning time for teachers is an important part of the preparation. Another way teachers in Billerica improve their teaching is through a new initiative where teachers observe their colleagues, not to critique them but to learn from them.

As assistant superintendent, Galdston said she has been part of some controversial changes and decisions, including changing the grade configurations of the schools and moving to a standards-based report card instead of letter grades.

“You better make sure you have a good reason for doing it. You need to back it up with strong rationale,” ” Galdston said.

Ultimately there was a compromise where letter grades and standards-based evaluations were given.

When dealing with conflict, Galdston said the process must allow each side be to heard and value both sides’ perspectives.

“If you can remove he situation from the heat of the moment, they will hear the other side better than if it is in the heat of the moment,” Galdston said.

She added she is willing to admit she is wrong.

Watertown’s next superintendent will be overseeing the renovation or rebuilding of the town’s schools. School building projects are something Galdston has worked on during her time as assistant superintendent. Her first year in the post the district opened a new elementary school, and this year the district broke ground on a new high school, which is being funded with the help of the Massachusetts School Building Authority.

“It will open in 2019, but it has been six years work. You have got to be in a place where you are ready to break ground,” Galdston said, noting that Billerica did a facilities master plan in 2012 and like Watertown had an accreditation report from NEASC saying the facility needed upgrading.

Working with the municipal side in Billerica is different from Watertown because they have a town meeting. Galdston said she has a good relationship with town officials, and said she feels comfortable bouncing ideas off of the Town Manager. She described herself as a straight shooter.

“I don’t play games,” Galdston said. “If that’s what it takes, I’m not the person.” Instead, she wants to have an “open, honest relationship” with people on the the town side, “making sure you clearly communicate with the people you need to along the way.”

In Billerica, Galdston said school funding is based on a level-service budget, where the current staffing and programs are maintained the next year. The district would also get some one-time funding from free cash available later in the year, she added. Galdston stressed that dollars must be spent on effective programs.

“You should tie decisions to outcomes either you expect or hope for,” Galdston said. “If you hope for something, either you have to show how it is successful or, if not, look at reallocating the money.”

If she saw a situation where she believed the schools needed more money than the town was allocating she would hope she could work it out with the Town Manager before the final budget is created.

Those wishing to give input on Dede Galdston can submit it through the online form here:

School Committee members are expected to make a decision on who they want to be the next superintendent at the March 13 School Committee meeting.

Last Thursday, the School Committee interviewed the other finalist, Arthur Unobskey, assistant superintendent in Gloucester. See more here:

First Superintendent Finalist Answers Questions from Public, School Committee

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