School Committee Member Leaving Town, Creating an Opening on the Board

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School Committee candidate Candace Miller.

School Committee member Candace Miller will have to step down because she is leaving town.

Watertown School Committee member Candace Miller announced this week she will be leaving town and the School Committee, too, this summer. 

Miller will leave less than two years into her four year term, so an opening will be left on the School Committee. Because of the timing, Town Clerk John Flynn said the Watertown Town Charter offers are a couple of options for filling the seat.

The Town Charter reads “If a vacancy shall occur on the school committee during the first 24 months of the term for which the school committee member is are elected, the vacancy shall be filled by a held forthwith and no earlier than 64 days from the day the election is called.”

The charter gives the Town Council the option of voting to have he vacancy filled by appointment by the remaining members of the School Committee. To move ahead with this option, six Councilors would need to vote for the option.

The options would be reversed if the vacancy came in the second 24 months of the term, with the default option being the School Committee filling the vacancy.

In a letter announcing her decision Miller said the decision was a bittersweet one. Read the letter below:

Dear friends and community,

As a family, we have made a difficult decision to leave Watertown. My husband and I have lived here for 17 years, which is longer than we have lived anywhere else in the world. For me, despite a different birthplace, Watertown is my “hometown”. It is a difficult and bittersweet decision to move, however, as a family, we believe it is the right decision for us at this time.

Unfortunately, our decision has implications for my role as an elected School Committee member in Watertown. While I wish I could continue to serve, I will not be able to remain a member of the School Committee. Town Council President Mark Sideris has worked with the town attorneys and confirmed that a non-resident cannot serve on an elected committee. This means that my seat will open up and need to be filled.

Many Watertown residents know that I have been deeply involved with Watertown Public Schools for many years. I care deeply about our system, students, families, teachers, staff, and administrators. We have made incredible progress on many fronts during the 2016/2017 school year. Watertown must remain on this path and continue to gain momentum.

Each of the great school districts across the Commonwealth has had administrators, teachers and staff, School Committees, and community members who pushed hard for excellence and contributed the requisite time and energy needed to achieve high quality. Watertown’s students deserve the very best and our schools and community must work hard, smartly, and swiftly to move to greatness. This means Watertown’s adults must [continue to] step up and make new and greater commitments to WPS.

Moving into the 2017 election, I urge you to run for SC and/or support strong candidates. WPS deserves candidates who have a fire in their belly to improve public education for ALL students. I believe the functionality of the SC has improved in this past year, but there is still a long way to go. It is important to acknowledge that while public education is constantly evolving, the Watertown School Committee has lacked a strong culture of learning, ongoing professional development on the critical issues of public education, and candid self-assessment. This has been a serious impediment to progress. Service in public education requires continuous learning, patience, fortitude, and reflection. It also requires forgiving old grievances, admitting failures, acknowledging challenges, and pushing forward every day, guided by the needs of ALL students. It means asking for help, finding the humor, and focusing on children. My wish for Watertown is a full committee of members willing to set ego aside, eager to learn, ready to pursue professional development, and committed to teamwork in service of all ALL students. A dear colleague has always reminded me “While adults talk, children grow”. Time is of the essence for WPS.

I will leave the School Committee late in the summer with a heavy heart and a promise to help SC candidates in their efforts. For me, service has been a true privilege and extremely rewarding. I am grateful for this opportunity and I thank you for your trust in me. I also remain deeply apologetic that I will not be able to serve the full term.

Dr. Candace Miller

18 thoughts on “School Committee Member Leaving Town, Creating an Opening on the Board

    • Hi “Wondering”. I assure you that we have put a lot of emotion and a lot of information into making this decision. I have really struggled with the decision. I’m happy to discuss with you if you are genuinely interested.

  1. The time to leave Watertown is now. With few exceptions, property is selling at above the asking price. And let’s not delude ourselves, Watertown is hardly special, only convenient.

    • Fred, by all means, sell your property and move along. Running for town office is not easy in a town seeking to improve its identity and bring the town up to the next level while being surround by thoroughly entrenched townies with little genuine interest in change. I may not have agreed with Candice all the time but least she gave an effort to improve the school system and get it on a path forward.

      • I disagree. She may have worked hard. But she was NOT good for the schools of this town. Working hard and working smart are two different things. I assume this post won’t get approved for some reason. But it’s my opinion.

      • Thank you 2Cents. WPS is on a much better path. Remember last year at this time? Parents didn’t know where their prek and k students would be going to school. We couldn’t get enrollment numbers from the administration. Now we have numbers on a monthly basis by class, grade, and school. When I started on the Budget and Finance subcommittee, I was told “Do not ask questions. Our business manager may quit.”

        What?? This is a $45m budget. WPS has hundreds of employees and thousands of students. This is tax payer money. Anyway, we hired a brilliant business manager (now Asst. Super) who answers any and every question, accepts any feedback, is a leader in the field, and is willing to teach us anything we don’t know.

        Our entire administrative team has felt buoyed by the way in which our central administration operates. I’ve worked with this team on different school and search committees, union negotiations, and the Social Emotional Roundtable. We have a stellar, solid, professional administration. I’ve heard all of our principals praise the way WPS has changed in the last year. Of course, I’ve played a small role, but I’ve played a critical role. Thank you for acknowledging my efforts.

  2. 2cents…I take no issue with Ms Miller. I simply stated that it’s a great time to sell property in Watertown. Do a little research and you will find a modest 1300 sq ft property purchased for 506K in 2006 is now estimated by Redfin to be worth 702K. Reason not to sell??? And don’t dish on the old time townies (I am not one); the school’s issues go much deeper, have been around a very long time, and EVERYONE involved in education in this town shares responsibility for this situation.

    • Fred, you have always made me laugh and had keen insights. We’ve never met in person but I know you participated in the superintendent search committee years ago and have long had a genuine interest in improving the quality of WPS. While you shouldn’t believe everything you read on Redfin or Zillow, Watertown is of course a very hot market.

      We are finalizing the sale of our home–and through this process–I have gained a much deeper understanding of the challenges for the average family wanting to buy a home in Watertown. The house across the street from us was purchased for about $590 and torn down for a 2 family, each going for $900k. A small cape 2 houses down from us was sold for another 2 family. There’s a house on the corner with an open house this weekend. I think those are going for $800k or $900k. This helps me understand the ‘townie’ vs ‘outsider’ feuds that have long plagued Watertown. It really isn’t fair that so many residents are priced out of home ownership. I can imagine how frustrating that is. There isn’t anything I can do about that, but we are very happy to be selling to a family, rather than a builder.

      I couldn’t agree with you more: “EVERYONE INVOLVED IN EDUCATION IN THIS TOWN SHARES RESPONSIBILITY”. We do have longstanding issues in Watertown, but WPS is on the right trajectory, which is why it is so painful to step off the committee. You bet I’m a pain, but WPS needs change agents willing to put up with online trolls and long, difficult meetings. Watertown has a history of making decisions regarding the schools that have benefited adults. I’ve pushed for decisions to be made in the best interests of students and there’s been some extremely important improvements.

  3. “While I wish I could continue to serve, I will not be able to remain a member of the School Committee. Town Council President Mark Sideris has worked with the town attorneys and confirmed that a non-resident cannot serve on an elected committee.”

    Seriously? She thinks it’s a good idea to live somewhere else and serve on our school committee? I guess she thinks she brings so much to the table – how are we going to get along without her?

    With her departure, some of the divisiveness will go with her. Enjoy your new school system with the better math classes for your children.

    • Erica, your online trolling has been a gift. A few times, I wanted to give you cupcakes or chocolates to thank you. While you wouldn’t understand the benefits it has had, I do appreciate it. However, it is mean, so you should probably stop.

      I know you attended the speaker series we did at WMS years ago, which included online bullying. Didn’t you learn anything?

      By the way, professionally, I work in education and other sectors across Africa, Asia, Eastern Europe, and the Middle East. I’ve also worked domestically across the US. I do make very important contributions, with colleagues and teams in places where I don’t live. OF course, Watertown needs SC members to represent residents so I can not continue to serve. This statement simply reflects my sadness about stepping off the committee and because many people have asked me if I would continue to serve. Again, this has been a difficult decision.

      Now, please be nice. We don’t want to dissuade good people from serving our schools.

  4. I agree. Hopefully some of the divisiveness will leave with this departure. “Please be nice.” That’s hilarious. The damage you have done to this district will be felt for years … and you seem oblivious to it. It’s almost a Trump-like lack of self awareness. Good luck on your next venture.

  5. I don’t have a horse in this race, but I find it interesting that Ms. Miller is the only one who has signed her name to her comments, despite some pretty stiff assertions.

  6. I have attended many many meetings and seen how our school system was not accountable in the past many years(to the detriment our our children’s education). Candace Miller and many parents sought out reasonable accountability in our School Committee and Administration for the benefit of all our children. There are many who may disagree with my assessment but I believe that we are now at a much better place than we have been in the past 5-8 years. We have a new Assistant Super who has shown that she is working with the other administrators to better our curriculum, we have had a interim Superintendent which has shown us all how a school district can be run well, and we have a new Superitedent who shows much promise(and already attends many events/meetings attempting to get to know the community). There is still alot of work to be done for our children’s education here in Watertown. Slighting Candace for her service here(wether you agree or disagree with her) is something Watertown needs to work, as a community, to rise above for the better meant of all of us. We all can do better lets all try to keep our eye on the prize, working together to educate all Watertown’s children.

    • Hear! Hear! Local education is not about what is good for adults. It is about what is best for the children.

  7. First, to Candace Miller, Thank you for all that you have done both on the SC and even prior to getting elected. You were no doubt the hardest working, most qualified, most passionate person to come along in a very long time.

    I wish you could still stay on but understand that residency is a requirement. It’s interesting to me that someone would comment on that but yet not feel concerned when SC members pull their kids out of public for private. That speaks volumes to me on how the SC member feels about our schools. Even the members that have children many years out of the schools. That too shows me they are disconnected from the real issues facing the schools.

    Candace, I love how you called out Erica. She is a bully and those that have encountered her know it too. They also know her close ties to another SC member, one that has proven to be quite ineffective.

    Either way, Best of luck to your family and Thank you for the many improvements you made in this town. Replacing you will be almost impossible.

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