The candidates for School Committee each received the same six questions from the Watertown News about some issues facing the Watertown Schools and themselves. Here are the responses for Guido Guidotti:
1) Tell us about yourself and why you are running for School Committee.
I grew up just over the river in Newton Corner and went all the way through the Newton Public Schools, graduating from Newton North High School. I graduated from Harvard College and Harvard Medical School and trained in pediatrics at Mass General. I ran for election to the school committee four years ago and I’m running for re-election now because I want better schools for my son and all of the children of Watertown. Our current primary goals must be to improve the physical condition of the schools, as well as the academic performance of the
2) What is the biggest issue facing the Watertown Public Schools?
The biggest issue currently facing the Watertown schools is poor student performance. Recent MCAS scores indicate that Watertown is roughly in the 34th percentile statewide. Belmont, by comparison, is in the 97th percentile and Newton is in the 87th percentile. Our 43% high needs population (ELL, SPED, Low Income) is largely responsible for the performance disparity with neighboring affluent towns, but this doesn’t mean that we shouldn’t do everything in our
power to put strategies in place that will raise student performance. We must focus on strategies in and out of school that will make our kids better learners.
3) What can the Watertown Public Schools do to take the district to the next level, and become a top district?
Becoming a top district will really involve a two-pronged approach. On one hand, the administration will need to make improvements to programming, curriculum and professional development that will allow children to learn optimally in the classroom. But make no mistake — when the choice is between teachers and technology, we should choose teachers, not technology, because teachers teach kids, technology does not teach kids. On the other hand, the administration must develop strategies for children to continue learning at home. The best students are students who do their homework and many families need help to make this a
4) What existing program in the Watertown Schools would you like to see improved or expanded? Is there a program you have seen in other districts you would like to see in Watertown?
I would like to see the elementary school gardens expanded to the middle and high schools. This was a program co-founded four years ago at the Lowell Elementary School by my wife, Anna, with a $10,000 grant from the Massachusetts Medical Society for a garden coordinator, who serves as a para-teaching professional. School gardens bring hands-on science curriculum to the children in a way that textbooks and computers cannot. Children learn about plant
anatomy, farming and environmental science, all while planting and harvesting. It’s a curriculum that falls under the Science, Technology and Engineering umbrella.
5) The district has made improving communication with parents and residents a priority. How can this be accomplished?
The district can improve communication with parents and residents by doing more of it and in more ways. No parent or resident should feel like any significant event occurs without the district notifying him or her about it and soliciting his or her feedback. In this day and age, it’s reasonable to expect that communications can be handled electronically. Parents and residents can sign up for email delivery of important announcements. The district must then ensure that live meetings are arranged at which parents and residents can meet with administrators to work through issues cooperatively.
6) What can the district do to attract and keep quality teachers and staff?
The district must demonstrate that it highly values teachers and staff if it hopes to attract and retain the best. This includes ensuring that we are paying teachers and staff competitive salaries for our contiguous Boston suburb. We must give teachers and staff the professional development opportunities that they want and need for themselves and their students. Nothing bores a professional quicker than the inability to stay current in his or her skillset. The administration must also listen to the concerns that are important to teachers and staff and must demonstrate respect for them.