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 Lily Rayman-Read:
1) Tell us about yourself and why you are running for School Committee.
My name is Lily Rayman-Read, and I am a public high school teacher, mother of two children (one second grader at the Lowell, and a 3 year old who will hopefully be starting Pre-K next September. I am the general educator in an inclusion/co-taught classroom where I get to see students of all abilities and learning styles and work towards providing a safe, supportive, and excellent learning environment for them all.
I am running for School Committee because I feel as though Watertown is in an incredibly crucial moment in our schools, where we need a great deal of expertise and understanding of the needs of schools and students when it comes to supporting our new administration as they work to rebuild the high school, renovate the other buildings, and revamp curricular development and new district initiatives (including the expansion of co-teaching, the Kingian Nonviolence program, Foreign Language at the Elementary Schools and many other programs and projects). As a teacher, I believe I bring a great deal of knowledge and ability into these conversations, and can help the administration accomplish the multitude of goals they have in helping our district maximize its potential.
2) What is the biggest issue facing the Watertown Public Schools?
Undoubtedly the largest issue facing WPS right now is our buildings and grounds concerns. Specifically the high school is concerning especially after the findings of asbestos, and the clear indication from project management group EFI that work on the high school is basically just using “band aids” to address ongoing issues – but will not solve underlying problems. All of our school buildings are in need of improvement, while at the same time we need to focus on excellence in teaching and learning – creatively coming up with strategies that serve our students both in terms of learning and in terms of access to top quality facilities is something that will take patience, research, and dedication.
3) What can the Watertown Public Schools do to take the district to the next level, and become a top district?
How does one define a “top” district? We have amazing staff and students, and the community in this town is unlike many others I have lived and worked with- Watertown has a sense of pride and community spirit that many so-called “top” districts lack. MCAS scores, college acceptance rates, high school graduation rate are all interesting metrics to look at, but don’t always paint a full picture of what is happening inside a district. I think having new and improve buildings and facilities is key in helping students tap into their potential- and I think taking a hard look at the way the schedule works, particularly at the high school is extremely important- many students are unable to take courses they want due to scheduling issues. I personally believe that carving more time for professional collaboration and innovation will also greatly bolster our district across the board- and I would like to see that tied to increased recess time at the elementary schools, and more professional development and collaboration time given at the middle and high schools. I think we also need far greater community conversation and input into our schools, and I am seeing terrific transparency from the new central administration, which I think should be continued with added transparency from School Committee. Finally, I think to become a top district we have to bring out the best of what we have in our district – we have excellence that we are not celebrating from both our staff and students, and we should use the knowledge and expertise of the people already doing great things in our district to provide ideas for professional development, and to be celebrated publicly for their work.
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 love to see the Foreign Language in Elementary Schools program expanded/committed to more firmly as I greatly believe that learning another language not only opens students up to learning about the world in different ways, but also is fundamentally beneficial to learning as learning languages is proving to help learn multiple other subjects throughout the years. I would also love to see our Arts and music program expanded and enhanced on, and more AP opportunities offered in the high school.
5) The district has made improving communication with parents and residents a priority. How can this be accomplished?
Having both in-person and online communication tools is key.
Setting up social media accounts and using them frequently, as well as regularly emailing parent creates a sense of direct communication and ease of access that is vital. I would love to see the district provide an online feedback/concern tool that parents and students (and staff!) can access to regularly give input into what is going on throughout the district.
6) What can the district do to attract and keep quality teachers and staff?
I have a concern with this question- as it is phrased it seems to suggest that we don’t already do this as a district. I believe we already have a phenomenal staff and many have been in the district for years. As a teacher, what keeps me in my district is the respect I get from the administration, the collaboration I get to have with colleagues, and of course- the students. Teachers in Watertown clearly love our students, are incredibly hardworking, and now I believe feel they have stronger administration to look to. I think as we look towards hiring, highlighting the strengths of our community and trying to recruit from multiple different talent pools is vital.