My fellow Watertown Residents,
My name is Colleen Mahoney Faherty and I am excited to introduce myself and my campaign
for Watertown School Committee.
I have lived in Watertown most of my life and I love it. I went to elementary school at St. Patrick’s and high school at Minuteman. I always knew I wanted to raise my family here. I am the very proud Mom of twin 5th graders at the J.R. Lowell Elementary School. As soon as they were old enough to participate in activities in the community, I registered them! We went to playgroups at the Watertown Family Network, played T-Ball at Bemis Park, played street hockey with Cops and Rec, went to Saturday sports class and more! It was during those early years that I began to volunteer when the opportunity was available. My “coaching” may have been a bit lacking when it came to the skill of baseball, however, I’m confident that being the “bench mom” helped kids in ways that weren’t measured by runs batted in. I volunteered to be a room parent when my children started at the Lowell.
Fortunately, that quickly led to me becoming a member of the very busy Lowell Community Volunteer Program (LCVP), PTO Member, Grade Coordinator, 5th Grade Event and Fundraising Committee Member, and former Special Education Parent Advisory Council (SEPAC) Member. My commitment to volunteering was instrumental in my decision to run for Watertown School Committee. The school committee seemed the appropriate venue to further my dedication to our students and their schools. I firmly believe our children need a louder more demonstrative voice on the Watertown School Committee. I believe I can be that voice.
Like all families, particularly those with school aged children, March 2020 was life changing. As two weeks to slow the spread morphed into 14 months of virtual and hybrid learning, I watched my children struggle daily. This educational struggle will undoubtedly resonate with them for some time. Like many frustrated families I frequently contacted the school administration with my concerns. I spoke at public meetings and joined a group comprised of other Watertown parents who focused on moving our schools forward towards a safe reopening.
In February 2021, I joined fellow PTO mothers in sending a letter to Dr. Galdston and the Watertown School Committee advocating for increased in-person learning time. I was always mindful of the fact that COVID-19 left the administration in unchartered waters and with each concern I raised there was always an offer to help. I was more than happy to help when it became evident that just as there wasn’t a “normal” start to the school year, we wouldn’t have a “normal” ending either. When our school’s treasured end of year Field Day was canceled, a small group of parents took on the challenge of planning the school wide event. Despite the scorching temperatures, a great group of parent volunteers were able to provide students the opportunity to celebrate the end of a very long year with their friends and lots of laughs.
If I were to be given the honor to be elected to the Watertown School Committee, I would approach each issue with accountability to the students and families of Watertown. I find myself in a unique position as a candidate for this election. I am not an educator, I do not work in education, nor am I affiliated with any teacher’s union. I believe this allows me the ability to speak candidly on behalf of our children. If elected as a committee member, I will continue advocating for all of our children to meet their educational benchmarks. Educators and families agree that each child should be able to grow and reach their full academic potential. However,
they can’t achieve their goals unless we concentrate on their academics. I echo the concerns of
students and their families who feel they are behind in their education.
I’m frustrated by the excuse that collectively all students are behind due to Covid. It isn’t true and people shouldn’t be criticized for feeling this way. While teachers did all they could to teach in the COVID environment, it shouldn’t be denied that students who returned sooner to in person learning had a different outcome. Due to these differing outcomes, there are families from our school community that chose to withdraw their children from the district this school year. While I appreciate and am truly happy for their educational opportunity, I’m saddened that they felt their needs weren’t being met by WPS. I hope we can offer more to retain our families as we strive for all children to achieve their full academic potential. If we shift our focus back to prioritizing the educating of core subjects, I believe we will be able to do so.
We are fortunate to reside in a town that has a crime rate that is lower than both state and national averages, however I believe school safety should never be taken for granted. I’m thankful for the collaboration of our schools, fire and police departments to identify potential issues and plan for an array of emergency scenarios. Fire drills are an important tool in guiding students and staff through the evacuations plans. While the idea of ALICE (Alert, Lockdown, Inform, Counter, Evacuate) drills being necessary at our schools is an uncomfortable feeling for families, I’m grateful we have solid plans in place for a scenario no one can bear to imagine. The mindfulness of our fire and police departments when dealing with our youngest residents in scary
situations should be applauded. I was encouraged by the implementation of the Raptor Visitor Management System at our schools. I feel it is a great addition to our safety protocols to have the ability to instantaneously screen visitors and view any potential issues.
I strongly support School Resource Officers (SRO) at our schools. I have spoken with Dr. Galdston about adding another SRO that can be dedicated to the elementary schools but there isn’t an appetite for that at this time. While these measures specifically deal with the physical safety of our students and staff I wish to add that students feeling safe emotionally is another area of concern. In meeting with Dr. Henry, Director of Equity and Inclusion, we spoke of making sure that all of our students are seen and that we are working together to make that a reality. No student should be made to feel bad as a way to recognize another. This is certainly not an all-encompassing list but students should never be made to feel uncomfortable because of their race, gender, learning style, politics, or their parent’s occupation. I look forward to working with all stakeholders to see this come to fruition.
In addition to all Watertown High School has to offer, it is imperative that we have robust
vocational and technical options for our students. I have met with Dr. Galdston regarding several
issues and most recently we spoke about the current offerings that are available. I have also been
in contact with Minuteman’s Superintendent – Director Dr. Bouquillon. After speaking with him
it seems we are at a critical stage in terms of Watertown student admissions. I urge all families who were hoping to have their students apply to reach out to the Watertown School administration and Watertown leadership.
I would also urge interested families to compare the differences in the scheduling and programs offered by Minuteman against the programs available at Watertown, Medford, Cambridge, Waltham and Somerville. Twenty students from Watertown applied for the 2021/2022 school year and only 2 were chosen to enroll. As applications increase from Minuteman’s 9 member towns, enrollment from nonmember towns, like Watertown, decreases. I have heard from several families how important the issue of a quality vocational education is to them and as a graduate of Minuteman I wholeheartedly agree.
I would like to close where I began. It has truly been a blessing to have had the ability to devote much of my time volunteering in my children’s activities and their school. I’m hoping that on November 2, 2021 I can earn your vote so that I may have the privilege of representing the students and families of our great town!
Colleen Mahoney Faherty