The School Committee will create a committee to look at options for vocational and technical education available to Watertown students, including programs at Watertown High School, as well as vocational schools in the area.
For many years, the primary option for Watertown students looking for training in a trade or other vocational program was Minuteman High School in Lexington. Superintendent Dede Galdston said Minuteman recently built a new school and the past couple years it has been difficult for students from Watertown to get admitted because the city is not a member of the Minuteman District.
Programs at WHS
Watertown High School now offers one Chapter 74 Career and Technical Education Program which prepares students to work in a profession, or to pursue further in college. The first group of students, 10 seniors, have been going through the Engineering Technology program since they were sophomores and will finish the program this year, Galdston said. Two more programs — Medical Assisting and Digital Media & Broadcasting — are planned to begin in the Fall of 2022.
In addition, an Early Education & Care program will begin when the new Watertown High School building opens, and the school has a Graphic Design & Visual Communications program which Galdston said might also become a Chapter 74 program.
The high school offers classes in other areas which are not formal Chapter 74 programs, but provide training toward careers, including: information support services and networking, marketing/finance, culinary arts, and carpentry/construction technology.
Other Vocational Schools
With access to Minuteman High School being limited, Watertown administrators are looking for other programs in the area, Galdston said. They found that 40 high schools accept non-residents into their programs.
Medford Vocational Technical High School offers 15 programs and accepts non-residents, Galdston said. Minuteman offers four programs (plumbing; advanced manufacturing; environmental science, horticulture and plant science; and animal science/veterinary tech) that Medford does not have. Watertown students are currently enrolled in plumbing and advanced manufacturing, which are available at Somerville High School.
“I do believe that based on the interest students are showing in terms of their enrollment at Minuteman that, with very few exceptions, we would be able to meet their needs at Watertown High School or in a different community,” Galdston said.
Later in the school year, representatives from Medford will appear at an assembly at Watertown Middle School for students who are interested in finding out about vocational and technical education options, Galdston said. Medford will also hold tours for any student and their family who is interested in attending the school.
School Committee Vice Chair Kendra Foley said she wants to make sure students at the Middle School learn about all the different options available, including agricultural vocational programs and other vocational programs in the area.
“I want to make sure they have all the options when they think about what they want to do for a vocational education,” Foley said.
Resident Ilana Mainelli said she would like to see the all eighth graders attend the assembly on vocational opportunities, because some may not know they are interested until they hear more about them, or may feel peer pressure not to go.
Ad Hoc Committee
Galdston proposed creating an ad hoc committee to look at vocational and technical education for Watertown students. All members of the School Committee said they support the idea.
City Council President Mark Sideris said he would like to include a discussion of whether Watertown should consider joining a vocational district. School officials examined the idea of becoming a member community in the Minuteman district in 2017, Galdston said, and in 2018 they decided to continue sending students as a non-member and pay the non-resident tuition.
Chairman John Portz said he envisions the make up of the ad hoc committee to include a couple members of the School Committee, community members, and perhaps a member of the City Council because if Watertown decided to join a vocational school district the Council would make that decision.
Mainelli, who has advocated for vocational education for Watertown students, thanked the School Committee for moving ahead with creating an ad hoc committee to study the issue.
“It is something that is a long time coming and I am glad we are finally there, let’s put it that way,” Mainelli said.
The composition of the ad hoc committee will be discussed at the first School Committee in January, when Galdston said she would make a detailed proposal. Afterward, an announcement will be sent out saying that the School Committee is seeking community members to be part of the committee. Galdston said she expects the committee to be named and start meeting by the end of January, and the group would be finished by June.
See Galdston’s report on vocational education opportunities by clicking here.