The Watertown Public Schools will form a committee to look at the options for vocational and technical education available inside and outside the district, and the group will include parents and community members.
For many years, Watertown has sent dozens of students to Minuteman High School in Lexington for vocational and technical education. Superintendent Dede Galdston said that the City is not part of the Minuteman High School District, but rather pays tuition for each resident to attend.
“Watertown is a non-member, tuition-paying entity for Minuteman, which has worked for decades, but that changed with new (Minuteman) school — there are not as many students who can go to Minuteman,” Galdston said.
Other vocational schools in the area, including Medford and Somerville, have vocational programs which are open to students who do not live in the district. Galdston added that Watertown has expanded its Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs and has two approved Chapter 74 programs — engineering technology and medical assisting — with more being explored.
The ad hoc committee that will look at vocational and technical career education options was discussed in December. On Jan. 10 Galdston presented a proposed committee made up of administrators, teachers, parents, community members, a City Councilor and a representative from the City of Watertown. Included in the 14 people in the initial proposal, Galdston said three would be parents and two would be community members with interest in vocational and technical education.
The plan is to have the committee meet from February to June and come up with recommendations that would be presented to the School Committee. Along with looking at what is offered at vocational schools in the area, the committee will look at programs offered in the Watertown Schools, and look at whether the City should join a vocational district.
School Committee member David Stokes said he wants to make sure the committee also looks at the special education component that Minuteman provides for some Watertown students.
School Committee member Lily Rayman-Read said she would like to see some additions to the committee.
“I would really like to have students on this. We are talking about their future, talking about where they are going to school,” Rayman-Read said. “It is vital to make room for students on the committee.”
Some School Committee members worried that the committee is too large, including Council President Mark Sideris.
“Having just been through more than a year of 15 people on a Charter Committee, I have really big concerns about having as many people involved because I know we need to get a lot of information and need to get it done,” Sideris said. “In the end, it is a City Council decision (joining a vocational district) and it seems to me it is top heavy with administration.”
The first proposal called for having Galdston, Assistant Superintendent Theresa McGuinness, the high school and middle school principals, and the CTE coordinator.
Galdston said she could remove the Assistant Superintendent and one of the principals, but said that she thought it was important to have the CTE coordinator, as well as a CTE teacher, because that person knows what goes on in the classroom.
Some members of the School Committee said they felt uncomfortable voting to approve a committee without knowing how many people and what positions and roles would be included. Galdston said she wants to get the committee started in February and did not want to wait another month until the next regular School Committee meeting to get approval.
School Committee Chair Kendra Foley said that the School Committee has a meeting scheduled for Jan. 24, and said the composition of the committee can be clarified by then and the School Committee could vote at that meeting.
When the composition of the committee is approved, Galdston said she would put out a call for parents and community members to serve on the ad hoc committee for vocational and technical education.