School Committee Update: MCAS Results, Policy Changes & More

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The School Committee has met three times in the last 1.5 months. Below are some updates. 

The Watertown High School field hockey team won the State Championship with a 2-0 win over Sandwich. The team played with poise, intensity and impressive technical ability en route to an undefeated season, their second-straight state title, and the 20th state championship for head coach Eileen Donahue. Congratulations on an incredible season! 

Watertown had other athletic successes this fall: girls soccer had a fantastic season, qualifying for the state tournament and winning two exciting matches; boys soccer and football both made the state tournament; the cross country team had two runners advance to All-States; cheerleading advanced to States; lots of fun (and a great 21-7 win) was had at the 100th Annual Thanksgiving Football Game at Fenway Park

The WHS put on a fabulous production of Clue in November. And, the spring musical, Anastasia begins rehearsal this week. The new Chess Club has a record number of participants, and our high schoolers continue to practice non-violence at Kingian Club. The high school is full of school spirit with a recent pep rally, powder puff game, and student/faculty basketball game. 

The number of WHS students receiving the Seal of Biliteracy, which requires a test to show linguistic proficiency, has exploded in the last year. We are very proud of our bilingual students! 40% of Watertown students speak a language other than English at home, adding richness and diversity to our community. 

Parent-teacher conferences have already happened in the elementary schools and middle school and are happening now at the high school. Make sure you take the time to meet with your child’s teachers. It’s a great opportunity to understand what is happening in the classroom and identify ways to help your student succeed. The schools have created flexible meeting options – both in-person and online – for caregivers. 

We’ve heard great presentations from the Lowell School about the WIN block, our Farm to School program, and the Cunniff School about the science curiosity challenge. There are a lot of exciting things happening in all of our elementary schools. 

A CVTE Committee was created earlier this year to explore vocational technical education options for Watertown students. The Chair of the Committee, David Stokes, provided an update on the committee’s work to date. He reviewed the committee’s charge, options that were investigated and considered, challenges, findings, and draft recommendations. A final report is expected next month.

MCAS data was released this fall. The district has received its 2022 Accountability Data as well as MCAS District Data. Because of the pandemic, the state is not providing accountability scores as part of the accountability data. But chronic absenteeism has been identified as a challenge in Watertown (and across the state) and continues to be a priority moving forward. As for the district data, the state is treating this year’s MCAS as the new baseline and therefore should not be compared to previous years. This data helps us identify areas of strength and weakness, and helps the district make adjustments and improvements to curriculum and delivery.

The policy subcommittee met in late November to discuss a number of policy changes. These changes were presented as a first reading to the School Committee. These changes will be voted on at the January 9, 2023 School Committee meeting. They are: AC – NON DISCRIMINATION; GCF – PROFESSIONAL STAFF HIRING; JB – EQUITABLE EDUCATIONAL OPPORTUNITIES; JBC – EDUCATIONAL EQUITY; JFBB – SCHOOL CHOICE.

For all you school budget enthusiasts, see the FY24 budget priorities and calendar. The budget preparation for FY24 (2023/2024 academic year) has already begun. Recommendations are discussed in the winter and the budget is voted and presented to the City Council in the spring.  

The building projects are moving forward. The renovated Lowell School will open for the start of the 2023/2024 school year. Preparation for the WHS modular building at Moxley has already begun. The new WHS 90% construction documents will be presented to the School Building Committee at their December 21st meeting. Want some inspiration? Check out the WHS Virtual Tour. To stay up to date, zoom into the School Building Committee meetings. Find meeting dates and agendas here

The next School Committee meeting will be Monday January 9, 2022 at 7:00 PM. The dates for all 2022/2023 School Committee meetings can be found here. Agenda information and supporting documents can be found here

Kendra Foley

Chair, Watertown School Committee

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