School Committee Q&A: Lily Rayman-Read

Lily Rayman-Read seeks re-election to the School Committee.

Tell people about your background — family, professional background, volunteering, government, activism — and how that will help you as a School Committee member. 

My name is Lily Rayman-Read, and I am running for reelection to the Watertown School Committee. I just completed my first term, where I served first as the chair of the Building and grounds subcommittee, and then as the chair of the Policy Subcommittee for the past two years. I am a high school social studies teacher in Cambridge where I have been for a decade, my husband, Diego Ribeiro is a Watertown Firefighter, and my children are in grade 6 at WMS, and grade 2 at the Lowell. I am involved on multiple school site councils and work as the liaison to the Watertown SEPAC (Special Education Parent Advisory Council). All these roles have allowed me to have a holistic view of education, and my depth of experience as an educator allows me to fully understand the implications of decisions made as they apply in the classroom and school setting. 

How can the Watertown Schools help students catch up and make up the learning opportunities they lost during remote learning over the past couple school years?

Our “Acceleration Road Map” that has been shared with the community is one part of the plan to help students regain their momentum after the interrupted schooling of the past two years. Focusing not only on academics, but on the social and emotional health of students is crucial to achieving learning goals, as students cannot learn while still truly undergoing trauma. I believe that adding additional mental health support — more social workers/liaisons and providing more significant time for staff to focus on SEL is vital in helping students recover. Beyond this, providing the WIN (What I Need) blocks allow educators to identify where students need additional support, and allow for schools to utilize that time to individualize and support those needs. 

Watertown will soon have three new schools, and a fourth renovated and expanded, giving the district state-of-the-art facilities. How can the Watertown Schools provide the type of education that matches the top-of-the-line facilities?

The number one way to do this, is to involve all stakeholders in this discussion — asking educators what they need to allow them to best utilize the space (ie. SmartBoard training, technology support etc) as well as looking for community partnerships to come in to utilize the space and provide additional learning opportunities is key. Many parents in the community also have significant skill and experience in using new technologies and platforms and can support that work as teachers become more adept at utilizing those resources. By performing a curriculum audit, which is planned for the upcoming year, we can start working towards making sure our curriculum is now able to maximize the resources we will have present in each building, and match new projects and curricular adjustments to our new school buildings. It is truly an exciting venture!

Recent national events have increased the focus on how schools teach history and other subjects. Some call for including more diverse perspectives in lessons, while others want to make sure that the history that they, and previous generations of students, remains in the curriculum. While the School Committee does not set the curriculum, it has some influence in the direction the Watertown Public Schools takes. How would you like to see the Watertown Schools approach issues of history and social studies?

I am a social studies/history educator myself, and I will repeat what I said at the candidate forum: We must teach correct history. History is a multi-perspective discipline when taught correctly, and there is a danger when only a single narrative is taught. Diverse history is real history, and including all voices and narratives only allows for broader understanding. I believe this question is not truly one many people have — from the many people I have talked to in Watertown, all support teaching accurate history and giving students the opportunity to learn from a variety of perspectives and viewpoints. I also believe that our educators and community must be involved in this discussion as we move forward, and hope many will engage in the curriculum work we are looking to do this year. 

Watertown students have not been able to gain access to Minuteman High School and its vocational and other programs since the new school opened. How should Watertown ensure that students seeking this type of education have access to it? Should Watertown become a member of the Minuteman District, add programs in the WPS, or make partnerships with other vocational schools in the area (or a combination)?

Four years ago, a decision was made not to join Minuteman, as we wanted the opportunity to explore Chapter 74 Programming in Watertown, and did not want limitations on that opportunity. We agreed to readdress this issue when the feasibility study of WHS was completed, which it now has been. At this time, I think it important to reopen the discussion to joining Minuteman, or another consortium that can offer those programs. This work is starting in November, as the administration begins meetings to start looking at programming, however I think it is vital that we reopen this discussion and figure out how to best support all students accessing the highest quality vocational technology possible. 

For over 35% of students in the Watertown Schools their first language is not English. They speak dozens of languages and are from many countries around the globe. How can Watertown make these students and their families feel welcome, and make sure their needs are being addressed?

We have started robust diversity councils at all three elementary schools, and WMS during the last four years (thank you to all those who worked so hard to get them started), and the Hosmer took the lead on having a “Welcoming Committee” for new families. Having a group of families who are ready to support and help new families transition into WPS is crucial in helping them navigate the system. Beyond this we have an absolutely amazing group of Family Liaisons and English Language instructors who regularly reach out to and meet families and engage translators when needed- they are the front line for much of the work being done, and adding staffing will better enable them to reach all families as needed. 

What is something that people may not know about you that residents would find interesting?

I am trying to take a picture in every state capital of the United States, and have 14 to go!!!