LETTER: Resident Disappointed to See Superintendent Leaving Watertown

To the Editor of Watertown News,

I was very disappointed to hear the news that our school superintendent, Dr. Jean Fitzgerald, has decided to retire. In her letter to the community, Dr. Fitzgerald explained she was ready to start a new chapter in her life. But from my perspective, it seems she was driven out of her position by a negative and unsupportive environment. With Dr. Fitzgerald’s retirement, we have lost a passionate advocate for our children, and a deeply knowledgeable educator who understands the complexities of teaching and learning. We as a community need to ask ourselves why we allowed our kids, and the teachers, staff, and administrators who are educating our kids, to lose the benefit of such a leader.

Superintendent Gets High Marks in School Committee Evaluation

The School Committee submitted its evaluation of Watertown Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald, and she got high marks. 

Fitzgerald received the one of the two highest marks from all seven School Committee members on the five district goals and several other categories required by the state to be included in the evaluation, said School Committee Chairwoman Eileen Hsu-Balzer at Monday’s School Committee meeting. Hsu-Balzer read out comments made by the School Committee, but did not attribute them. The full evaluation is available in the Watertown Public Schools Central Offices in the Phillips Building. “Under leadership of Dr. Fitzgerald, the Watertown Public Schools continue to move in a positive direction … It is a very exciting time for the Watertown Public Schools,” a School Committee wrote.

Watertown Class Sizes May Not Shrink Under Proposed Budget

Keeping class sizes small is one of the School Committee’s goals each year, but Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald said the budget may prevent lowering class sizes. The School Committee requested a $42 million budget, which would be $6 million more than Fiscal 2014 and would pay for 22 new teachers. The budget proposed by Town Manager Michael Driscoll  last week gave the schools a $2.267 million, or 6.18 percent, increase. Fitzgerald said the first priority will be filling the positions that will keep Watertown in compliance with state and federal mandates, including special education and English as a second language. After that, class size and other needs “may go unresolved,” Fitzgerald said Monday night.

Watertown Budget Will Be Revealed This Week

Details about the Fiscal 2015 budget – including how much money the schools will receive – will be made public on Tuesday evening. Town Manager Michael Driscoll will present his budget to the Town Council on Tuesday at 6 p.m. in Town Hall. The School Committee approved Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald’s request for $42 million from the town, which would be $6 million  or 16 percent more than the funding received in Fiscal 2014 (click here for more details). When Driscoll presented his preliminary budget in October he said all departments, including the schools, should expect a 3 percent increase. Two weeks ago, Driscoll said the school budget request, which included more than 30 new jobs (including 22 new teachers), would actually cost the town $341,ooo more than requested because of health care and other benefits.

See How Much the School Committee Approved for the School Budget

Watertown Superintendent Jean Fitzgerald asked for a bigger budget, and she got what she asked for. Now school officials and parents will have to wait to see if they get the funding. Last week Fitzgerald said the schools need $46 million in Fiscal 2015 to provide the type of education that school officials believe Watertown’s children need. That would require a $42 million appropriation from the town. The amount is $6 million and 16 percent higher than Fiscal 2014 (the current year).