Preliminary School Budget Has Small Surplus, Includes A Few New Positions

The Watertown Public Schools budget forecast for Fiscal Year 2025 would provide the district with a small surplus. The budget for the current school year is $57.58 million, and when adding the 3.5 percent increase budgeted by City Manager George Proakis (about $2 million) the budget for the 2024-25 school year will be $59.6 million, Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee last week. That would provide a surplus of $75,138. Most of the budget, about 85 percent, falls under personnel, said Lisa Gibbons, the district’s Director of Finance and Operations. Galdston said the figures are for a “level services budget.”

School Committee to Look at Ways to Make Overnight Field Trips Affordable for All Students

Watertown Public School music students perform at Bandarama. Those in high school take a trip to New York every two years. The School Committee approved a field trip for Watertown High School music students to spend a weekend in New York, but had concerns about the price and making sure that all students can participate. The trip to the Big Apple has become a biannual tradition for the chorus, band, and orchestra. The trip includes a performance and workshop with professional musicians, a Broadway show, a dinner/dance cruise around the Statue of Liberty, visiting the Metropolitan Museum of Art, and walking around Central Park.

LETTER: Parent Opposes Holding Lockdown Drills at School

Dear Superintendent Galdston and School Committee,

I read with alarm in Watertown News that our schools are planning to conduct lockdown/ALICE/active shooter drills. Please reconsider this decision. I understand that there have been issues with false alarms, but it is extremely unclear how past false alarms should have any effect on whether we conduct these terrifying and dubiously effective drills. There is zero research to suggest that these drills do anything other than terrify students. In fact, your own announcement said “Sometimes it is too frightening for children,” and that you had decided not to do ALICE drills at elementary schools in the last few years for that reason.

Following False Alarms Watertown Schools to Hold Emergency Drills, Also Seek to Improve Communication System

After a series of false alarms in the security systems at Watertown’s new schools, the district plans to hold drills for the students, and will look for ways to avoid more incidents in the future. The Watertown Public Schools opened two brand new elementary schools, a third underwent a major renovation and expansion, and students at the high school have a new, temporary home. The new buildings also have new technology, including a multi-hazard notification system, said Superintendent Dede Galdston. All four new schools have had false alarms, she said, some due to wiring and other when the panic button was pressed by mistake. “We want to make sure people understand that these happen and that we will do to prevent that from happening again,” Galdston said.

Rates of Alcohol & Drug Use Down for Watertown Students, But Depression & Stress Has Risen

The rate of alcohol and marijuana is dropping for Watertown students, according to a survey by the Watertown Youth Coalition, but school officials have concerns about use among certain groups, as well as the feeling of depression and not having trusted adults with whom they can speak. For the past three decades, the Watertown Youth Coalition has monitored the well-being of Watertown students by tracking the use of alcohol and drugs, and rates of depression and stress. In November, the WYC reported the results of the 2023 Youth Risk Behavior Survey, which was taken by 424 Watertown Middle School students and 591 from Watertown High School. At the high school 18 percent of students reported they had consumed alcohol over the previous 30 days, down from 23 percent in 2021 and 32 percent in 2017. The middle school went from 4 percent in 2021 to 3 percent in 2023.

Watertown Schools Receive Recognition, Superintendent Gets Raise & More

By Kendra FoleySchool Committee Chair

The 2023-2024 school year is underway in Watertown and we hope you are having a good start to your year. 

Our year began with exciting news, as the Hosmer Elementary School was honored by the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education as a School of Recognition. Hosmer was only one of 66 schools in the state to earn this title as part of DESE’s release of MCAS data and accountability metrics. Our district as a whole also earned high marks from the state. You can read more about the recognition in Ms. Moulton’s newsletter to the Hosmer community. Watertown High School was also recognized for strong academic achievement, earning a place on the College Board’s AP School Honor Roll with a Silver Distinction.

Enrollment Up at All Levels in Watertown Schools, Especially at the High School

Enrollment is up at Watertown High School, despite moving into the temporary location at PFC Ricard Moxley Field. (Courtesy by City of Watertown)

Watertown’s schools are growing at all levels, and some classes at two elementary schools are near or at capacity, Superintendent Dede Galdston told the School Committee. The biggest growth, however, is at the secondary level. Typically, School officials wait until September to provide the first enrollment report to the School Committee, Galdston said, but she wanted to inform members before school started incase they receive questions about it. “Our enrollment is up,” Galdston said.

Rising Special Education Costs Contribute to $1 Million Shortfall for FY24 Watertown School Budget

The Watertown Public Schools face a shortfall of around $1 million for the 2023-24 school year (Fiscal Year 2024), due in part to a large increase in the cost of special education. Monday night the School Committee heard the FY24 preliminary budget presentation from School administrators, who said the Watertown Public School’s level-services budget faces a significant deficit. This budget would provide the same level of services and programs available to students during the current school year, though it might require additional staff to provide the service due to increased enrollment in a certain grade or in a particular program, said Heidi Perkins, the WPS Director of Finance and Operations. The Watertown Schools will receive a 3.5 percent increase from the City over the FY23 budget, or $2.84 million, which would make the FY24 budget $55.64 million. The amount needed to cover a level-services budget is $58.47 million, as of Jan.