Watertown Schools Select New Director of Equity & Inclusion

Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston announced the selection of the district’s first Director of Equity & Inclusion. The School Committee approved the creation of the position in December following racial bullying incidents that took place at Watertown Middle School in the fall, which led to a highly attended meeting of parents calling for action. Galdston included the following statement in her Superintendent Newsletter:

Introducing Our New Director of Equity & Inclusion

It gives me great pleasure to announce that Dr. Kimberlee Henry was selected as our new Director of Equity & Inclusion for the 2021-2022 school year and beyond. Dr. Henry is a strategic and creative leader who is dedicated to advancing the District’s equity work in this leadership role to help Watertown Public schools become an anti-racist and anti-biased school system. Dr. Henry’s background in public schools as a teacher and principal at both the elementary and secondary levels, and present role as the Principal at the STEM Academy in Lowell, MA have provided her with extensive experiences to take forward in her new role.

Find Out About Wellbeing of Watertown’s Youth at Virtual Town Hall Meeting

The following information was provided by the Watertown Youth Coalition:

A Town Hall Meeting about the wellbeing of Watertown’s Youth will be held on March 31 at 6:30 p.m.

The event is hosted by the Watertown Youth Coalition and Wayside Youth and Family Support Network in partnership with Watertown Community Foundation & Watertown Public Schools. Register by visiting: https://zoom.us/…/tJEtduyoqD0oE9H8HoibNMWq1ZZ3dJlwxx7f

LETTER: Barely Meeting the Minimum is Not Good Enough for Watertown Students

The following letter was sent by a group of Watertown parents called WPS Parents for Moving School Forward:

While school districts across Massachusetts are presenting their communities with joyous plans to return elementary students to school full time by the state required date of April 5 or earlier, Watertown is setting itself up to again lag behind in providing students access to public school. Our community has been informed of a plan that would put elementary students in school for only half days starting April 5 until an eventual return to full time April 26. As this approach is contrary to the back to school full time by April 5 mandate that the MA Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) has recently announced, WPS is now in the process of asking DESE is this is allowable. As best as we can understand, WPS is arguing to DESE that if we do half days for most of April, but regular full days for the rest of the year after that, then over the full 10 weeks remaining we will end up with an average that meets the state minimum hourly per-day requirements and therefore should be permitted to delay full time return. Whether DESE allows this or not, it is a bad choice for the students of Watertown.

Parents, School Committee Push for Reopening Schools Full Time

Get kids back in school full time — that was the message to Watertown Public School officials from the vast majority of parents and the School Committee on Monday night. Many parents discussed how negative an experience remote learning has been for their children, with students falling behind academically and some not engaging in class at all. Others said their children have shown signs of depression and despair due to not being in school with their classmates. Superintendent Dede Galdston spoke about the district’s planning to reopen the schools for all in-person learning, and said planning has started to make that happen by sometime in April, but she said concerns remain about whether it can be done safely. She mentioned planning for how to hold lunches with social distancing requirements and added she hopes to have all teachers vaccinated by the time students return.

Several Positions Would be Added in Watertown School’s “Level Service” Budget

The Watertown School schools have a little over $100,000 left in next year’s budget after preserving the current staffing and programs, the School Committee heard last week. Director of Finance and Operations Heidi Perkins presented the level-service budget last week, which would be $53.75 million including a 3.5 percent increase in funding from the Town. That amount does not include other funds such as state special education circuit breaker money, which will add about half of the increase that makes the total budget $57 million. While the budget will go up by about $1.8 million, Perkins said that only six percent of that will be available for new proposals. The level-service budget, however, does include some new positions.