School Committee Wraps Up FY25 Budget, Approves 2024-25 School Calendar

By Kendra FoleyChair, Watertown School Committee

It has been a busy month for the Watertown School Committee as we wrap up the FY25 budget process. In the last three meetings, our board has heard a number of important presentations, voted on policy changes, and celebrated major accomplishments. We have come to an agreement with Superintendent Galdston on a 4-year contract extension through 2028. Dr. Galdston has been an excellent leader for Watertown, bringing expertise, commitment and stability. We are thrilled to have her leading the Watertown Public Schools for another four years.

Watertown Schools to Add Music Teachers, Tutors & Field Trip Aid in FY25 Budget

Watertown’s school budget will increase by $2 million, and additions include music teachers, math and literacy tutors, English as a second language teachers, and financial assistance to help all students go on field trips and school trips. The 2024-25 Watertown Public Schools budget will increase by 3.5 percent from the current year, for a total budget of $59.599 million. City Manager George Proakis said the Watertown Public Schools will receive a 3.5 percent increase when he presented the preliminary budget in October. Superintendent Dede Galdston said the budget represents a level services budget, which maintains the services provided by the district the prior year. This includes salary increases, and additional positions to maintain services.

Superintendent Given Four Year Extension Which Will Take Her to Over a Decade in Watertown

Watertown Superintendent Dede Galdston. The School Committee thanked Superintendent Dede Galdston for her efforts in Watertown this week when they approved an extension to her contract. On April 8, the School Committee unanimously approved a four-year extension for Galdston. Her salary increased by more than $26,000 to $220,000 in the first year of the contract, with future year’s salaries to be set by the School Committee after her annual review. Galdston said she looked forward to finishing some of the initiatives that have started in her time in the Watertown Public Schools.

Life Science Companies’ Collaboration With Watertown Schools Will be Featured at Event

The Watertown Business Coalition’s Life Science Panel returns on April 9 at the Mosesian Center for the Arts. See the WBC’s announcement below. The Fourth Annual WBC Life Science Panel this year is called “Learning to Love Science.” This years program will focus on the amazing partnership between Watertown High School and local life science companies, thanks to the hard work of our friend Merle Kummer and the board of “CoLAB.”

CoLAB is a nonprofit organization in Watertown, MA where local life science professionals and high school educators collaborate to inspire student interest in STEM careers – Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math – and build new levels of STEM self-confidence. Watertown’s life science cluster continues to be a bigger part of Watertown’s economic growth – and students enrichment should be a part of that growth! WE WOULD LOVE FOR MOMS, DADS, STUDENTS and TEACHERS to join us!

Watertown Schools Received $20K in Grants from Community Foundation & Local Biotechs

The following announcement was provided by the Watertown Community Foundation:

The Watertown Community Foundation (WCF) in collaboration with three Watertown-based life science companies, C4 Therapeutics, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, and Kymera Therapeutics has awarded $20,000 in STEM grants for students in Watertown Public Schools (WPS). This additional funding for STEM initiatives will bring WCF Education grant funding to WPS to an annual high of $55,000 for 2023-2024. Three corporate contributors, C4 Therapeutics, Enanta Pharmaceuticals, and Kymera Therapeutics have contributed $15,000 to the WCF STEM FUND to help bring elementary and high-school students the opportunity to participate in hands-on, science-based learning that expands beyond the classroom experience and the general curriculum. This collective giving program also allows companies, leaders and employees in Watertown’s life-science ecosystem to learn about WPS and forge deeper relationships with the school STEM community. The WCF has committed an additional $5,000 to support this program.

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.