Our schools should strive for nothing less than academic excellence.
Every one of us has a role to play in setting and meeting this expectation.
My 3 siblings and I all came through Watertown public schools and 2 of my 3 children are in them now. My wife and I have made a commitment to the schools and have entrusted them fully with the cultivation of our childrens’ intellectual curiosity. We both hold full-time jobs and have few other options than public schools.
This area is internationally-acclaimed for its elite educational and artistic institutions. Our youth should be taught that they are a part of this culture of excellence and not outside bystanders. Our town should take a measure of pride in its school system and in the academic achievement of its pupils. I believe that we are in the midst of a cultural transformation in this direction. I also believe that every single citizen and municipal employee should be made to see their role in this new culture.
Private institutions, town committees and departments alike should all play a part in the education of our youth. Internships should be created and academic achievement awards presented at the expense of these departments or institutions. Companies that make their home in Watertown have an interest in making this town an attractive place for their employees to live. Public-private partnerships should be arranged to capitalize on this interest and strengthen our schools. I have worked closely with the Watertown Education Foundation towards these goals. Working as a promoter of the event and as a dancer, their Dancing with the Stars event saw unprecedented attendance and funds raised in 2015. We are also working together towards the creation of a corporate consortium that will emerge as a key benefactor for public education here.
As examples of how other town departments can contribute, community policing, civil engineering projects, urban forestry, the historical society, the senior center and the library all hold educational opportunities for our youth. All of these fall outside of the school department budget and should be leveraged as part of this vital work. I have successfully advocated for the creation of a school resource officer at the middle school and more community policing activities at the WPD. I am also in full support of the Public Works Department’s summer youth work program as a start towards these ideas.
Lastly, in the two town budgets that I have voted on, the School Department funding has increased at unprecedented rates. In 2015, while including a slew of 1-time expenditures, the increase was just under 10%. In fiscal year 2016, the School Department asked for 6.87% and the town council gave them just that. I recognize that the advocacy for increased funding for education here has been a team-effort and that these gains are thanks to a lot of people. However, my voice on the council has been loud and clear on the issue and I have worked very hard in public and in behind-the-scenes discussions for these advances.
With new investments in the school department budget it is becoming evident to many of us that reducing class-sizes as we would like to is not just about hiring more teachers. Watertown is currently up against serious space challenges in our schools so having smaller classes with more teachers means needing more classROOMS. It will be in the next 2 years that the whole town will need to work towards finding the best solutions to this problem and the Town Council will need to vote on appropriations for these. I will be a champion for this investment and towards finding equitable solutions that will benefit the children in all of our school buildings.