WPS Announcements

Opening Letter to Families 2018

posted Aug 31, 2018, 9:28 AM by Christine Carletti   [ updated Aug 31, 2018, 9:29 AM ]

I hope that this summer has provided your family with opportunities to rest, relax, and recharge for this coming school year and that you can enjoy these last few days before we kick off the 2018/2019 school year on September 4.  All Watertown faculty and staff returned today for our Opening Day staff meeting during which our keynote speaker, Dr. Darnisa Amante, supported our understanding of the importance of equity in our work each day.   Additionally, a panel of six students shared their experiences at the high school and provided us with inspiration for the year and insight into what they appreciate most about their Watertown teachers and classes.  WPS Educators will continue with their professional learning and growth tomorrow and Thursday with highly engaging training throughout the District on a variety of initiatives currently underway.  

Today we welcomed 28 new teachers, several essential support staff, and five new administrators to our WPS community.  We are most grateful that they have chosen our schools and know that they will add much to our success and our students will benefit greatly from their passion and creativity.  

I am pleased to begin this year with a clearly developed and achievable four-year District Improvement Strategy.  Over the course of last spring and into the summer, the WPS Strategy Develop Team, comprised of educators, parents, community members, School Committee members, and administrators, developed the District’s Improvement Strategy which articulates our mission, vision, core values, theory of action, and strategic objectives.  After much deliberation, debate, and discussion, we determined that the mission of the Watertown Public Schools is as follows:

WPS prepares all students for life by engaging them in a challenging and meaningful education within an inclusive, diverse community.

To me, the most important part of this mission statement is that “we prepare our students for life.”  Pure and simple.  How we do it is by engaging students in a challenging and meaningful education and where we do it is in our inclusive and diverse community.  It is our mission every day to prepare our students for their future, and this work is grounded fundamentally in our collective core values of Excellence, Equity, and Community. 

Excellence

  • We commit to high expectations for each student.
  • We invest in a culture of reflection, collaboration, and commitment to continuous improvement.
  • We provide a rigorous and nurturing academic environment.
  • We foster creativity, resiliency, and confidence.

Equity

  • We believe all students can and will learn and grow.
  • We provide all students with a high-quality education.
  • We create conditions necessary for all students to engage in powerful, deep learning.
  • We provide resources for academic and social/emotional success for all students.
  • We ensure access to a welcoming and safe environment for all students, parents, and families.

Community

  • We share accountability for the success of all students.
  • We celebrate the contributions of each individual to our inclusive, diverse community.
  • We believe partnerships with families and the community are the cornerstone of student success.
  • We foster caring and collaborative relationships as the foundation for student engagement.

Each of these values and declarative statements embodies what it means to be part of the Watertown Public Schools community.  It is through this commitment to our core values and the tremendous dedication of our faculty and staff, our partnership with families, and our supportive community that we will achieve all that we hope and dream for our students in Watertown.

We are pleased to start our first day a little later as a way to provide the opportunity for our secondary students to obtain optimal sleeping time to maximize their learning and to encourage better overall health and emotional wellbeing.  Please plan accordingly for the first day of school as this change in start times may impact your morning routine (see table below for start and dismissal times). 

School:

Start:

Dismissal:

Early Release:

Cunniff Elementary School

8:15

2:30

12:15

Hosmer Elementary School

8:15

2:30

12:15

Lowell Elementary School

8:15

2:30

12:15

Watertown Middle School

8:30

3:00

12:30

Watertown High School

8:30

3:05

12:30

As a parent of four children all in middle or high school, I am keenly aware of the myriad events, meetings, and celebrations that occur in September.  All of the principals have or will be sending out letters to families highlighting the important events and dates for each school.  I would also like to call your attention to several key school or district-wide events as well. 

Key dates to remember in the month of September:

September 5:  School Committee Meeting

September 12:  School Building Committee Meeting

September 17:  Superintendent’s Coffees --  9:00 am and 7:00 pm

September 20:  WMS Back to School Night

September 25:  Elementary Back to School Night

September 26:  Early Release

September 27:  WHS Back to School Night

District-wide and school events can also be found at the District website www.watertown.k12.ma.us.  The Watertown Public Schools website is undergoing major renovations, and within a few short weeks, we will be transitioning to a new website.  I will send out an email informing the community when we transition to the new website.  

Together, the WPS community will soon return into the full swing of preparing our students for life, and we look forward to building strong relationships and partnerships with families throughout the coming year.  I wish you and your family the best for these last few days of summer.

Warm regards,

Dede Galdston

 

 

School Committee Meeting, August 15th

posted Aug 13, 2018, 6:52 AM by Christine Carletti   [ updated Aug 13, 2018, 10:57 AM ]

The Watertown School Committee will meet Wednesday, August 15, at 4:00pm in Town Hall Council Chambers, 149 Main Street.  Please refer to the School Committee page to view the agenda.

Message from the Superintendent Regarding Kindergarten

posted Jul 18, 2018, 3:09 PM by Deanne Galdston   [ updated Jul 23, 2018, 9:34 AM ]

Dear Parents and Caregivers:

I hope this letter finds you well, enjoying the pleasures of summer. I realize this fall may be the first time many of our kindergarten students and parents enter our doors and I want to assure you that it will be a wonderful experience for all. To that end, I want to take this opportunity to address concerns that have arisen regarding free choice, unstructured time, and recess in kindergarten.  We have heard the concerns of the community and will be working as a team of teachers and administrators to address these prior to the beginning of the school year.  

I bear responsibility for not clearly communicating with incoming kindergarten families about the new programs and the rationale behind the programs that are being incorporated into our kindergarten schedule. To remedy that, I will convene the kindergarten team and elementary administrators for a full-day planning meeting and I will address kindergarten at the WPS Curriculum Subcommittee Meeting scheduled for August 2 at 6:30 pm. The planning and discussion meeting will center around how to best incorporate our new programs within the confines of the school day, and to consider ways to provide dedicated unstructured time in the day.  Moreover, I will host a Community Forum on kindergarten instruction once the kindergarten team has a chance to meet. This Forum will likely take place during the week of August 13 and I will communicate the exact time and location once decided. I look forward to meeting many of you there, however, for those of you who are unable to attend, I will provide a summary of the presentation on our website thereafter.

An Overview of Kindergarten in WPS:

We know that kindergarten children come to school as natural explorers seeking information through hands-on discovery, curiosity, and play. Centers and Choice Time are the cornerstone of instruction throughout our kindergarteners’ day, used extensively during our literacy and math blocks. Additionally, our kindergarteners regularly experience learning in the outdoor gardens, which is in keeping with nature-based learning and our hands-on, experiential science instruction. Free choice, experiential learning, unstructured and guided play, sensory integration, and motor skill development are fully incorporated into the kindergarten curriculum and classroom environment.  It should also be noted that throughout the week, our kindergarteners enjoy art, music, Spanish, library, and two full blocks of physical education ---all of which are predicated on choice, movement, and play.  Rarely will you find our kindergarten students sitting for large group instruction, except for a short focus lesson or a read-aloud.  Kindergarten lays the foundation of literacy, numeracy, and social/emotional development, all accomplished within a developmentally-appropriate environment. 

I believe that what we have designed for kindergarten next year is very much in keeping with research and best practices to incorporate choice and play throughout the day.  While the schedule has one dedicated recess block, there will be several opportunities for students to be active, to socialize, and to play throughout the day.  Also, the structure of kindergarten continually evolves to meet the developmental needs of the children.  Fall in kindergarten looks very different than spring. 

Our Process:

This spring we reviewed our schedules at the elementary level to ensure cohesion in anticipation of introducing new literacy and social-emotional curricula. The District has incorporated three vital initiatives into our kindergarten curriculum:  Foreign Language in Elementary School (FLES);  Fundations, a research-based phonics program; and Responsive Classroom, a research-based social-emotional learning program. While looking at Watertown-specific data regarding phonemic awareness and phonics using the Quick Phonics Screener and the Fountas and Pinnell Benchmark Assessment System, we identified that our students needed an evidence-based phonics program designed to increase literacy skills.  We incorporated Fundations, a universal phonics program based on Wilson, which is a strong evidence-based phonics intervention.  The Social/Emotional Learning Team, comprised of over 30 educators and administrators across the district, met throughout the past year and a half to research and identify an excellent social/emotional learning program for all students K-5, selecting Responsive Classroom. As we thoughtfully incorporate these initiatives into our schedule and continue the expansion of Readers Workshop, we are working with our teachers through ongoing professional development/coaching on how best to schedule and deliver these programs in the kindergarten environment. Thus, it was important to reevaluate the structure of the school day across all three elementary schools.

Clarifications:

The misconceptions around kindergarten may have arisen when a sample schedule was shared with incoming kindergarten parents on the last day of school.  This sample schedule caused concern that the District was substantially changing how kindergarten would be structured, which is not accurate.  The sample schedule did not articulate how the content in these blocks would be delivered, which is in keeping with the way it has always been done.  For example, learning blocks in a schedule (i.e. 45 minutes for math) are a tool to provide structure to teachers for managing their day, however, our highly skilled teachers are given the flexibility and autonomy to make decisions, which respond to the developmental needs of their students throughout the year, and on any given day the “schedule” changes. Our teachers are masters in developing high-interest engaging lessons embedding play across content areas throughout the day. We know that play can produce a powerful blending of enjoyment with academic learning when intentionally structured, facilitated by teachers who provide scaffolding and who, through observation, reflect on children’s development and learning in play.  At the end of this letter, there are several links to articles discussing the importance of play, more specifically, guided play. 

In the companion document to the Massachusetts Standards for PreK and Kindergarten Social and Emotional Learning (2015):  http://www.doe.mass.edu/kindergarten/SEL-APL-Env.pdf, in the Play section on pages 6-7, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education makes clear they are advocating for a particular kind of play:


“Children of this age still need guidance and support from teachers to help them engage in the sustained, complex play that is most beneficial to their development. Within a rich play-based curriculum, early childhood educators can implement the expectations of early learning standards, including language, literacy, and other academic content (Hyson, 2003, NAEYC & NAECS/SDE, 2002). Play can produce a powerful blending of enjoyment with academic learning when intentionally structured and facilitated by teachers who provide scaffolding (e.g., modeling, coaching, or prompting skills in reading, writing, mathematical or scientific thinking), and who observe and reflect on children’s development and learning in play. Strong early childhood teachers understand how to differentiate the level and nature of support for each child based on individual learning goals and development.”

Additionally, the linked article from The National Association for the Education of Young Children (NAEYC), Watertown’s accrediting institution, Assessing and Scaffolding Make-Believe Play by Leong and Bodrova (2012) defines the criteria for the kinds of “Mature” (aka "complex") Make-believe Play that positively impact children’s development.

After meeting with the kindergarten teachers and administrators, our Assistant Superintendent, Theresa McGuinness, will be producing a brochure that fully explains our approach to teaching and learning in kindergarten.  I have provided links below to scholarly articles and helpful resources that discuss high-interest topics for kindergarten parents.

As always, please do not hesitate to reach out directly to me, to Dr. McGuinness, or to your child’s principal if you have questions about our District programs.  Thank you for your continued involvement in and support of our fine schools.

All my best,

Dede Galdston, Ed.D

Superintendent, Watertown Public Schools

Some Helpful Resources:

The companion document to the MA Standards for PreK and K Social and Emotional Learning (2015):  (Play section on pages 6-7)

Article on Purposeful Play in Full Day Kindergarten

Article on Guided Play for Early Childhood

Responsive Classroom Information for Kindergarten

Research Base for Wilson (Fundations)

Investigating Choice Time: Inquiry, Exploration, and Play

Article on Inquiry-Based Science at Earlier Grades

FAQs about FLES in Watertown Including References

School Committee Presentation on Social Emotional Learning in Watertown

May 2018 Teaching and Learning Update

Preserving Play in Early Childhood Classroom:  Suggestions for Early Childhood Teacher Education and Policy

Announcement: WMS Principal and Lowell Assistant Principal

posted Jun 22, 2018, 1:29 PM by Deanne Galdston

Good Afternoon,

I am very happy to announce to all that I have selected Ms. Donna Martin to be the next principal of the Watertown Middle School.  I have shared the news with the WMS staff, and they are excited to have Ms. Martin join their family.   Currently, Ms. Martin is the Assistant Principal at the McCarthy Middle School in Chelmsford.

Additionally, Ms. Candice Whitmore will be joining the Lowell Elementary School Community as the Assistant Principal.  Candice is currently the Assistant Principal at Chavez Elementary School in Madison, Wisconsin. 

Both of these candidates thoroughly impressed the hiring committee and the school community during the selection process.  I would like to extend my sincere appreciation for all those who participated in the process either as part of the hiring committees or by attending the public forums and interviews.  Please welcome Ms. Martin and Ms. Whitmore to our community. 


 

Superintendent's Coffees - June 19th

posted Jun 18, 2018, 9:26 AM by Christine Carletti   [ updated Jun 19, 2018, 5:43 AM ]

The Superintendent will be holding coffees on the 3rd floor of the Phillips Building on June 19th at 9:00am and 7:00pm.  Dr. Galdston will be sharing the District’s improvement strategy for the next three years as well as reviewing all that has been accomplished this year across the District

School Building Committee Elementary School Building Tours

posted Jun 18, 2018, 8:00 AM by Christine Carletti   [ updated Jun 18, 2018, 8:02 AM ]

The School, Building Committee will meet to tour the Elementary Schools on the following dates and times:

 Wednesday, June 20, 2018

·         6:00pm Cunniff Elementary School, 246 Warren Street

 ·         7:00pm Lowell Elementary School, 175 Orchard Street

 Thursday, June 21, 2018

                    6:00pm Hosmer Elementary School, 1 Concord Road

Watertown Elementary Summer Math Programs for Grades 1-5

posted Jun 17, 2018, 2:17 AM by Toni Carlson

Watertown Public Schools is offering two elementary summer math programs for students in grades one through five.  Click the links below for more details.

WHS Graduation Friday, June 1, 2018

posted Jun 1, 2018, 7:31 AM by Toni Carlson   [ updated Jun 1, 2018, 7:31 AM ]

The 2018 Graduation Ceremony will take place tonightJune 1 at 6:00pm to be held at Victory Field.

Superintendent's Coffees -- May 22 and May 23

posted May 20, 2018, 9:33 AM by Deanne Galdston

The Superintendent will be holding coffees on the 3rd floor of the Phillips Building at the following times:
Tuesday, May 22 at 9:00 am
Wednesday, May 23 at 4:30 pm
Wednesday, May 23 at 7:00 pm
The DIstrict's mission, vision and core values will be discussed as well as any questions that participants may have.

Teaching & Learning Update - May 2018

posted May 10, 2018, 5:43 AM by Christine Carletti

Please take a few minutes to view the May Teaching & Learning Updates.

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