Click here to view the School Committee Forum from October 17 hosted by Watertown DTC and Progressive Watertown.
Below is the video of the Candidate Forum hosted by Watertown News and WCA-TV.
Virtual Learning Timeline
October 5, 2021
Dropping off a refilled water bottle and overhearing my son’s teacher say, “Look at all of these stories flying out of your brains!” (as she watched her virtual students type in real time in Google Classroom) makes me miss being an elementary educator. I’m also incredibly appreciative of the flexibility and innovation our teachers have demonstrated over the past year and a half. My son’s class is quarantined as a result of nine positive cases in his class (as last reported at last night’s School Committee meeting). I am grateful for the committee members who questioned the distancing between seats within classrooms and whether masks should be worn outdoors when students are unable to adequately distance from one another. Being in constant communication with the Health Department (as our district leadership is) to make these determinations, and many others, is vitally important as our schools encounter new and/or worsening scenarios. Watertown’s efforts to ensure the safety of our school communities are commendable and it is clear the emphasis is to keep our children learning in-person this year as much as possible, but it is also important to recognize when choices regarding safety protocols may need to be reevaluated and possibly altered. We are all still learning how to best serve our students amidst a global pandemic and I am grateful for our district leadership’s collaborative efforts and their willingness to pivot when a situation necessitates it.
We are all still negative in our home, and while my son is required to quarantine this week as a close contact in a classroom with suspected in-school transmission, we have opted to keep our daughter home as well. When my husband contracted COVID-19 last year, he was immediately able to go into isolation. The kids and I were PCR tested three times over the 10 days to follow and somehow managed not to contract it, so we are familiar with this process. My heart goes out to the impacted students and families and I am wishing speedy and complete recoveries to all who are afflicted.
Today, I am thankful for our PE teacher for commenting, “Is that Emma over there? Emma, thank you for joining us!” and for all of our teachers who have done everything in their power to ensure our students feel cared about and supported, while also continuing to learn despite the unprecedented challenges our society and schools have faced since March of 2020.
Faire on the Square and Campaign Kickoff Event
September 25, 2021
I loved spending the day with so many members of our community at the return of the Faire on the Square! Thank you to everyone who stopped by my table to chat, ask questions, and spin the wheel of fun! Based on the school subject the wheel landed on, participants were given a trivia question (and any assistance needed to help answer) to be entered into a free raffle for a giant popper toy - my own children insisted this would be the best possible prize and it seemed many of our attendees agreed!
Also, thank you to everyone who attended mt Campaign Kickoff Event! It was such an honor to share the evening with current and former Town Councilors and School Committee members as well as a number of my esteemed fellow candidates and many of my amazing supporters. I enjoyed being able to discuss my vision and priorities for WPS schools (which I plan to unveil many more at upcoming public forums) and I was grateful to receive valuable advice and feedback. I also shared what the most meaningful part of this campaign has been for me thus far: seeing my children take an interest and become active participants in this process. They make me so proud every single day and I'm grateful that this opportunity has introduced them to another facet of my identity. I hope I'm making them proud.
Theater Productions focused on Social-Emotional Development
September 22, 2021
I've shared in past entries that one of my most memorable experiences as a Cunniff elementary student was the opportunity I had to narrate our third grade play. The learning experience was something that I hoped to be able to provide for my future students one day. I was thrilled to find scripts titled "Character Matters" from a company called Bad Wolf Press. "Character Matters" (I and II) uses familiar fairy tale characters to hone in on numerous social and emotional lessons including tolerance, responsibility, listening, dealing with anger and having the courage to do what you think is right. At the same time, these productions have the added benefit of improving reading fluency, vocabulary, performance and music skills, class camaraderie and teamwork.
The play is 30 minutes long and my team teacher and I were given permission to hold practice with our classes for the last half hour of every Friday throughout the year. My students could not have been more engaged or learned more from this experience! They often asked to play the soundtrack during rainy indoor recess days to sing along and I even found myself humming the catchy tunes while driving or grocery shopping! I'll also never forget that the two times the future superintendent did a walk-through of our school happened to be the dress rehearsal and final performance days so I was dressed up as Snow White for both!
The level of pride I felt for each and every student at our performances on the big stage in the high school was palpable. I still hear from former students and their families that these performances were among the most meaningful learning experiences of their academic careers. Below is a news article from the first production that my team teacher and I produced with our students (at this time, I went by my maiden name of Holt). Since my departure when my son was born, I am overjoyed that my former third grade team has continued to put on yearly spectaculars and also purchased more Bad Wolf scripts for their repertoire!
Finding creative and engaging ways to work on social and emotional development with students is something that I'm very passionate about and I would certainly be an advocate for these types of learning experiences to be implemented in WPS, either during school or as an after-school enrichment opportunity.
Students will blow the house down with ‘Character Matters’
By KATRINA DREW |
PUBLISHED: March 4, 2011
Almost 20 years ago, a young Jennifer Holt was in the third grade excitedly rehearsing for her class play, The Santa Claus Twins.
“I was Mrs. Jingle and I still remember every line!” Holt said. Now that she is a third-grade teacher at the Page Hilltop Elementary School, she wanted to give her students the same experience she had been given years ago. With the help of her mother, she came across Ron Fink’s Bad Wolf Press and the musical production Character Matters.
Fink and his partner, lyricist John Heath, explain that Bad Wolf shows are “filled with facts (i.e. mandated curriculum) but the story and the humor combined with music and rhyme do their stuff to help kids understand and retain what they need to remember.” Holt and third-grade teacher Lynn Oppenheim researched the Character Matters production and felt it was perfect for the 40 students they educate on a daily basis.
“We thought this would be very meaningful for our students,” Oppenheim said. “The lessons in the script teach about tolerance and being accepting of other’s differences — and it is all done through fairy tales — a genre that is very familiar to our 8- and 9 year-old students.”
In November, the classes started rehearsing the production, that included 10 songs with skits in between. Oppenheim and Holt felt their students were ready in mid-February to perform their show for the kindergarten through fifth-grade classes they share their school with.
Audience members were entertained with the lovely voices and acting of the youngsters, but the most memorable aspects of this event were the values learned by the characters. the Big Bad Wolf learned how to treat others the way he wanted to be treated, Baby Bear learned to forgive Goldilocks for eating his porridge, the third Little Pig learned to stand up to peer pressure, Cinderella found the strength to cope with her anger toward her stepsisters, Humpty Dumpty learned about responsibility, the Magic Mirror learned to tell the truth to the Wicked Queen, and Jack and the Beanstalk and the Giant learned to be friends.
Oppenheim and Holt were so proud of their actors and actresses.
“This was an amazing accomplishment for them and it is an experience that I hope they will not soon forget,” said Holt.
“The kids not only learned a new appreciation of literature, they also worked cooperatively to make this production the success that it was. Each and every student surprised and amazed us.”
Character Matters was such a hit that Holt and Oppenheim have no doubt they will do another production next year. Holt is having her current students extend their learning from the show by writing letters to her future class to give them some advice on how to put on next year’s spectacular!
Annoucement of Watertown Endorsements
September 19, 2021
Watertown teachers and firefighters are two groups that I hold very near to my heart. I could not be more grateful to have been endorsed for School Committee by both the Watertown Educators Association and the Watertown Firefighters IAFF Local 1347.
I have many fond memories of my own K-12 teachers in Watertown and I greatly appreciate the deep level of care and dedication demonstrated by my childrens' teachers over the last five years. I look forward to the next 11 years my children will be WPS students. My commitment to our schools will remain steadfast during this time and beyond. I have always been and will always be invested in Watertown Public Schools.
Our firefighters have an incredible partnership with our schools, from their work teaching about fire prevention as part of the S.A.F.E. Program in our elementary schools (Student Awareness of Fire Education) to their eager willingness to escort lucky ticket holders of "Win a Ride to School in a Fire Truck" prize raffles. Our firefighters are also known to participate in Field Days and run obstacle challenges with students as well as take their turns sitting in the dunk tank!
I learned a great deal during my three years serving as Secretary of my district's teachers' association, which provided me with valuable insight and experience related to collective bargaining, ensuring access to professional development that meets the needs of educators, and building and maintaining positive relationships by embracing a spirit of collaboration and compromise with caregivers, district leadership and the community at large.
As a member of the School Committee, I would like to further expand and enhance the relationship between our schools and our fire department as well as promote partnerships with other local businesses and government. I believe furthering these relationships will add great value to our community and to our childrens' educational experiences.
Signs are up!
September 18, 2021
Thank you to everyone around Watertown for displaying my yard signs! We are awaiting another shipment and will be delivering to all of the newly requested addresses on Monday and Tuesday of this week. I am so grateful for the support and kind words about my signs. I loved designing it and also appreciate all of the feedback I received from the many "focus group members" who I consulted. It was quite the busy Saturday with another full day next Saturday at the Faire on the Square! Let the race begin!
A Day of Remembrance
September 11, 2021
Today, we remember and honor the heroes who were lost 20 years ago in New York. 343 firefighters, 60 police officers and 8 paramedics gave the ultimate sacrifice in a rescue effort that resulted in tens of thousands of lives being safely evacuated.
What I admire most about first responders is their reliability. When they are called, they respond. It doesn’t matter who you are or what you believe. They show up every time and do not hesitate to put your life and safety above their own.
I know many of our local firefighters and police officers personally and they are selfless, noble, kind-hearted, brave men and women. I have a profound respect for their service to our community and I am extremely grateful for their positive and collaborative relationships within our schools.
Today, and every day, I remember every rescuer who died in honor and their families who were left behind with only memories of their loved ones. No words feel adequate enough to express my gratitude for your service and dedication.
Happy First Day of School!
September 8, 2021
Welcome back to these Cunniff Cougars and all WPS grades 1 through 12 students!
To our new students having their orientation visits today in Preschool, Pre-K and Kindergarten... welcome to the WPS community! I am so happy you are here.
Wishing you all an exciting, safe and memorable school year.
Candidate Interview with Mr. Kaprielian
September 7, 2021
I would have loved to relive the glory days of Raider News in the same studio with Mr. Kaprielian, but we made the best of it on Zoom! I was the first of the 25 total candidates (Town Council, School Committee and Library Trustees) to be interviewed. Stay tuned for the whole candidate series in October, along with individual 90 second snippets for each candidate. I will post when they begin airing!
You know you're from Watertown if you recognize these references...
August 28, 2021
Everybody comes from somewhere. Everybody has roots. Mine happen to be from Watertown. And simply stated, I am proud of that fact. So much so that I coined my campaign website after it. I chose the name “always a Raider” (www.alwaysaraider.com) because my life experiences in this town are ones that I carry with me in everything I do. I acquired additional facets of my identity as an Eagle while attending Boston College and as a Panther while teaching first and third grade. I am a daughter, a sister, a friend and a student. I have become a graduate, an educator, a wife and a mother. Through it all, Watertown has always been my home.
My daughter’s favorite food is the same meatball recipe my grandparents used at their sub shop on School Street, Jack and Mary’s. Over the years, people have said they haven’t had meatballs as good as the ones my mom makes “since Jack and Mary’s” without knowing the connection that she is their daughter!
I marched in the Memorial Day Parade as a baton-twirling Blue Bell and continued to cheer on all of our youth organizations and other participants who marched in the yearly parades that followed.
I met some of my earliest friends at the Watertown Free Public Library’s toddler story hour. One of them is my son’s godmother.
My kids love buying popsicles at the corner store that I will always think of as Millie’s.
The Watertown Mall was where I made my own pizza at Papa Gino’s on my birthday, bought CD singles at Strawberries, played skee ball at Dream Machine and earned my driver's permit and license.
I took part in the Cunniff 5th grade car wash as a student and drove our car through the same fundraiser at Cunniff West in support of our most recent fifth grade class this past spring.
I applauded my classmates in the Shaw Auditorium for their performances of Grease, Alice in Wonderland and The Crucible. I stood on the stage myself at Awards Nights and when being inducted into the National Honor Society.
The Cops & Kids after school recreation program started in 1997 when I was in middle school from which I have vivid memories of playing floor hockey in the lower gymnasium at WMS. I am grateful for all of the positive ways our police officers continue to contribute to our schools and community.
My dad opened a savings account for me (with a passbook!) at Watertown Savings Bank when I was a child and he went with me to the same branch when I opened my campaign business account this summer.
My mom chaired Scholastic Book Fairs decades before I performed the same role.
I have attended the Faire on the Square every year for as long as I can remember and look forward to having a table for my campaign there this fall.
I narrated my 3rd grade play on the Cunniff “cafetorium” stage and went on to coordinate yearly theater performances for my future students. I still receive feedback from families that they were among the most meaningful learning experiences of their young lives.
I cheered for my younger brothers playing football from the stands at Victory Field and I will watch my son and daughter participate in youth football and cheerleading at the same location this fall.
Twenty years ago, I was in Mr. Hayward’s history class as a sophomore when I learned of the attack on our country on September 11, 2001. We watched the news unfold on a TV with an antenna on one of those bulky media push carts that was rolled into the classroom. When I think about it, I can still feel the shock, fear and confusion run through me like it was yesterday, but I can also recall the heroism of the first responders, hundreds of whom sacrificed their lives in an attempt to complete evacuations of the buildings and rescue the innocent lives trapped inside.
Ryan and I had our junior prom in the same ballroom that held our wedding reception a decade later.
I played youth through Varsity basketball and worked as a counselor at Coach Harrington’s summer camps throughout college, where I had the joy of teaching fundamentals of the sport to school-aged children.
I remember the modular classrooms in the back of the old Cunniff and my kids will move into the incredible new Cunniff facility this October.
My brothers and I attended Camp Pequossette in the 90s run by the incredible Mr. DiMascio and now my daughter is a classmate and best friend of his granddaughter.
I can’t get over how my son looks identical to my brother at his age when donning Watertown Youth Baseball catching gear at Sullivan Field.
Ryan and I took every media course offered with one of our favorite high school teachers, Mr. Napolitano. The classes were held in the basement of WHS before it was transformed into the headquarters for WCA-TV, where I will participate in a candidate interview with the legendary Mr. Kaprielian in early September.
Our field hockey team has been and continues to be an unstoppable force.
My parents helped fundraise for the same Cunniff Cove that my own kids played on while forming childhood friendships that I’m confident will last their lifetimes.
It was my bubble letter chalk writing that outlined the first half of our senior class slogan that we painted on the top of the old bleachers at Victory Field (a tradition that I miss dearly): “Together we will be… the Class of 2003.”
I was elected Class Secretary all four years at WHS, co-hosted the Raider News, and wore my Raider basketball, track and softball jerseys with pride. I look forward to seeing what paths my children chose to take in high school and beyond.
I am the daughter of a Past President of the Watertown Rotary Club, who provided me with decades of opportunities to volunteer and learn the meaning and value of service to our community.
Prior to substitute teaching in our Watertown elementary schools during college, I spent the better part of a year working part-time at Bath & Body Works at the Arsenal Mall, which I shared with my kids when we took our first family trip to the new Arsenal Yards earlier this year.
I was woken up by a reverse 911 call in the early hours of April 13, 2013. I only remember hearing the term “explosives” and a recommendation to keep doors locked when I dropped the phone to race across the stretch of hallway to Will’s nursery. He was 5 months old and sleeping soundly (which hardly ever happened), but I picked him up and held him close, not knowing what else to do at that moment. We spent the next day in lock down, looking out the windows at complete desolation and questioning if it was safe to even briefly take our puppy outside. Later that day, our Watertown Police Department and law enforcement officers from various agencies secured our community’s safety. I narrated to Will as I watched the news footage that showed crowds of people coming together along Mt. Auburn Street in celebration of the brave men and women (including family members of ours, friends and neighbors) who put their lives on the line to protect us all.
Alongside my future husband and more than 200 other classmates, I tossed my graduation cap with red tassels up in the air in 2003, just as my parents did in 1975 and 1979. I will watch my children do the same in 2031 and 2033.
These experiences and many more have made me who I am today. I have always been and will always be invested in this community. I respect the good people who are from here and excitedly welcome those who decide to make Watertown their home. I am thankful for where I’m from and acknowledge the need to work together to make Watertown an even better place to live for our children. I would be incredibly grateful for the opportunity to give back to our schools. Whether your family has lived here for a week, 5 years (or 5 generations like mine), I am glad you are here. I hope you are as proud of your roots, wherever they may be, as I am of mine.
1. My maternal grandfather over 50 years ago in front of his sub shop on School Street, Jack & Mary's
2. Helping paint the top of the old bleachers at Victory field with my WHS senior class in 2003
3. A portrait of my paternal great-grandfather who immigrated from Greece to Watertown in the early 1900s
“Watertown Career Showcase”
August 20, 2021
I had the pleasure of meeting with Dr. Galdston today. I enjoyed having the opportunity to hear her insight on a great number of topics within our district and I also was able to share some of my visions for WPS. One of the ideas we discussed that I would love to have implemented in our schools is a Watertown Career Showcase. I envision it as being similar to a Career Day, but one in which we specifically bring back Watertown graduates to share about their experiences after graduating and how our schools prepared them for their careers. From my graduating class alone, we have a robotics engineer, a visual artist (who most recently contributed to Trolls: The Beat Goes On! by DreamWorks), multiple business owners, lawyers, doctors, teachers, first responders, magazine editors, chefs, real estate executives, accountants and many more. When you consider the decades worth of WPS graduates and the incredible ways they contribute to our community and the world, I think sharing their successes with current high students would be incredibly valuable!
A goal of my campaign is to increase confidence in the learning opportunities at our secondary level. Hearing the success stories firsthand from people who were once in the same seats as our current students would highlight the achievement of our alums, build pride in our schools and hopefully inspire our future graduates. It would also be instrumental to include middle schoolers who may be undecided about where to attend high school. With our state-of-the-art new high school being constructed in the coming years, there will soon be access to an even wider scope of educational experiences. The future is certainly bright for Watertown students!
If you are a WHS graduate and would be interested in appearing in such an event, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org or send a message through Facebook. I am compiling a list to be shared once this kind of event can be planned. Much of the district’s focus now is on reopening our schools as safely as possible and all of the protocols that need to be planned for in great detail, but a career showcase is something to look forward to in the future!
When there isn't just one "right" decision
August 17, 2021
As we approach the start of the new school year, I find myself reflecting on where we were a year ago at this time. The start of the new school year was quickly approaching and families had impossible decisions to make with a multitude of factors to consider. I respect every family’s individual choice for how their children attended school last year. I also have perspective on all of the learning models as our family participated in every option that was offered (virtual, hybrid, and in-person). What was right for our family in September changed in February and again in April. Both children completed the first half of the school year in virtual school. My husband, Ryan, works as a first responder in Watertown and like all essential workers, his profession comes with an inherent risk of exposure to COVID-19. It was all the risk our family decided we could take at the start of last school year with so much still unknown about the virus, especially given our daughter’s medical history with respiratory illnesses. And as it turned out, Ryan tested positive the day after Christmas.
He was less than two weeks away from his first dose of the vaccine when he received his COVID-19 diagnosis. The kids and I were all tested three times: the day following his positive result, five days after our last exposure, and another five days later (as recommended by the Town Nurse and our doctors) and thankfully we consistently received negative results. While the stretch of the eleven days that Ryan spent isolated from us was the most challenging obstacle our family faced in 2020, I choose to look back at that time and focus on the positives: the outpouring of support that we received, the resiliency of our children, the steadfast love and sacrifices that Ryan always makes for us, and the fact that he was able to make a full recovery. I appreciate all the items dropped off to our front porch (including many hot coffees, deli meats that I forgot to include in a Peapod order, prescriptions from Walgreens, a new puzzle and art supplies, Happy Meals, and New Year’s Eve noise makers and decorations). Our Cunniff principal checked in on us regularly during the vacation week, gauging our well-being and offering to prepare the kids’ classroom teachers for the news of our experience and how it may affect class discussions about vacation. Our entire “village” took care of us and I couldn’t be more grateful.
Using the same positive light, I believe our School Committee and district leadership did an exceptional job planning for an unprecedented school year, especially given the limited information and level of uncertainty we were all facing a year ago. The measures taken proved to be carefully planned and very effective as there were minimal outbreaks and almost no evidence of in-school transmission. Our district was also a pioneer in weekly pool testing, serving as a model that such a system can be implemented and make a difference. A large number of Cunniff families I’ve spoken with felt that the extra time students spent outdoors was an unexpected, yet tremendous, benefit of the safety protocols put into place.
Many agree that elementary learning was not designed for a virtual setting, but our teachers sure did rise to the challenge. I am grateful for the opportunity I had to be in a nearby room to help my six year old as needed during her time in virtual school as I was able to hear bits and pieces of her learning experience. We were so fortunate that she had the same incredibly enthusiastic and patient teacher for virtual Kindergarten that Will had for Pre-K at Cunniff. I think what impressed me the most is how her teacher created a true sense of community within a virtual setting. Emma genuinely views her former virtual classmates as her friends and her teacher went above and beyond to help build these relationships. He also made a point to get to know his students as individuals, which enabled him to keep a group of five and six year olds fully engaged and attentive virtually. Before the school year started, I was devastated that Emma wouldn’t be having the same experience Will had two years prior. Since then, I’ve come to understand that while they were different experiences, hers did not have to be any less meaningful or memorable thanks to everything her teacher was able to accomplish.
By the halfway mark of the school year in February, we had new factors to consider with Ryan being fully vaccinated and the mitigation protocols firmly in place at school. After discussing the options as a family, Emma was ready to rejoin her in-person kindergarten classmates in the hybrid model. Will chose to remain in virtual school at that time. His group of best friends were all in his class and he still had reservations about wearing a mask all day, not to mention he has always been a creature of habit. He was content and independent during his school days, but I checked on him occasionally and his teacher was always incredibly engaging and calming. She supported, encouraged and challenged Will in second grade in ways that I know he will always remember and appreciate. As a mother of a school-aged child herself, she genuinely connected with parents and continuously offered compassionate guidance and support.
In April (when the weekly schedule returned to five full days), Will weighed the options again and decided that he would finish the year in person with his sister. It would have been completely understandable for a transition to a new learning model in an unfamiliar building (Cunniff West) with new teachers and classmates to be an overwhelming experience for a six and eight year old, but Will and Emma’s new teachers made their transitions totally seamless. They provided my children with such warm welcomes and immediately made them feel like long standing members of their classroom communities, while also frequently checking in with us at home about their adjustment process. Bottom line, I cannot speak highly enough about our teachers across all three models and their tireless dedication to their students.
What our teachers were able to accomplish last year was awe-inspiring and a testament to the level of care, commitment and ingenuity that I’ve always admired in our faculty. What families did to support their children and our schools was also astonishing. I wholeheartedly respect families who advocated for a full return sooner, those who kept their children virtual for the entire year, and everybody in between. As we are about to enter a new school year still impacted by COVID-19, I am hopeful that we can collectively utilize what we learned last year and do everything possible to keep our students and staff safe while teaching and learning together.
If you are interested in reopening plans, COVID-19 recommedations, protocols and mitigation strategies in our district, please joing me in attending two important upcoming meetings. The Policy Subcommittee meets on Thursday, August 19th from 4:30-6pm and the full School Committee will convene on August 23 at 7pm.
The Zoom links are found at the bottom of the latest Superintendent’s update by clicking here.
Annual Superintendent's Evaluation by Watertown School Committee
August 10, 2021
One of the responsibilities of our School Committee is to evaluate the performance of the superintendent. The recent composite evaluation for Dr. Galdston, including a selection of undisclosed comments from individual members, can be seen here.
Antiracist education and our Watertown Police Department: Why I’m a supporter of both
August 8, 2021
So far in this campaign, I’ve been called “effervescent” and “optimistic” and “refreshing” and I'm really appreciative of the positive feedback. At the same time, I do not want to come across as naive. Our society is at a pivotal crossroads and I want to address two important topics that can be considered divisive or polarizing.
My children, Will and Emma, are two of many in our community with family members and friends who have dedicated their careers to serving and protecting Watertown. I have a profound respect for the sacrifices and level of professionalism these men and women display on a daily basis. The members of our Watertown Police Department, their service to our community, and their efforts in creating a positive relationship with our schools should be held in the highest regard. From their partnership in Kingian Nonviolence training to the role of our School Resource Officers and the countless pandemic birthday parades organized by Officer Kelley and her team, I am thankful for all of the admirable ways our police department contributes to our school district and community.
I also applaud Watertown for striving to become an antiracist school district. The hiring of a Director of Diversity, Equity, Inclusion & Belonging was a great decision and the external equity audit being conducted this year is another necessary step. In 2019-2020, our schools further diversified classroom libraries with books containing a range of perspectives, characters, authors and topics. Professional Development focused on antiracist education and the creation of Diversity Councils at each school are other areas that our district has moved forward in recent years. These efforts are commendable, but they’re only just the beginning. As a citizen of this community, a parent of young children and a School Committee member should I be elected, I am absolutely committed to continuing the important work of combating systemic racism while promoting equity in our schools. It is essential that we do everything it takes to ensure that all of our students feel valued and supported.
The last two paragraphs are not mutually exclusive. Our schools can implement learning opportunities that are developmentally appropriate about racism, racial identity, and the ways these forces shape our society while also continuing to have a collaborative and positive relationship with our police department. I believe we should emphasize to our children that we all, as a community, can be agents of change and healing. By treating each other with respect, honor and compassion, we are creating a safer and healthier place to live, learn and grow.
Truthfully, I could not be more aligned with the Watertown School Committee’s statement from March 9, 2021. I remember the deep exhale I was able to take after reading it in full. These words are something I would have been proud to sign my name to and I thank our School Committee members for their thoughtfulness and impartiality in releasing this statement: https://www.smore.com/xqtp3-statement-from-the-school-committee?ref=email-content#w-8459064263
Systematic racism exists in Watertown just as it exists everywhere and in every institution. In discussions we’ve had with our children, they were both shocked to learn that segregation existed in schools when their grandparents were born. We’ve come a long way, but we have a long way to go. I believe in Watertown and our ability to work together for a bright and successful future ahead.
A message from your friendly, neighborhood PTO Co-President
August 4, 2021
I’ve enjoyed my involvement with the Cunniff PTO over the last four years, having joined when Will started Pre-K in September 2017. I quickly jumped aboard as Secretary the following year and served for two years before being elected as Co-President in June 2020. Being an active member of the PTO has given me an inside look at our elementary school and I’ve had the pleasure of building many wonderful relationships with staff, students and families. Ms. Ciarlone starts every meeting with a comprehensive update of what’s happening at the Cunniff and also provides district-level news. We spend the remaining time brainstorming ways we can support and celebrate all of our amazing teachers and children.
As a Cunniff alum myself, I couldn’t wait to get started and I’ve had an incredibly positive experience with the PTO. However, from having discussions within the school community, I’ve learned that potential new members can sometimes feel hesitant to join. I want to take this opportunity to share as a PTO officer that seeing new faces in attendance at our monthly meetings is one of my favorite parts of being involved with the organization. Whether you're new to the school and hoping to connect with other families or a veteran parent who wants to learn more, all parents and guardians are invited to attend and every voice is valued and respected. Our aim is to create a strong sense of community and our best work is always a collaboration of different minds working toward the common goal of enhancing the academic and social experience of our students. I also want to dispel any myth that you are going to get roped into hosting the book fair if you show up to a meeting!! Although the energy of the book fair and the kids’ excitement over books is hard to beat if you ask me! At the same time, if leading an event or fundraiser is something that interests you, there are amazing support systems built at every school so you would have plenty of helping hands at your disposal.
I would encourage any parent or guardian who is interested to attend a PTO meeting to hear firsthand what is happening at your child’s school and take it from there! At Cunniff, we are looking forward to resuming our meetings in person this year while also providing access via Zoom for anyone who might prefer that option. Please feel free to reach out if you have any questions and I’m more than happy to help connect you with your school’s PTO/PTSO at WHS. Thanks for reading!
July 28, 2021
I recently took time to reflect on my years as a WPS student and I came up with a list of some of my favorite memories. By sharing these experiences, it is my hope that you can learn more about me as a person and why I care so deeply about this community and our schools!
Cunniff Elementary School:
Kindergarten with Mrs. Boyd - The K classroom at Cunniff in the early 90s was EPIC! Fun fact: Recent Cunniff families and students know it as Ms. Lucas' former art room. I remember the classroom had three distinct sections separated with room dividers and there were endless opportunities for multi-sensory learning through play. I still have my writing journal for inventive spelling that I've shared with my own children. Also, I won a district-wide contest and my drawing was used as posters all around town for the WPS Art Show held at the Watertown Mall.
1st grade with Mrs. Tavitian - Learning how to read was so special and having the opportunity to later teach first graders to do the same was truly magical. It was so fulfilling to witness children come to understand written language as they took solid steps toward fluid reading.
2nd grade with Mrs. Mandile - Two words: Worldly Wise! I used to ask for extra copies of workbooks to play “school” at home! I can also remember doing phonics screenings individually in the hallway with Mrs. Mandile.
3rd grade with Ms. Depeters - I was cast as "Ms. Jingle" (a teacher who was putting on a performance with her class and only spoke in rhyming monologues) in our holiday play. I still remember my opening monologue and I'm always happy to recite it so feel free to ask!! I also did a US Presidents report on Ulysses S. Grant and when I needed to come to school dressed as the part for the presentation, I shocked everyone by wearing a life size $50 bill!! I looked up to all of my teachers, but I had such a fondness for Ms. Depeters. I think she unknowingly helped shape me into the teacher I later became and I coincidentally ended up teaching third grade for a majority of my time as an educator. A few years ago, I received a message that meant the world to me from one of my former students and it also reminded me of how thankful I am for my own third grade teacher:
(P.S. Of course I remembered her!)
4th grade with Ms. Callahan - I can vividly picture Ms. Callahan's morning messages and how her handwriting always looked so beautiful on the CHALKBOARD. Education has come a long way with smart boards! I received mine through a grant that I wrote in 2010 and being able to incorporate it into my daily teaching was just as exciting and enjoyable for me as it was for my students!
5th grade with Ms. Hallal - So many memories from 5th grade, but I'm pretty confident that we had the most unique class pets of all time: cockroaches! I kid you not. We even made little obstacle courses for them on our tables using dictionaries. In my future classroom, I stuck with butterflies and ladybugs, but I utilized many of the same learning opportunities about life cycles, habitats and anatomy that I did in 5th grade. During this year, I was also published in Highlights Magazine for a poem I wrote called "Inside My Pocket" and I later used it as an anchor chart when teaching poetry to my students. They always got a kick out of the fact that it was something I wrote when I was younger!
Inside my pocket I store
a kangaroo and a wild boar
a cowboy hat and some buttons too
and a really old shoe.
In my pocket there's a slide
and a diving board that's very wide
thirty dimes, forty pennies
and my little brother Kenny.
In there's a 1995 Chevy
wouldn't you think my pocket's heavy?
Watertown Middle School:
6th grade - My homeroom teacher was Mrs. Donato and I couldn't have been more thankful for her warmth, support and encouragement in helping me transition to a new school with all new routines. I had my tonsils removed during sixth grade after years of recurrent strep throat. Mrs. Donato visited me during my recovery with homemade vanilla ice cream and a book on how to make friendship bracelets with supplies. It meant so much to me then and still does to this day. She always went above and beyond and she was a true gift to Watertown Public Schools! I'm so appreciative to see the same level of care and dedication from the many wonderful Watertown teachers my children have had so far.
7th grade - Ms. Lorigan stands out to me as someone who was born to be a teacher! I remember her Social Studies classes would absolutely fly by. She took the time to actively listen to all of her students and showed us that she cared about what we had to say. I felt so validated as a student and valued as a person before I could even put those feelings accurately into words. Meeting the social and emotional needs of students is so vital and I could always call on my experience with Ms. Lorigan to want to do the same for my own students, just as I plan to help ensure for all WPS students.
8th grade - I fell in love with Washington DC after our weeklong class trip to our nation's capital. Ryan and I visited again shortly after we got married and we look forward to taking our kids soon! I also remember how exciting it was to have classes in the newly constructed section of WMS as an 8th grader. I can't wait for so many WPS students to share that same experience with the impressive buildings being constructed in Watertown now and in the years to come.
Watertown High School:
9th grade - I was elected Secretary of the Class of 2003 as a freshman and served in that role all four years of high school. I loved being a part of student government and collaborating with my peers to help create meaningful and memorable experiences for our classmates. I also had the opportunity to co-host the Fine, Applied and Performing Arts Awards Ceremony at WHS as a freshman.
10th grade - I was one of two sophomores to make the Varsity Girls' basketball team (K&J!). Also, as a vegetarian since age 8, I decided to show up in full medical scrubs for fetal pig dissection day. Thankfully, I had the most patient, helpful and respectful lab partner ever!
11th grade - I was a member of Tri-Hi-Y beginning in junior year. Community service has always been something that is very important to me and I had plenty of opportunities to participate in events held by the Watertown Rotary Club with my dad having served as an active member for many years. I also volunteered to teach CCD to 6-7 year olds at St. Patrick's Parish as an 11th grader. Fun fact #2: We had our junior prom at the same venue that Ryan and I got married at in 2011!
12th grade - I conducted a field study on Canadian Geese at the Charles River in Environmental Biology with Mr. Wilson. I had the opportunity to present my findings at a science convention held for local high school students at Boston College and this experience cemented by desire to attend there. My family received my acceptance letter that spring and casually called me to join them downstairs in the kitchen. When I saw them all dressed in Eagles attire, it went without saying that I had been accepted and that day still stands as one of my favorite memories of all time! Fun Fact #3: I am likely one of a very small number of WHS graduates (if not the only one) who wrote two senior thesis papers. Completing one as a senior was a graduation requirement, but I was interested in taking both AP English and Humanities and the assignments were not the same for both courses. After conferring with the guidance department and leadership, I was permitted to use the same Virginia Woolf novels for both, but incorporated an analysis on related artwork for my Humanities project. It may go without saying that writing is one of my favorite pastimes so I didn't mind the extra work!