Letter to the Editor: Paul Miller

To the Editor, Strong schools are essential to enable our children to thrive in the 21st century. In the last decade alone, amazing technological and medical advances have permeated our lives and workplaces. We can barely imagine the transformations that will occur in our children’s lifetimes, from exciting new innovations, to global competition for employment. Graduates with the skills to work in high-tech fields will be well placed to play important roles in improving health and technology or in solving major problems, such as climate change. Language skills and cultural competency will enable young workers to manage increasingly diverse international workforces. While family and friends transfer some of these skills, strong schools are the mechanism that societies use to prepare children to flourish in this modern world.

Watertown is an ideal location for success in the 21st century. We are situated in one of the world’s preeminent regions for science and technology: according to various metrics, the Greater Boston area ranks no.1 in the U.S. for jobs in the life sciences, including pharmaceuticals, biotech, and medical devices; ranks top-5 in the U.S. for tech jobs in general; and ranks no.1 in the world for scientific research, thanks to our leading academic institutions. Additionally, Watertown is a vibrant hub of cultural diversity, providing students from pre-k to grade 12 opportunities to learn how to work well with others—at least 30 different languages are represented in the homes of our schoolchildren. However, a strong school system is essential for these advantages to truly benefit the next generation of Watertown.

In our children, the talent is there—5th grade Math league was no.1 in the country. In our teachers, the dedication is there—they work extra hours, offer numerous activities to help our kids learn and work to obtain external resources for our schools. These educators know how to help our children excel.

In our town, is the commitment there to give WPS what they need to succeed? Right now, the educators of Watertown are being denied in their request for full funding. They are not suggesting we build a state of the art $200 million school like Newton North. They merely want to ensure classes always have fewer than 25 students, so those students can receive the help they need to keep learning.

Elementary classrooms with 28 kids are not the only symptom of schools being lower than the “high priority” stated in Watertown’s budgets. I wonder if other town employees buy their own air conditioners to ensure a suitable working environment as teachers do? Or whether other town employees wait over 16 months for essential repairs after water damage, as occurred in our high school? For too long now the WPS Superintendent and Principals funding requests have gone unheeded. Let us—through our Town Council—put right this oversight and give our children the chance to reach their full potential and compete without disadvantage for 21st century jobs.

Dr. Paul Miller, Professor of Biology, Brandeis University Westminster Avenue