To the editor: Watertown Public Schools need to hire 32 additional full-time equivalent teachers and a business manager to meet the basic requirements of educating our 2,700+ students. This means we need an increase of about $6m to the Town’s appropriation for education. Research shows that small class sizes lead to student achievement. Yet even before the economic downturn of 2008, elementary school enrollments in Watertown were increasing while the number of teachers decreased. Our student-teacher ratio average of 16 looks good on paper, but Watertown has an unusually high proportion of special needs students which skew the statistics. We actually have elementary class sizes ranging from five to 29. Both our special needs and our general education programs require additional teachers. The superintendent’s request to hire more teachers covers only the basic needs of the schools. To continue on the current path, without increasing the education budget, means our programs will deteriorate and our children will fall behind.
Improving the schools is in the interest of all who live in Watertown, whether they have children in schools or not. Studies show close relationships between strong schools and flourishing communities. As the economy continues to improve, Watertown should thrive. Investment in our schools should be an integral part of our long-term plan for the town. Moreover, excellent education fosters the good citizenship that makes democracy work. Watertown is rich in diversity and the teachers we have do excellent work given our limited resources. To sustain our strength as a community, our town leaders must find ways to support education and build the Watertown school system, for our children now enrolled, and for the many more who will attend Watertown schools in the future.
Rebecca Grow 4 Gay Road Watertown