by Dr. Alison Villanueva, Superintendent of Schools: Thinking About the Next School Year

Dr. Alison Villanueva

You may have heard the saying, “A rising tide lifts all boats” or perhaps you can visualize boats of all different sizes, shapes and locations rising up as the water level increases. 

The image reminds me that if I’m in the boat in the shallowest water, in relation to the other boats, I’m still in the same place. In order for me to surpass the other boats or for me to get ahead, I need to run faster or I need to paddle harder. In short, I need to double my pace to get to where I’m going.

With only six weeks of school remaining, districts around the nation have already started to think about what next year will look and feel like for educators, students and families. 

Words like, learning loss, remediation, or they’re behind, are easy to fall back on in many discussions. 

And perhaps it’s easiest to fall back on these words because they’re the most comfortable to enact when it comes time to start ‘doing’ something to address all that we’ve experienced in the past year. 

Going back to the way things always were to fill in gaps or re-teach is simple enough in the sense that nothing new must be built or nothing surprising will come of looking into the past of what was ‘missed.’ 

Looking back to fill gaps is one thing, but looking back to see where we can build upon new ideas; end antiquated inefficient practices; and harness moments without answers by designing possible solutions; is a totally different way of capitalizing on looking back to build the future.

Not surprisingly, in other discussions there is vision and inspiration in words like accelerate, forward movement, bold innovation, and future design that can easily make one sweat a little. 

The sheer act of thinking about the effort and work that goes into doing anything that requires the level of inertia to move a large complex organization like a school district can be an intimidating task for the strongest at heart. 

Like the boat at the start, it had to run faster, paddle harder, essentially doubling it’s output. (This definitely ends with sweat involved!)

But in this pivotal moment, where school leaders and educators have a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity (after a once in a lifetime pandemic) to envision the possibilities for next year, the Watertown Public Schools are ready to be inspired and to begin thinking about what can ‘be’ for next year. 

This is the time, where the people of our district take the motion to step outside of comfort zones to re-imagine not only what we need for next year, but what we believe matters. 

Because what matters is what fortifies and positively impacts a student’s experience each day.

Keeping this ship steady is going to be key. 

With vaccination rates increasing, a tremendous yearning to return to normal life, and a thin layer of Covid fatigue in all of our lives, some may think that we are in the homestretch, but we’re not, yet! 

Rather, this is where the team is called upon to step up and shine. 

This is where our schools, our community partners, families, and supporters rally. 

This is where we come on out to vote for a school budget that will be the foundation for our children next year and years to come. 

And this is the moment where we position ourselves and get ready to sweat together because we have chosen to be inspired by words like accelerate and forward movement.

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