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VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF THE WATERTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS

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 VOTE OF NO CONFIDENCE FOR THE SUPERINTENDENT OF WATERTOWN PUBLIC SCHOOLS 

To: Watertown School Committee and Town Council,

 We, the undersigned Parents of children who are attending or have attended Watertown Public Schools, and community members who share similar concerns, have composed this letter to express our dissatisfaction with the current superintendent, Jean Fitzgerald.


Based on the Superintendent’s Contract, the School Committee may terminate it “and dismiss the Superintendent at any time prior to the expiration of the Agreement for the following reasons:

I. Inefficiency, incompetence, incapacity, conduct unbecoming a Superintendent, insubordination, or other good cause. “Good Cause” shall mean grounds put forth by the Committee which are not arbitrary, irrational, unreasonable, in bad faith, or irrelevant to the sound operation of the school system.”


It is the petitioner's’ position that the Superintendent has acted inefficiently, incompetently, and with conduct unbecoming of a Superintendent.

 

Based on the performance and behavior of Superintendent Dr. Jean Fitzgerald, we, the undersigned, are asking for a “Vote of No Confidence” in Dr. Fitzgerald and her ability to successfully oversee the Watertown Public School system.  We understand the severity of this decision and did not arrive at it hastily.    

 

Watertown has always been a district to be proud of, one where decisions are made collaboratively with the best interest of our students in mind. In addition, we’ve been fortunate that the Watertown schools have experienced great vision from school principals and teachers who are empowered to act upon that vision.

 

However, throughout the past few school years there has been growing concern with Dr. Fitzgerald’s competency in her leadership role, specifically regarding trust, collaboration, decision making, strategic vision, communication and respect-- or lack thereof-- for parents and staff.  

 

Dr. Fitzgerald has exhibited lack of attention to, preparation for, or appropriate prioritizing of the academic requirements and interests of our entire student body, as well as failed to recognize and respect the expertise of the educational professionals in the district. The district has seen a disproportionately large number of central administration personnel leave unexpectedly and, at times, abruptly, which is an obvious indicator of poor leadership.

 

The community feels she is inconsistent in her application of rules, making many decisions on her own and with little community input, and she has displayed an ongoing lack of respect toward many of the parents who have involved themselves in our public educational system.  A school system cannot be run successfully with a one-way avenue of communication, nor without the input of those the system is serving.  Her lack of transparency creates distrust in her decisions as well as her intentions.

Even when input is sought, its usually due to a reactive decision made by Dr. Fitzgerald and there is a failure to follow through or a total disregard for the ideas of many; when communication occurs, it is too often delayed, incomplete and causes more questions and confusion.

Community wide morale is low; there is no confidence in Dr. Fitzgerald’s abilities as a leader nor are we confident she can provide a strategic 3 year vision for the Watertown educational system, and that the space and building issues we are facing are going to be decided upon in a way that will support the future of our educational system.


For these reasons stated, we the undersigned are voting “No Confidence” in Dr. Fitzgerald and now call on our elected representatives on School Committee to support our petition, and begin the process to remove Jean Fitzgerald from her position as Superintendent for Watertown Public Schools as per Section 21C(i) of the Superintendent’s Contract, detailed at the beginning of this petition.


Specifics:


As is evident throughout town, development of housing has grown substantially, Dr. Jean Fitzgerald has demonstrated incompetence in her failure to both plan for and resolve or provide viable solutions for the space concerns facing Watertown Public Schools, particularly regarding the Cunniff School and the overall growth of the elementary schools throughout her tenure. Dr. Fitzgerald was spoken to by parent groups multiple times regarding growth concerns, yet her lack of foresight and mismanagement allowed for severe overcrowding at the Cunniff, and the inability to find solutions that would be best for all students regarding the 2016/17 school year.  Her failures were clearly obvious in her lack of knowledge regarding Modular Classrooms, which had not been explored in-depth despite use in other districts to great effects, as well as her clear lack of knowledge about what was possible for the Phillips School or alternate sites to alleviate the Early Childhood and Kindergarten space concerns.


Dr. Fitzgerald frequently fails to return parent emails or phone calls. A total disregard for the community in which she serves.


The Superintendent refused to address many parental concerns during the Spring of 2016 regarding the multitude of space concerns in the district, including the movement of Kindergarten/Pre-K/Early Steps classrooms. The Superintendent failed to deliver a logical and reasonable plan prior to making several announcements to the community, that were then backtracked on.


A more recent example of poor communication and a reactionary response, was a letter sent to elementary school extended day families that outlined a major change to the care the families in that program would receive. There was no thought or input for or from the community, and the reason for the change wasn’t explained. Only after the community spoke up and voiced their outrage did a change get made.


Dr. Fitzgerald has at her disposal a multitude of professionals both from within Watertown Schools, and the community at large, that she fails to communicate or connect with for the betterment of our students. Many parents and community members have said they would have offered their services, from data gathering to architectural consulting, had Dr. Fitzgerald reached out or even simply communicated that there was a need. This lack of using the community to help the community shows blatant inefficiency as well as a lack of ability to plan and work with those around her.


She has committed to being at fundraisers to receive funds from Belmont Savings Bank for the Watertown Education Foundation, and then been a no-show (to the point where fundraisers had to find alternate Town Council members to stand in for media photos).


During School Committee meetings Superintendent Fitzgerald has been visible seen by the public to:

1) pass notes to School Committee members that are unexplained

2) text on her phone throughout the meeting

3)roll her eyes or otherwise disrespect members of the School Committee and even parents who raised valid concerns and questions

4)have sidebar conversations with School Committee members during the meeting


This unprofessional behavior is not how Watertown should be represented in the highest educational position and clearly demonstrates conduct unbecoming of a Superintendent.


The Watertown Education Foundation has consistently raised money (over $150,000 over the last 5+years) and have met with the Superintendent on a number of occasions to discuss large scope purchases/initiatives that could be done in conjunction with the central office of Watertown Public Schools,  and there has never been any follow up from Superintendent Fitzgerald, leading to stagnant ideas and wasted opportunity.


Dr. Fitzgerald has little relationship with the elementary leadership groups (PTO & Site Council) at the preschool or elementary level; this past year meetings at central office were often cancelled last minute, not scheduled, or she is unable to attend and thus not able to hear first-hand from these leadership groups what is going on within the elementary community.


This petition has clearly proven the inefficiency, incompetence, and conducted unbecoming of a Superintendent by Dr. Jean Fitzgerald. We, the concerned citizens of Watertown vote No Confidence in her continued leadership, and call on the School Committee of Watertown to exercise Section 21C(i) of the Superintendent’s Contract, and remove her for cause.



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