-By Cary Shuman
Town Council Vice President James Letterie knows where he’ll be next Thursday night (April 7): in attendance at the School Committee meeting or watching it live on WCAT.
Letterie said the decision that the School Committee members will make at that meeting – voting on the appointment of the next superintendent of schools – “is the most important decision that this town has made in the last year and will make for the next two years.
“It’s crucial to the development and the continued improvement of our school system and I think anybody who thinks it’s anything less than the most crucial decision we’ve made is not in tune with the magnitude of this vote – it’s by far the most important decision we’re going to make in the next couple of years.”
Letterie serves as vice-chairman of the superintendent of schools search committee. School Committee member Bill Holden is chairman of the seven-member committee.
“Bill did a tremendous job in leading us,” said Letterie. “We put forward four qualified applicants (out of 14 candidates). We interviewed eight candidates.”
Letterie said he was pleased with the number of candidates. “Waltham, which is a much larger community than Winthrop, had 20 candidates for its superintendent’s position,” said Letterie.
Letterie has been strong supporter of the schools during his tenure as a town councilor.
“Since I’ve been a councilor, I’ve said that the most important thing you judge a town by is its school system,” said Letterie. “Public health and public safety and our waterways are crucial to the town, but I think second to none is the educational system for the town.”
Letterie said the first thing people look at upon considering a move to Winthrop is the school system. “House values and the economy of the town are driven by the school system. We’re very fortunate that we have great kids in this town and you want them to be afforded the best education possible.”
Letterie feels that the new superintendent can be a “difference maker” in overseeing the educational experience for each student in the town.
“The next superintendent could be a difference maker,” he said. “The School Committee over the last year has offered the town a lot, with the free public kindergarten, consolidation, and the renovation of the high school which is on the burner now. They’ve made a lot of good steps. The School Committee has brought the school system where it could. Now you need a leader who’s going to take it and make some inroads and show some tangible results what we can be.”
Letterie said he often looks at the tablet outside the Cummings School [and formerly situated at the Willis School] that reads, ‘The future of our nation depends on its youth.’
“And it’s so true; the future of this town depends on its youth and we owe them nothing less than to have a first-class educational system,” said Letterie.