-By Cary Shuman
Town Council Vice President James Letterie knows where heâ€™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 â€“ voting on the appointment of the next superintendent of schools â€“ â€œis the most important decision that this town has made in the last year and will make for the next two years.
â€œItâ€™s crucial to the development and the continued improvement of our school system and I think anybody who thinks itâ€™s anything less than the most crucial decision weâ€™ve made is not in tune with the magnitude of this vote â€“ itâ€™s by far the most important decision weâ€™re going to make in the next couple of years.â€
Letterie serves as vice-chairman of the superintendent of schools search committee. School Committee member Bill Holden is chairman of the seven-member committee.
â€œBill did a tremendous job in leading us,â€ said Letterie. â€œWe put forward four qualified applicants (out of 14 candidates). We interviewed eight candidates.â€
Letterie said he was pleased with the number of candidates. â€œWaltham, which is a much larger community than Winthrop, had 20 candidates for its superintendentâ€™s position,â€ said Letterie.
Letterie has been strong supporter of the schools during his tenure as a town councilor.
â€œSince Iâ€™ve been a councilor, Iâ€™ve said that the most important thing you judge a town by is its school system,â€ said Letterie. â€œPublic 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.â€
Letterie said the first thing people look at upon considering a move to Winthrop is the school system. â€œHouse values and the economy of the town are driven by the school system. Weâ€™re very fortunate that we have great kids in this town and you want them to be afforded the best education possible.â€
Letterie feels that the new superintendent can be a â€œdifference makerâ€ in overseeing the educational experience for each student in the town.
â€œThe next superintendent could be a difference maker,â€ he said. â€œThe 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. Theyâ€™ve made a lot of good steps. The School Committee has brought the school system where it could. Now you need a leader whoâ€™s going to take it and make some inroads and show some tangible results what we can be.â€
Letterie said he often looks at the tablet outside the Cummings School [and formerly situated at the Willis School] that reads, â€˜The future of our nation depends on its youth.â€™
â€œAnd itâ€™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,â€ said Letterie.