After 35 years in public education — working in urban school districts in Providence, Boston and New York — I've finally found my dream job right here in New Bedford. I find myself energized by the pace of this city, by the challenges of turning around an underperforming district and, most importantly, by the opportunity to make a real difference in the lives of deserving children and their families. There is much to love about New Bedford — a refurbished downtown, venues for the arts, tremendous history, an overriding sense of resiliency, and a stable resident population — but our school district struggles with poor student achievement, low morale and a widespread perception of educational inequity.
But I believe great accomplishments are born from great adversity, and this is a pivotal moment, a moment where we must take a hard look at our strengths and our weaknesses and put all our efforts behind improving education for all of New Bedford's children. With the principals, I will be reaching out to all our families. Our communication with the community will reinforce my commitment to transparency and collaboration so that schools may build trust with all our residents. With our district's achievement level ranking second to the bottom in the state, the time for debate has passed. We must act now with a sense of urgency.
It's not about ignoring past problems; it's about raising our collective consciousness so that we can lift ourselves up and move forward together. It's not about having a few good schools; it's about building a system of excellent schools. And it's not about being satisfied with only some succeeding; it's about celebrating when all of our children achieve and go on to futures they never imagined would be possible. We cannot discount New Bedford's fiscal difficulties or the impact that budgetary shortfalls have had on our friends' and families' lives. Nor should we expect to all agree on every issue. We can, however, build relationships and reframe the conversation, asking a simple yet crucial question: "Is this decision based on commitment to school excellence?" By keeping that at the top of our minds, we keep our focus where it belongs — on our children.
We undoubtedly have tough decisions to make and it is human nature to find discomfort in the unfamiliar. But we must not waver in our commitment to reform a school system that has nowhere to go but up. Research shows that the difference between successful and unsuccessful teachers is persistently staying the course, patiently believing that every child can achieve despite repeated frustrations and setbacks. Every adult working in our district — from custodian to principal — must communicate a high level of expectation for all 12,538 students, creating a welcoming, supportive environment most conducive to our teaching and learning agenda.
Toward that end, I will visit every classroom in every school by Thanksgiving. Inclusion is empowerment, and I'm committed to empowering all employees to do their jobs to the best of their abilities, taking pride and ownership in the quality of their work, while holding themselves accountable to colleagues and students. Empowerment also requires a solution-oriented mindset. Identifying a problem is easy; offering viable solutions is constructive. New Bedford Public Schools demands critical, strategic thinkers.
Every school district and its community are irrevocably connected, with each needing the full support of the other to truly thrive. Our city leaders know that New Bedford will not become the vibrant, desirable place we all know it can be without investing heavily in and effectively managing our schools. And vital to that effort is the participation of our community. We must collectively create a strategic vision and then engage in an ongoing conversation so everyone understands the direction we are going and that we expect children to learn every day in every classroom in every school.
Through my conversations with residents, I hope to understand the level of support needed to launch a large-scale reform agenda. I need to hear from all of you who live and work in New Bedford and who have so kindly welcomed me into your community.
Providing our children with a mediocre education is no longer acceptable. All students — regardless of what gifts and difficulties they bring into the classroom — will learn to high levels if given the opportunity and an adult who believes in them. Our children deserve to know they are worthy of this opportunity, that graduating from high school and going to college is not an "if" but a "when," that learning is a life-long process, and that successful careers are not only possible but expected.
It's time for all of us to demand excellence for New Bedford's children. And that effort starts now.
It's a new day for New Bedford.