Thursday, January 9, 2014

Dr. Durkin's plan doesn't make sense.

I couldn't believe my ears at the December School Committee meeting when Superintendent Durkin announced that every teacher at the New Bedford High School was going to have to reapply for their job and that only half of the faculty would be returning.  This plan just doesn't make any sense as 93 percent of the faculty members there are proficient as measured by the new DESE approved evaluation instrument.  Replacing half of the teaching staff, in my opinion, will put the school into an accelerated tail spin downwards. 

The major problems which are never brought to light by the Superintendent, Mayor, School Committee, and administration are the students’ not being prepared for class and tests;  refusing to do the work; cutting class; being disruptive; fighting; bullying; abusive language; lack of respect; walking out of class without permission; leaving school without permission; and lack of discipline.  Our teachers at the high school, as well as throughout the district, need and should receive total support from the administration.  Teachers are not writing conduct cards for a course in penmanship!  I know as I processed conduct cards for 10 years during my teaching career at the high school.  Every student at the high school receives a “Student Handbook” that is also found online via the New Bedford Public School’s website on the NBHS drop down menu; therefore, all students need to be accountable for their actions.  Without strong discipline, there will be no academic success.  These newly hired faculty members to the high school will be in for a rude awakening as to how disruptive and intimidating some of the students are.  Just a reminder, three-fourths of the student population, some of whom are out of control, will be returning along with a freshmen class in which there are some troublesome students.  The month of September at the high school, during my 31 years of teaching there, was a very challenging time with students getting to know the building, their schedule, schedule changes, etc.  Can you just imagine the turmoil this coming fall with half of faculty being replaced and a freshmen class entering the building? 

New Bedford is unique compared to some other cities throughout the Commonwealth in that it only has one public high school.  To the Superintendent, Mayor, and members of the School Committee, here are some suggestions to consider for turning around the high school:

New Bedford is unique compared to some other cities throughout the Commonwealth in that it only has one public high school.  To the Superintendent, Mayor, and members of the School Committee, here are some suggestions to consider for turning around the high school:
  • ·        Why not try for a year or two going back to the original design of New Bedford High School which was four separate schools under one umbrella.  From reading the student enrollment statistics from the DESE, there were less than 2,800 students at the high school in the 2013 school year which would break down to approximately 700 students per house. 
    ·        Students would take their academic subject in their assigned house.
    ·        Certain sciences classes are located in the Core (B-Block); thus students from all houses would have to take those classes in the Core.
    ·        Classes in occupational, technology, music, art, JROTC, gym, and pool would, because of the layout of the school, be taken those classes in their respective locations.
    ·        Strict discipline.  Administration needs to backup the teachers.  All students are given a Student Handbook.  They all should know the rules and consequences for their actions.  There are no excuses for poor behavior!
    ·        Return to the regular class schedule that was in place prior to blocking scheduling would, in my opinion, be more beneficial to the students.  For a few years I was a member of the Superintendent’s Roundtable.  One of the issues I addressed several times during these meetings was returning to the regular class schedule in which classes met daily for a shorter period of time over 180 days.
    ·        Re-introduce the Student Tutorial offering in which students who excelled in a subject would tutor a student one-on-one who was having difficulty with a subject.  This gave students having difficulty additional opportunity to get the extra help needed to grasp the concepts and pass the course. 

Seeing that the School Committee has a newly elected member, Josh Amaral who is recent graduate of New Bedford High, he should be given the opportunity to have input into the turnaround plan; therefore, this plan should, once again, appear on the School Committee agenda for the January meeting.  Mr. Amaral might have his own ideas for the turnaround plan as he is the only member of the School Committee who has been there on daily basis (four years) in the last 25 years.  Why not listen to what his suggestions may be?

New Bedford High School, as in the past, still graduates top quality students who are enrolled and accepted into prestigious universities in the country.  It was once one of the top high schools in the Commonwealth and won the national “Excellence in Education” award.  It can, with everyone working together, return to its days of academic excellence.  Why not try some of the ideas and proposals I have made here--it just might work.  There are no guarantees for either plan, but it is worth looking into some of these suggestions.

Carol Strupczewski
Retired teacher, taught at NBHS 31 years,

Former member of the Superintendent’s Roundtable and Environmental Science Curriculum


Anonymous said...

There is absolutely no reason why, if we put our differences aside and our collective heads together, we cannot make NBHS the school of excellence that it once was. Firing 50% of the staff is a counterproductive means to this end and questionable logic on the part of the mayor, superintendent and SC. Let's support each other en mass at City Hall on Friday, January 17th. Our solidarity is out strength.

Anonymous said...

Durkin doesn't need to make sense because the mayor has given her 100% support in all matters.

Anonymous said...

I've seen many new hires quit within their first week.