New Bedford School Superintendent Pia Durkin informed New Bedford High School educators just before winter break that she intends to implement a school “turnaround plan” under which all staff will be required to reapply for their jobs and that at least 50 percent of them will not be rehired.
This announcement sent shock waves throughout the district. NBHS has been designated a Level 4 school and therefore is subject to school improvement interventions under state and federal laws and regulations. In order to be eligible for federal funds to support a school improvement plan, a district must choose from one of four redesign strategies. However, of the four redesign strategies available, the “turnaround” model that requires changing half the staff is the most drastic. Based on the experience of the other Level 4 schools in the state, the more collaborative “transformation” model has a greater track record of success.
The district began negotiating with the New Bedford Educators Association over the impact of the proposed changes on January 7.
The NBEA and the Massachusetts Teachers Association both strongly oppose the involuntary dismissal of half the staff and are urging district administrators and the political leaders in New Bedford to reconsider their decision. The NBEA is asking MTA members to attend a rally on January 17, at 3:30 p.m., at New Bedford City Hall to support NBHS teachers and protest the mass dismissal of staff, which threatens to disrupt the education of high school students as well as the livelihood of educators.
Below is a statement on this issue that we released today.
The MTA strongly opposes school turnaround models that rely on the forced turnover of large numbers of staff. These strategies are disruptive to the lives of educators as well as to the students and communities they serve. The negative impact on the morale of educators in the district from such an action would greatly impair the district’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified educators in the future and would lead to an atmosphere of fear, anger, sadness and distrust for years to come.
The MTA believes that a far better way to serve NBHS students is for organizations representing educators, administrators, parents, students, business and community leaders to sit down together and work on a school improvement plan that:
• is based on a shared vision of success and interventions and strategies supported by solid educational research;
• provides consistent district and school-based leadership;
• builds on the strengths of the school and community; and
• provides supports, resources and professional development where there are deficiencies.
For this reason, we call upon the administration of the New Bedford Public Schools and the city’s political leadership to rescind their decision to involuntarily dismiss all of the NBHS staff and require them to reapply.
We ask that the district leadership meet with the union leadership and educators at the high school immediately to construct a meaningful plan with measurable improvement goals. This plan should identify specific resources and supports to meet these goals.
NBHS educators have long worked very hard to provide their students with a quality education despite working under five superintendents in six years. They welcome new strategies to improve the academic achievement, graduation rates and social and emotional health of their students. If the educators and administrators of New Bedford High School are committed to the implementation of a collaboratively developed strategic turnaround plan, then the educators and administrators should be permitted to remain working at the newly designed High School.
The MTA believes that this approach has the greatest likelihood of improving student success through a process that can be supported by all parties involved.