- We developed an ambitious District Accelerated Improvement Plan, which was readily approved by the state. We've set clear improvement targets for student performance in English Language Arts and mathematics, and they are part of everyone's goals — mine, as superintendent, the principals and our teachers.
- A bright future is in store for New Bedford High School, guided by a strong turnaround plan. Led by a dynamic administrative team and a committed group of teachers on the redesign team, the work has begun with a restructuring of the school to emphasize a safe, positive school culture. Students will graduate college- and career-ready, with a choice of five academic "majors," and teachers will receive extensive professional development to deliver quality instruction.
- Parker Elementary School also will get a fresh start, with a turnaround plan that emphasizes strong core instruction delivered during a longer school day and bolstered by an exciting summer program. New curriculum resources will include teacher training and support. A Family Resource Center will support Parker families in serving as partners in their children's learning and provide access to help from our community partner agencies.
- Last week, the School Committee approved a $116.4 million budget for next year, the largest and more student-focused ever. The budget submitted to the City Council maintains existing services and includes new investments, such as a district-wide elementary literacy program, a longer instructional day at the high school, and targeted improvements at state-identified "Level 3" schools to jumpstart their acceleration toward achievement gains.
Wednesday, May 14, 2014
It was that outcry for dramatic change that drew me to New Bedford .... By Dr. Pia Durkin
When the search for a new superintendent began last spring, the people of New Bedford declared that they would no longer settle for a mediocre school system. Parents and community leaders joined Mayor Mitchell and the School Committee to demand a new beginning, one that would ensure excellence for every child in every school.
It was that outcry for dramatic change that drew me to New Bedford. I was eager to work in a community ready to challenge the status quo, a community seeking a superintendent who would not simply tinker around the edges but who would take bold steps to provide an outstanding education in every school across the district.
Nearly one year later, I believe that collective voice is just as strong — if not stronger. Since I took office last July, I've spoken to countless parents, teachers, students and leaders from business, nonprofit and higher education institutions who know that we can do better, and who stand ready to do whatever it takes to achieve educational excellence.
This has been an important year for the New Bedford Public Schools. State officials have given us a rare opportunity to lead our own reform rather than delegating that responsibility to an outside party. Together, we have taken important steps in the right direction, including:
This is just the beginning. The fine work underway today is setting the stage for great things ahead. If we stay the course and refuse to be discouraged by setbacks and skeptics, we will achieve our shared goals.
As we institute significant reforms, we always must inform and engage those who are most involved and affected. Over the past year, we have worked hard to involve the school communities and ensure that the voices of parents and staff are heard in dozens of meetings and public hearings. Last week, we launched the district's first citywide survey of parents, staff and residents to measure perceptions and satisfaction with improvement efforts. Please share your perspectives at www.newbedfordschools.org.
It is particularly important to engage the teachers who work with students every day. In order to amplify their voices, I will create a Teacher Advisory Group, comprising a diverse cohort of teachers. I will meet with them regularly to discuss initiatives, receive feedback, and hear their concerns and ideas about our work together. When I arrived, I set a goal of being in the schools regularly. My team and I will continue to work side by side with principals and teachers and provide the supports they need.
With a clear mandate for dramatic improvement, it is easy to focus only on what is broken. Too often, the conversations about education reform emphasize what is not working and overlook tremendous achievements and signs of promise. The School Committee and I recognize that as a community, we can do more to identify, celebrate and replicate examples of top-notch teaching and learning.
To that end, we will begin by declaring June as "Celebrating Success Month." We want to hear from parents, teachers, students and community partners about the good news that too often goes unnoticed. Visit www.newbedfordschools.org to submit your "points of pride" from this school year, including stories about individual student achievements, young people who have overcome obstacles to achieve success, staff accomplishments, innovative instructional practices and other examples of great things happening in our schools.
Change is difficult. Change can be frustrating, unsettling, even terrifying. As we embark on these reforms, all of us will feel our lives disrupted and our comfort levels challenged. But we cannot lose sight of the ultimate goal: to give all of our children a first-rate public education that prepares them to achieve excellence. And in doing so, we will build a stronger New Bedford, a city built on a long tradition of pride, resilience and determination — a city that has made history before and will make history again.
Posted by NBEA