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:
  • 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.

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.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

does anyone ever notice how much she says "I"?

Anonymous said...

There is no I in team! How about discipline and consequences?

Anonymous said...

Do I sense a kinder, gentler approach here? Perhaps the outcry of dedicated teachers, the Massachusetts Teacher of the Year, and ordinary citizens may have finally penetrated the iron maiden?

Anonymous said...

This is a silent state takeover. OUTSOURCING!

FYI: Deval Patrick took a nice stroll with Jon Mitchell yesterday along the waterfront to discuss more trees. This is not an election year.

Dirty politics.

Anonymous said...

My team and I will watch you like hawks. If you step out of line, severe consequences await you. It is my way or the highway. My wrath is terrifying. These are promises I can keep. It's all about the students.

Anonymous said...

This nicey, nice letter is to counteract the vote of no confidence. PIA has the money and the power.

Anonymous said...

Pia, were you proud when you tried to cover up a rape at one of your schools in Attleboro?

Anonymous said...

You sit in your ivory tower and spout rhetoric. You have no idea from up there the challenges teachers and students face. Let's see how well your TFA 23 year olds fare. Good luck with that.

Anonymous said...

Dr. Durkin decides to finally speak on her own behalf instead of have her Unger do it for her. Let's examine her statements shall we.....
" 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."
*These are not OUR goals and never would have been OUR goals....we were told that our goals on our evaluations had to be the 40% decrease of NI/Warning.

"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..."
*We all know that the statement of providing a safe school is not true....teachers are being assaulted ALL the time, yes all the time but the public is turning a blind eye on the truth because the paper loves to spin the stories of violence and make it sound like teachers are whining....chair throwing, hair pulling and dragging, garbage barrels hitting teachers in the head, PREGNANT teacher punched in the stomach-yes PREGNANT, etc. As far as professional development, we have not been offered as of yet any professional development, out of the required by contract days. As far as students graduating college ready thats is an ambitious goal and a good one but not all kids WANT to go to college or DO, there's nothing wrong with that. The problem with not going to college now is that this city doesn't have the job market like it did long ago. Factories are becoming a thing of the past. The only job market out there for kids that do not go to college is in the food industry. Don't misunderstand me, there's nothing wrong with that. One can make a wonderful living in that field.

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.
*Parker School MET all of their targets last year on MCAS. Why are they labeled a level 5? They MET their targets without all the extra $$ and longer day and the resource center. That speaks volumes about the teachers that made it happen, but you don't hear about that in the paper.
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.
*Student-focused budget? Is this a joke? Out of that money, how much is going towards resources? We are getting a much needed literacy program but what about computers, math books? A lot of that money in the "student-focused" budget is going towards all the administrative jobs she created when she came here. The positions she is created at schools like ELL teachers, which would not be necessary if she left the SEI program as it was.

The public needs to understand that teachers are not whining or complaining to save their jobs, we are here for the students. Those are the ones that are getting the crap end of the stick. Teachers are being evaluated based off of one test and Unger and every other Pia supporter thinks that's ok? When the scores don't show growth this year for the district, Unger are you ready to trash talk the superintendent? The blame should fall to her since she is our almighty leader.

Anonymous said...

I love all the teams and committees that provide input . Input means say yes because honesty will get you ridicule and punishment by the "I" factor . There's one way out of this and it's from parents. The union has been crushed and the leadership is useless . A strong coalition of well spoken parents can make enormous change . Contact your PTO's. gather the leaders and get them to gather, communicate and coalesce using social media to make profound statements . An election is coming .

Anonymous said...

When is the money finally going to go into the classrooms and not the pockets of administrators,principals and their friends.....

Anonymous said...

Throwing ELL students in regular education classrooms without adequate support for success is similar to identifying children with special needs who fall in the 8th to 16th percentile and stating they do not qualify for services. This creates a divided school system which excludes these two groups of learners. In essence, we are returning to the days of the one room schoolhouse ... Not because it is better for children but because it is better for the city's budget. Well, remember the old adage "you get what you pay for!" These children represent the future of this city! Ignorant decisions made today will adversely affect the majority tomorrow. ....legislators need to closely monitor how every dime is spent in NB to ensure that all students have the right to a quality public education. ...any less is unconsionable"

Anonymous said...

Sounds like pure propaganda as usual. History will tell the story; our suffering and loss will be remembered as Durkin's damage is done.

Anonymous said...

Can we say "Spin City"?

Anonymous said...

Durkin is not softening. It is a PR tactic. First impressions say a lot about a person. Her actions left negative impacts.

Anonymous said...

Isn't her statement ironic and a little too late?
-distributing reapplication packets just before Christmas break
-forcing teachers to retire or resign
-parents posting pia refused to communicate with them
-low turnout of parents
-retaliating against Joanne
-interfering with grievance process
-refusing to collaborate with teachers
-hiring minions who are loyal only to her
-rerouting reference calls to Bradshaw with directive to speak "off the record" about anyone who refused to support her
-lies and covers, lack of transparency
-anti-union
-altering data to suit her purpose
-divide and conquer
-recycling rejects and incompetents: watch former headmaster reappear in alternative school
-strategicly inserting spies
- teachers from Attleboro posting testimonials to need their warnings
-more to come

Gen Eric said...

What happens if you "outcry" in a jungle?

The pia-redators find you.

Anonymous said...

what drew her to new bedford was being terminated from her past job!

Anonymous said...

Thank you, well said.

Anonymous said...

Attleboro school system...remember that Pia?

Anonymous said...

Any change, even positive change, can be stressful, uncomfortable, and difficult. It should never be "terrifying". Terror = trauma. Terror is the stuff of abuse, natural disasters, or any situation where a person experiences or witnesses a situation where they believe they or others will come to irreparable harm. That Dr. Durkin would say that it is ok for teachers to find the changes "terrifying", disturbs me greatly. How is this ok?

Anonymous said...

The Egyptian pyramids are the historical legacy of ancient rulers. At what cost to humanity?
The New Bedford School System may make history. Like the pyramids, it will be pretty on the outside with alot of dead things on the inside. What will it cost our teachers and students?

Anonymous said...

Did anyone get a letter or greeting or did we get a mass emailing that I missed for Teacher Appreciation Week from the superintendent?

Anonymous said...

A monkey could fix the issues with 3 million more dollars

Anonymous said...

Pia Durkin is an OPPORTUNIST and saw New Bedford as vulnerable, desperate, and ripe for the picking. That is what drew her here along with being fired from Attleboro. This is not a long-term investment. It is an increase in her pension.

Anonymous said...

How is this OK?? You're in New Bedford; everything's OK here!!

Anonymous said...

The use of the word terrifying is alarming. I agree with the blogger who first noted it. This is not acceptable behavior from a superintendent. Heed the warnings. Get rid of Pia Durkin.

Anonymous said...

What drew Pia to NB was the fantastic pension she will be receiving if she last the three years.

Her statement at the beginning is crap!

Pia could care less about the students, teachers, paras, and support staff. It is all about Pia and what is in it for Pia.

Anonymous said...

Look, We all want to get rid of Pia. It will not happen until her third year is over. She's not from around here, but make no mistake, she's been chosen by the state. The SC and mayor had NO choice!!

Anonymous said...

There is always a choice. They chose not to do the right thing and remove the brutal Pia Durkin. It is the easy choice for them to do nothing. Shame on them all for not opting for a democracy. Power, money, dirty politics, corruption and greed trump integrity.

Anonymous said...

Give me a break! You came to NB for the nice pay check and because you got booted from Attleboro! You could care less about the people who work for you! YOU are such a hypocrite!

Anonymous said...

Infamous administrators have a limited supply of districts. What others have rejected are accepted in NBPS.

Anonymous said...

hey maybe mark montiguny could get us all jobs in the probation department... or perhaps we are too qualified.

Anonymous said...

Hey leave Mark alone it's hard to get jobs for unqualified girls impersonating girlfriends. How many back is this one? He really did hit the Geographic lottery. This city by the sea lets crap rise to the surface

Anonymous said...

Durkin is full of crap. She was drawn here out of desperation for employment. She should have applied out-of-state where nobody knows her name. She is not wanted or respected here.

Anonymous said...

It's just great when you work your so hard for this district and then some bully comes in and tells you," I don't know if you will have your job". Really! I would take that as a threat and intimidation move-and we are suppose respect his person? Why?

Anonymous said...

TFA!! What a joke! Let Buffy and Tad try their teaching skills at NBHS! This should be amusing! You are on your own!

Anonymous said...

Or someone who never takes a day off, works after 5 pm most days, weekends helping peers is suddenly incompetent!

Anonymous said...

Not only was she ousted from Attleboro, she was also asked to leave halfway into the school year from Newport Schools.
She applied for jobs in the Boston area, and when a person in the know heard about it, his reply was, "People are still actually hiring her???"

Anonymous said...

This information, along with everything else we know about Durkin, will help our cause to remove her. City Councilors should be privvy to this and asked to block or deny any and all schemes relating to superintendent, mayor, and SC. It is a proven fact that students don't learn from teachers they don't like or trust. Durkin is a destructive force.

Anonymous said...

New Bedford was "set up" to get Pia, the reject! Nice, huh? That's the thanks the teachers get in this district for all the hard work we do!

Anonymous said...

I do not believe the city taxpayers should pay more for a school budget that is bloated with items no teacher would put first on the list for what matters for students.

Ask yourself what a "good" school is. If you really believe it is one where testing companies can sell their testing resources and their Common Core Pre-scripted reading programs(that align to the test they created)and where reformy job titles are abundant----I guess we will have a few "good" schools with "good" data.

Anonymous said...

How much $ will Mitchell Chester make out of this deal?

Anonymous said...

The budget is going to pay for her bloated , over paid administrative cronies...period. The teachers won't see this "money" put to good use in their classrooms. I am a parent , I have 3 children in this system. I am pulling them out. I met Pia and she was rude, impatient and self serving. NOT my idea of a leader.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait for mayor McCheese's term to BE OVER!!!!!

Anonymous said...

Now, after a year of abuse, we are asked to submit stories of success in our district? Any teacher that makes this last ditch effort to help Pia save face is getting used. If you want to write 300 words about NBPS save it for a letter to the paper or this blog.

Anonymous said...

Leave it to New Bedford to hire this retread. People, you can do better. You don't need this abuse. I left. Run, don't walk from NBPS. There are other school systems with actual leaders who treat their Teachers with courtesy and respect. Wake up.

Anonymous said...

A nice fat pay check brought Pia to New Bedford. Attleboro booted her out of their district. Why oh why do we always hire the used up hacks? I am a parent and I pulled my 2 children out of this school district because of this woman's policies. I don't want my children to be exposed to violence and bullying especially when the teacher's hands are tied! It's just crazy! No way to have to teach!