New Bedford superintendent outlines turnaround plan for high sch - News, Weather and Classifieds for Southern New England

New Bedford superintendent outlines turnaround plan for high school

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NEW BEDFORD, Mass. -

The superintendent of New Bedford schools said Thursday that big changes are coming to the city's high school.

Dr. Pia Durkin said the changes might not be popular, but they need to happen.

"There is no reason why we will not be the best in the Commonwealth," the superintendent said.

Durkin made that statement of confidence inside a jam-packed classroom at New Bedford High School as she outlined the school's turnaround plan.

"I have to recognize this is a Level 4 school that for years did not serve all its children," Durkin said.

The school's Level 4 status means that students have chronically underperformed for a period of at least three years in a row. It's the lowest tier a school can reach before being forced into receivership at Level 5.

To accomplish her goal of bringing the school out of Level 4 status, Durkin laid out a four-point plan as follows:

1. Raise the quality of teaching

2. Increase learning time

3. Focus on family engagement

4. Use data-driven instruction

Included in these areas is an addition of 33 minutes to each student's school day, and a plan to replace about 29 percent of the school's teachers.

"This is a matter of looking for teachers and encouraging teachers to be here who have the commitment, the will and the skill to turn this around," Durkin said.

Overseeing those teachers will be a brand new leadership hierarchy, including the appointment of a headmaster, two principals with assistants -- one set for grades 9 and 10; the other for grades 11 and 12 -- a chief of teaching advancement, a chief of operations, and a success coordinator.

All of these positions will be created in the hope of creating accountability within the school's structure.

Parents hope the ideas breed success.

"Certainly things have to change. I just hope it can be done in a way that's sensitive to everybody involved, particularly with a focus on the students, obviously," said Elizabeth Blanchard of New Bedford.

Another informational meeting will be held at 6 p.m. Monday at New Bedford High School.

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