YOUR VIEW: Setting the record straight about the Alma/city of New Bedford agreement

Date Published: 
April 20, 2019
Author: 
Janice Baptist
News Type: 

As chairperson of the Alma del Mar Board of Trustees, and a proud, lifelong resident of New Bedford, I wish to set the record straight concerning the agreement our board entered into with Commissioner Jeff Riley, Superintendent Thomas Anderson, and Mayor Jon Mitchell.

With approval from the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Alma del Mar is poised to open in August a first-of-its-kind neighborhood enrolled Commonwealth Charter school that will eventually operate out of the district’s former Kempton elementary school building.

The primary purpose of this agreement is to create another high quality neighborhood public school in New Bedford. We have been met with an enthusiastic response from families who are excited about having their neighborhood school be an Alma school. Likewise, any families whose children are zoned to the new school who would like to opt out have the absolute right to do so. Our team has worked closely with their colleagues in the district to ensure that families in the new zone receive timely information about enrollment in the new school. Alongside the district, we will continue to strive to make sure all families have the information they need to be able to decide which educational setting is best for their child.

To be clear, Alma had no part in drawing the new school boundaries. Per our arrangement with the district, these were drawn by Superintendent Thomas Anderson and his team with an eye toward maximizing their cost savings by drawing down enrollment in selected schools, among other considerations. We applaud the superintendent’s effort in completing this complex work quickly.

Secondly, Alma del Mar is a public school that serves the community and is part of the public school ecosystem in New Bedford. Alma teachers are public school teachers. Alma scholars are public school students. The school follows all the same laws and regulations as all public schools in the commonwealth. Our school is overseen by a public board of trustees, a diverse group of volunteer public servants who bring an array of professional skills and experience toward governing the school.

Pending final approvals, we look forward to renovating and reviving a shuttered district school building, so that it can once again be a source of pride within the community. We also look forward to working with the community and listening to their needs and wants as we plan for a building that will serve area children, and that will be a potential hub for the Kempton neighborhood.

If we are to truly serve the children of New Bedford at the highest of levels, we must not only constantly hold up a mirror as adults and educators and ask “how can we do better?” but we must also model respect for one another and a commitment to the facts. We are here, at the table, committed to working alongside our fellow district colleagues. Let’s stop the education wars, and focus on the kids and families of New Bedford.