Success on the Horizon: Turnaround at New Bedford Public Schools (MA)
On November 16, 2017, shortly following the November 7th elections, Superintendent Pia Durkin submitted her resignation letter. Durkin cited “major philosophical differences” with incoming as well as some current school committee members, and announced she will be leaving the district on June 30, 2018.
Durkin assumed the superintendency in July 2013 when New Bedford Public Schools had been under state watch for two years and showing little sign of improvement. Under her leadership, the district created and adhered to a rigorous Accelerated Improvement Plan focused on improving teaching and learning. This work over the past four years resulted in New Bedford Public Schools being released from state monitoring in July. In response to learning of Durkin’s resignation, Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner of Massachusetts’ Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), stated, “As we noted this past July when we released the district from monitoring, New Bedford Public Schools has made great strides under her leadership to address systemic concerns and improve the quality of teaching and learning across the district. Dr. Durkin deserves significant credit for leading this turnaround effort and for maintaining a consistent focus on what is best for the students of New Bedford. District turnaround work involves frank discussions and hard and sometimes unpopular decisions. I sincerely hope that the district continues the work Dr. Durkin started to provide all New Bedford students with the education and opportunities they deserve.”
More information is available at the following:
- Voters re-elect incumbent and 2 new School Committee members, SouthCoast Today, November 7, 2017.
- John Oliveira ordered to stay off New Bedford school property, SouthCoast Today, November 16, 2017.
- Superintendent of New Bedford Schools Pia Durkin resignation letter, New Bedford Guide, November 16, 2017.
- Four candidates vie for three seats on New Bedford School Committee, SouthCoast Today, October 28, 2017.
Back in May 2011, the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) had made the decision to designate New Bedford Public Schools a Level 4 or “Underperforming” district, triggering state monitoring. Under the leadership of Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin, the district has since been working tirelessly to bring about turnaround.
In July 2017, the district achieved a milestone when it received the exciting news that it would be released from monitoring. While there is still a long way to go and not all academic indicators are yet trending upward, the sense of progress is real to DESE as well as to all those in the district.
In these video interviews, Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin and Deputy Superintendent Dr. Jason DeFalco share important insights and lessons learned from the district's turnaround efforts.
To learn more about New Bedford Public Schools' turnaround efforts, check out the following resources:
- Case study: Focus and Persistence Change the Course: Turnaround at New Bedford Public Schools (MA), District Management Journal, Vol. 19, 28-39.
- Commentary: Changing the Course: Reflections on Turnaround at New Bedford Public Schools (MA), District Management Journal, Vol. 19, 40-48.
- Follow-up case study: Success on the Horizon: Turnaround at New Bedford Public Schools (MA), District Management Journal, Vol. 22, 36-45.