City Council Demands Action on Continuous School Discipline Issues
The New Bedford City Council are no stranger to matters of school safety, and the topic spurred over an hour of passionate discussion during Thursday night's meeting.
The council originally took up a motion filed by Councilor at Large Brian Gomes seeking an increased police presence at Keith Middle School. The motion requests an additional School Resource Officer as well as periodic visits by the New Bedford Police Department Gang Unit "until the school is brought under control."
"I'm very troubled about what's happening in the city schools," Gomes said.
The item was met with overwhelming support by all councilors and sparked discussion about the numerous phone calls and e-mails they've all received.
"We have a problem here," said Councilor at Large Ian Abreu. "We have a serious, serious problem."
Abreu continued to share a story about a 12-year-old student that texted his father to dismiss him from Keith in the middle of the school day because he didn't feel safe in his own classroom.
"A day doesn't go by where I'm not on the phone with a parent, teacher, former teacher or substitute," said Councilor at Large Naomi Carney. "It's totally out of control."
Carney and other councilors suggested Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin's replacement of seasoned teachers with new personnel not familiar with the city's culture is contributing to the breakdown within the classroom.
"She's getting rid of people that have been in the school system for over 20 years and replacing them with other people that have no idea what's going on," Carney said.
The council also unanimously supported a related motion filed during the discussion by Ward 2 Councilor Steven Martins demanding a Special City Council Meeting with the School Committee.
School officials have previously turned down invitations to council meetings regarding school safety matters, but Martins expressed confidence they will show up this time.
"They might not show up, but at least our constituents will know...this council has tried every avenue" of communication, Martins said.
Disagreements have boiled over between the two governing bodies for the past few years, typically over jusridictional and spending issues.
The special meeting is expected to be scheduled for later this month and will be televised.