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Parents And Teachers Speak Out On Problems At Keith Middle School

Jon Faria/TSM
Jon Faria/TSM

Frustrations boiled over at Monday’s New Bedford School Committee Meeting as the crowd of more than 100 parents and teachers made their presence felt.

A number of parents, including David Goldman, spoke about concerns over their children’s safety at Keith and other New Bedford schools.

Goldman says administrators have denied the dangerous environment in Keith.

“If it’s not dangerous to other children, why do you need behavior councilors, why do you need to remove students, why do you have a bully hotline, why do you have city councilors calling for police presence or gang unit at a school? That sounds dangerous to me,” Goldman says.

Former teacher Carla Ares-Tedeschi says she resigned from Keith in 2015 because of the environment teachers and students are placed in, and teachers being asked to lie to parents about student safety in dangerously over-crowded classrooms.

She says a lack of action from administrators allowed a culture of violence to blossom at Keith. Ares-Tedeschi described teachers being called “F’ing N-words” and having books and desks thrown at them.

She says those same students returned to class.

According to one teacher who spoke, Keith isn’t the only New Bedford middle school with severe discipline problems. 7th-grade science teacher Brian Hancock says violence, students skipping class, and vandalism have escalated in the past several months at Roosevelt Middle School.

“Administration will tell you that conduct referrals have declined from previous years, but what they won’t tell you is how many of these referrals have been handed back to the educators in the building, being told to address it themselves,” says Hancock.

While there was plenty of parent outrage at Monday’s meeting, school officials did have a plan for Keith ready to present.

Keith’s principal, Paula Bailey, says a number of changes will be made in the school including harsher punishments for students who misbehave at Keith.

The middle school will also add more monitors to each floor, and restructure the school’s detention area, called the Success Room, for students taken out of regular classes.

Superintendent Pia Durkin says, “We’re talking about children’s lives who… need to make the right choices, and many of our students need to be taught how to make the right choices, and the consequences we have for that have to be held firm.”

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