I am writing this in response to the School Committee member Joaquim “Jack” Livramento’s recent op-ed (“Your View: School Committee, superintendent not beholden to council,” June 24). He stated that he witnessed a verbal attack by New Bedford City Councilor Linda Morad at a meeting on June 18 against New Bedford Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin.
His issue was with Councilor Morad stating that Dr. Durkin had not appeared at the request of the City Council at a previous council meeting. She was asked to attend to answer questions that Ms. Morad or other councilors may have had. I remember the time that Dr. Durkin was “requested” to attend because councilors did have questions about the previously allocated funds as well as new funds being requested by the public schools.
So Mr. Livramento interprets the council request to attend by the city council as a “demand.” Right or wrong, Ms. Morad left the meeting on June 18 in anger at the lack of response by Dr. Durkin, as well as the School Committee. I’m not going to defend or criticize Ms. Morad’s response, but I certainly understand her frustration. Not only as an individual who follows the NBPS but also that of a taxpayer in New Bedford.
Here are some of my responses to Mr. Livramento’s “points of clarification”:
1. He is correct that Dr. Durkin was hired by the School Committee. Was this just at the recommendation of the School Committee, or with a strong recommendation by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and Mitchell Chester? Dr. Durkin attends City Council meetings if she is instructed to do so by the School Committee. Why would they not have instructed her to attend these meetings?
2. Mr. Livramento mentions the School Committee is responsible to the public, the citizens of New Bedford, the students, and the teachers, staff, and administrators who run the schools. Then why is it that the committee doesn’t listen to everyone? If their job is to run the schools, then why aren’t they listening to those who are working in these schools? He stated that the School Committee members are elected, not appointed. So they should always remember they were elected. They are responsible to all those persons who elected them.
3. When city councilors have questions relating to procedures in the public schools, Mr. Livramento wrote, questions should be referred to the School Committee, and the “responsible person” will address the question. For those who don’t know, any question or issue that a citizen of New Bedford has can be addressed in front of the School Committee. The problem is that the committee does not have to respond to a constituent’s question or issue. They get three minutes and then get no response. His comparison of a snow removal or pothole question does not relate in comparison to each other. This analogy is concerning a city service that needs to be addressed for either not being done or needing to be done.
The responsible person who would respond on behalf of the public schools would be the spokesperson for Dr. Durkin. These responses would all be preset. It’s the difficult questions that people don’t want to answer when there are no prepared responses.
Mr. Livramento stated that he wants respect. My mother had always taught me to treat others the way I would expect to be treated and I have always tried to live by this rule. We are all human and can never say that we are perfect. People respond with behaviors out of frustration and I am sure that not only Ms. Morad but the entire City Council is frustrated by Dr. Durkin’s lack of attendance, which by mr. Livramento’s own admission was at the request of the School Committee. Why would the committee not want Dr. Durkin to attend? Is there something that we, the voting public, don’t want to know or the committee doesn’t want the citizens to know? If he believes in what he ended his op-ed with, why is it that the committee, outside of money at budget times, doesn’t want to speak with or address the City Council when they have questions?
To me, this is what I would call a “working relationship” between two city entities.