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New Bedford Public Schools must not be extorted

State Education Commissioner Jeffrey Riley has rolled a proverbial Trojan horse into New Bedford with his plan to allow expansion of the Alma del Mar charter school. This scheme hands over public assets at no charge to a private company and carves out a neighborhood district that will automatically feed students into the charter school.

Mr. Riley’s deal is not only bad for New Bedford, it is bad for public schools across the state. They will become the targets of this new approach to aid and abet the growth of charter schools,even though voters overwhelmingly defeated a 2016 ballot question that sought a massive charter school expansion in Massachusetts.

The arguments and issues raised in 2016 have not changed. Charter schools are private businesses with no oversight by democratically elected officials — even though they take away public funds from the public schools that educate all children.

Proponents of the Alma del Mar plan are calling it a compromise. In reality, it is extortion. 

Alma del Mar wanted to expand by 1,188 seats. Swift and loud community outcry followed. From parents to elected leaders, the community’s message was clear: Such an expansion would drain $15 million annually from the New Bedford Public Schools, causing catastrophic harm to the city.

Mr. Riley and Alma del Mar CEO Will Gardner concocted a plan that, if implemented, would allow the charter school to expand by 450 seats. The city must hand over the closed Kempton school building plus the land adjacent to it and create a “neighborhood zone” from which students are automatically enrolled in the school, thus doing away with thcitywide admissions lottery.

At the Jan. 22 meeting of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mr. Riley set a 45-day timeline for ironing out the details of this plan. If this fails, he will take it off the table and grant Alma del Mar an additional 594 seats.

So is this about providing educational opportunities for the children of New Bedford or threatening a community into bending to the will of the charter school industry, which has the robust support of the administration of Governor Charlie Baker.

Mr. Gardner, who has always based his desire to expand his business empire on the claim that he has a long waiting list of applicants, seems quite willing to ignore those families if given the proper economic enticements of a free building and a guaranteed pool of students.

And what does New Bedford gain from this deal? Nothing, unless you consider losing less money than originally feared a victory. And we should not.

Here are some facts: 

• Roughly one-third of the teachers currently at Alma del Mar are not licensed by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
• Alma del Mar has a very high suspension rate. Many of its students, primarily those with a high level of needs, are sent back to the New Bedford Public Schools. 
• There is no transparency about what is happening in the school, even though it takes public funds for its operation.
 

This plan still needs the approval of state legislators and local officials. The New Bedford Educators Association urges our locally elected leaders to reject any charter school expansion and encourages them to speak out against any form of extortion from the DESE.

As Massachusetts embarks on its first serious effort in more than 25 years to improve funding for public education, let’s honor the will of the voters and put an end to the practice of propping up the charter school model. Let’s instead focus on creating public schools across the state that meet the needs of every student and family.

Lou St. John

New Bedford Educators Association

Diabetes Prevention Program: Free Information Sessions

The YMCA Southcoast will continue to offer the Diabetes Prevention Program as we enter 2019.  As a result they have scheduled three (3) separate free information sessions.

District employees and their spouses who have Blue Cross through the City of New Bedford are eligible to attend the information sessions at no cost.

Who should attend?

Anyone who believes they are at risk for developing diabetes are encouraged to come hear more about this very successful evidence-based program designed to prevent people from developing diabetes. The YMCA will do an eligibility assessment at the session and will share details about the commitment, lifestyle changes and benefits of joining.

If there are enough eligible participants to start a Diabetes Prevention Program, the class start will begin exactly one week after the information session, and meet on the same day/time. The classes meet weekly at first, then they taper off to bi-weekly and monthly meetings.  District and City employees who have previously enrolled in this program have found it to be extremely beneficial and effective.

During the information session it will be determined you are eligible to participate in the Diabetes Prevention Program.  District employees and their spouses who have Blue Cross through the City of New Bedford are able to participate in the program at NO COST!

In New Bedford:

Tuesday, January 29th 5:30-6:30 p.m.

Southcoast YMCA Association Office in New Bedford, 128 Union St., Suite 301, New Bedford

(Demello International Center)

Coach:  Dara

Thursday, January 31st 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Southcoast YMCA Association Office in New Bedford, 128 Union St., Suite 301, New Bedford

(Demello International Center)

Coach:  Audra

In Fall River:

Wednesday, January 30th 4:30-5:30 p.m.

Southcoast YMCA Fall River Branch

Fall River YMCA Branch, 199 N. Main St., Fall River (1st floor conference room or upstairs)

Coach:  Audra

For more information on the DPP and program eligibility, please contact Dara Midwood, Diabetes Prevention Program Coordinator for the Southcoast YMCA at dmidwood@ymcasc.org or call (508)996-9622 x141

NEW BEDFORD EDUCATORS ASSOCIATION TO DONATE COATS, WINTER CLOTHES AND SUPPLIES TO NEW BEDFORD STUDENTS

On Monday, January 28, at Keith Middle School, officials from the New Bedford Educators Association presented a donation of more than $6000. in coats, winter clothing, educational supplies and hygiene products to the students of New Bedford Public Schools.

School nurses, with the assistance of other staff members, identified students that would most benefit from these donations.  The school nurses will be distributing these items to the families in the next few days.

The New Bedford Educators Association received a grant from the Massachusetts Teachers Association.  In addition, NBEA received contributions from Mayor Jon Mitchell, School Committee Members Josh Amaral and Bruce Oliveira, Sheriff Tom Hodgson, Jo-Anne Hodgson, the New Bedford Fishing Industry, Dias, Lapalme & Martin, First Citizens’ Federal Credit Union, the Friendly Sons of St. Patrick, Gifts to Give, and Infinite Promises Healing Center @ Spiritual Destiny.

The New Bedford Educators Association is proud to work with community partners and our school nurses to ensure the needs of our students are met.  We hope that together we can raise awareness and provide tangible support to hundreds of students that do not have warm clothing and the basic essentials that all children deserve.  These efforts would not have been possible if not for the support of our partners who are committed to our children.  We are incredibly proud of this year’s event and look forward to many more.

Winter/Spring PDP Workshops on English Language Learners and Special Education

MTA’s Division of Training & Professional Learning is pleased to announce the Winter/Spring PDP Workshops on English Language Learners and Special Education to be offered in Springfield, Holden and Quincy. Participants of these free workshops will earn 15 PDPs in the appropriate category for each workshop.

. Teaching and Reaching ELLs Through Picture Books for All Educators – February 20 & 21, Springfield

. Creating Success with English Learner Students – March 2 & 16, Holden

. Weaving SEL into Your Classroom to Make a Big Difference for Special Needs Students – March 2 & 16, Holden

. The Differentiated Classroom – April 16 and 17, Springfield

. Supporting Students with Special Needs in Your Classroom – April 17 & 18, Quincy

. Closing Academic Achievement Gaps through Language Opportunity – April 18 & 19, Quincy

Registration for these workshops will open on Monday, January 28, 2019, at 4PM.

For more detailed information and to register, visit http://www.cvent.com/d/w6q787

Members looking for more opportunities to earn some hours towards these requirements should save the date for March 2 in Holden, where we will be holding the first annual Professional Learning And Networking (PLAN) Conference, with a focus on English Language Learners and Special Education.