Candidate at a glance

CITY RESIDENCY:
Has lived in New Bedford for 11 years
WORK:
Deputy director of the Working Places team, which supports leaders in smaller cities building more inclusive economies, at the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston

Q&A
Colleen Dawicki

Do you agree with the current policy of mandating masks for students and staff in New Bedford schools? If not, how would you want to change the policy? If yes, what would you say to those who oppose it?

A more straightforward way to frame this is to ask simply whether the New Bedford Public Schools should have policies that reflect the best public health guidance available, because the current policy of requiring masks for all people in school buildings does just that. It’s irresponsible to do anything but defer to the expertise of public health professionals during a pandemic, and thankfully, polling shows the majority of Mass. voters agree. Instead, it’s time to start thinking about how to boost our vaccination rates in and beyond schools to better protect our students’ health and opportunities to learn. 

New Bedford Schools reported that the total four-year graduation rate has increased by more than 32 percentage points — from 55.8% in 2010 to 88.1% in 2020. To what do you attribute this significant gain?

Dedicated, consistent attention to our low graduation rate and its drivers — a key one of which was a historic underinvestment in our students learning English — has helped ensure far more students have earned their diploma. Lessons about what it took in our schools should be harvested from teachers, staff, and students themselves, not elected officials. But elected officials now need to turn our attention to the fact that our college-going and completion rates must keep pace with these gains, because for many students, a college degree will be essential to earning a living wage and having agency in their career. 

New Bedford is one of the school districts across Massachusetts that have underreported or falsely reported “zero” interactions between police and students. The lack of credible data has stymied a review of school resource officers, and the U.S. Department of Education Office for Civil Rights is now looking into the district’s reporting. What will you do to ensure that this information is accurately reported in the future?

NBPS now has a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the police department that details mutual expectations for the “Educational Facilities Liaison” role. The School Committee must ensure we get regular, data-driven updates on how we know goals are being met and harms are being mitigated. Ultimately, we need to know if this program offers enough value to our students’ learning experience to justify our continued expenditures. I encourage community members to review that document, share their concerns about it with the superintendent and School Committee, and hold us accountable for upholding — and consistently revisiting — this agreement. 

MORE ELECTION COVERAGE

Sign up for free

Our free newsletter will drop into your inbox weekday mornings, giving you all the highlights of our in-depth news stories and community arts and culture coverage.

SUPPORT OUR WORK TODAY

As an independent, nonprofit news outlet we are reliant on reader support to help fund the kind of in-depth journalism that keeps the public informed and holds the powerful accountable. Thank you for your support.

Thank you to our sponsors

Irwin and Joan Jacobs, Founding Benefactors