Opinion – Your View: Excellence in all schools requires reforms to funding and approach

Posted Jan 22, 2019 at 7:27 PM

In the not too distant future, nearly every kind of work that we do will be affected, in some cases dramatically, by technology and automation. While we will need new ways to think about higher education and workforce training as critical tools to meet this challenge, it actually all begins with the elementary and secondary public education system.

Across the country, those individuals with higher education and skill levels are doing better than ever, and those without are being left further behind. As automation begins to have a greater influence on nearly all of the workplaces of America, it will be far too easy for cities such as New Bedford to fall off the pace. This global change in the world of work can offer great opportunity for our citizens and we must be unflinching in taking full, and perhaps unexpected, advantage.

The recent partnership agreement between the city of New Bedford and the Alma Del Mar Public Charter School is just the kind of bold thinking needed to meet the challenges ahead.

But while such collaborations should be celebrated, alone they will not get us where we need to be. The fact is that the funding of public schools in the commonwealth does not meet the needs of ever-increasing disadvantaged populations, and these populations are notably concentrated in the cities and urban centers.

The Chapter 70 foundation formula was certainly groundbreaking 25 years ago, but the Foundation Budget Review Committee stated in their 2015 report that there have been gradual but ever increasing shortcomings in meeting the true costs of funding English language learners, those with special needs, transportation, health care and professional development for teachers, and the everyday classroom and facility needs of the school buildings where they spend their days. It is now at a point of true crisis, resulting in different schooling types (public, vocational, and charter) fighting each other for scarce dollars while cities struggle with tax increases just to meet the minimum state mandated investment thresholds.

All the while students, their families, and all taxpayers suffer.

The stresses are now too great on too many municipalities. Now is the time to fix the 1993 foundation formula, and there appears to be a tangible willingness of our elected leaders to do just that.

There is sponsored legislation (the Education PROMISE Act) in the State Senate and Governor Baker stated in his second inaugural address just weeks ago that such reforms would be included in his new budget. This is a generational opportunity and will not be easily accomplished.

Let us altogether support our own delegation, the governor, and all of the many stakeholders who will advocate on Beacon Hill in what will be serious debate on how best to achieve reform, while balancing all of the other needs of the commonwealth. And with increased resources, let us support measures that keep accountability at all levels, for all school types, at the highest national standards. Our representatives must have our support in fighting for the full funding of all local and regional district needs for cities such as New Bedford, as well as the full reimbursement of charter school relocations within the current cap set by the commonwealth.

However, our efforts cannot end with the reform of Chapter 70, since additional funding alone will not get us to where we need to be, and recent successes in our public schools remain desperately fragile. We must be champions of excellence and strive for a complete and comprehensive system of schools that can meet the needs of all students, their families, and the employers of the region.

Such a system will provide New Bedford with competitive advantage when parents, employers and developers are looking for communities to invest or locate. All school types (public, vocational, charter, parochial, and private) must be part of this system and all should work in a collaborative and purposeful construct with excellence as the mission for all. Achievements cannot come at the expense of any one of the different school types and we must come together to eliminate the feeling that one is taking from the other in achieving high results in performance.

We are writing with enthusiasm on this topic on behalf of The Regeneration Project of the New Bedford Economic Development Council — a collaborative platform that represents 37 community, institutional, and business leaders who are committed to shaping, advocating for, and tangibly advancing strategies for sustainable and shared growth for the City of New Bedford and the region.

We understand the interrelationship of a successful system of public schools with economic growth and in 2017 published a white paper on this issue, Raising the Bar: Better New Bedford Public Schools Will Lead to a Stronger Economy.

This issue has been at the forefront of our thinking again this past year as a foundational element expressed in our full report, Realizing the Potential, released at the MassINC annual gateway cities gathering held in New Bedford. We are fully committed to the need for significant improvement of all the schools in New Bedford and to the success of the more than 13,000 schoolchildren being educated in our city.

We all want the same successes. We must all be in this together.

Gerry Kavanaugh and Anthony Sapienza are the co-chairs of the Regeneration Project of the New Bedford Economic Development Council. Kavanaugh is president of LStar Investments and LStar Ventures. Sapienza is president of the New Bedford Economic Development Council.


Rick Kidder
President & CEO
SouthCoast Chamber of Commerce

Nicholas Christ
President and CEO
BayCoast Bank

Keith Hovan
President and CEO
SouthCoast Health System

Dr. Laura Douglas
President
Bristol Community College

Maureen Sylvia Armstrong
President, CEO and owner
Sylvia Group Insurance

Patrick Murray
President and CEO
Bristol County Savings Bank

David Slutz
Managing Director
Potentia Holdings

Elizabeth Isherwood
Chairman
Greater New Bedford Industrial Foundation

Helena DaSilva Hughes
Executive Director
Immigrants’ Assistance Center

Christopher Rezendes
Founder and President
INEX Advisors

David Martin
President
Heat Transfer Products

Anne Broholm
CEO
AHEAD, LLC

Quentin Ricciardi
CEO
Acorn Management

Jeff Glassman
President
Darnit! Inc.

David Wechsler
President and CEO
Maritime International

Jennifer Downing
Executive Director
Leadership SouthCoast

Joseph Nauman
Executive Vice President, Corporate and Legal (retired)
Acushnet Company

John Vasconcellos
President
Community Foundation of Southeastern Mass.

Bob Unger
Past Chairman, Leadership SouthCoast
Principal, Unger LeBlanc Strategic Communications

Rosemary Gill
Executive Director
Zeiterion Performing Arts Center

Adam Cove
CEO
Edson International

Scott Dubois
Co-Founder
Pidalia

James O’Brien
Superintendent
GNB Regional Vocational Technical High School

Sarah Athanas
Co-Founder
Groundwork!

Amanda McMullen
President and CEO
New Bedford Whaling Museum

Jim McKeag
Senior Fellow

SouthCoast Business Persons of the Year: New Bedford artists are serious about the business of art

Posted Jan 5, 2019 at 9:39 PM

On Tuesday, Dec. 18, 2018, New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell announced the release of the city’s first comprehensive Arts and Culture Plan.

“This is a big deal,” he said in opening remarks in City Hall’s Ashley Room during a press conference. He noted that the plan builds upon an historic association with the arts in the city, but helps prepare it for even greater achievements.

“It creates a sense of shared purpose,” he went on. “This creates the opportunity for a more vibrant community.” He specifically touched upon the plan’s recommendations to create new cultural districts in the North and South ends — and the chance to lure even more investment into the creative economy of the city.

The collaborative effort to write the plan, he said, sent a signal that the arts “are worthy of your investment” to funders and private businesses alike. “Great stuff doesn’t come free,” he added.

Almost a year in the drafting, the release of the plan to the public during the City Hall ceremony — attended by dozens of the artists who helped shape it — was the capstone of a milestone year for the arts in New Bedford.

Plumbers’ Supply is building one of the largest facilities in the New Bedford Business Park

NEW BEDFORD — Plumbers’ Supply’s footprint in the city is growing.

Motorists entering New Bedford from the north at night undoubtedly spot the neon glare of water spouting out of the faucet on the front of the Plumbers’ Supply store.

Further south on Water Street, the 19th Century version of Plumbers’ Supply is now apartments. In the North End, its warehouse is located on Church Street.

By the end of next summer a new 175,000 square foot building will be completed in the Far North End Business Park.

Mayor Jon Mitchell toured the construction site on Wednesday.

“For us, we have a lot of great employees and we didn’t want to stray too far,” co-owner Brian Jones said. “So when this opportunity came along, it’s a five minute commute. We don’t expect to lose an employee, that certainly appealed to us.”

In fact, the move and expansion should lead to the creation of at least seven jobs, Jones said.

“Our hope is we blow past that,” Jones said.

Plumbers’ Supply’s current warehouse measures 85,000 square feet with ceilings 16 feet high. The new warehouse will encompass about 155,000 square feet with about 30-foot ceilings. The remaining 20,000 square feet will be used for its corporate headquarters, which is already located in New Bedford.

“We want make use of every square inch of this park,” Mitchell said. ”… All this effort is about keeping and growing jobs but also fully utilizing what we have. New Bedford is fairly land constrained.”

Every parcel in the business park is either built on, under construction or under agreement, Mitchell said. The Plumbers’ Supply plot is the largest in the industrial park at 45 acres. Currently, the $18 million project is the third largest facility in the park. However, the company could potentially expand the warehouse to 300,000 square feet, which would be by far the largest, Derek Santos, executive director of the Economic Development Council, said.

“This gives us more than enough than we need in the near term,” Jones said.

Jones’ uncle, Jay, took ownership of the company in April 1977. More than 40 years later, Jay’s brother, his son, and three nephews are a part of Plumbers’ Supply. Development for the move to the far North End began in September of 2017. Ground broke earlier this summer.

“The city has been great to us,” Brian Jones said. “It’s three generations strong.”

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonnerSCT

New Bedford plan to ‘make the city a more vibrant place to live’

NEW BEDFORD — Laughter and head nods followed each descriptive noun used to describe those assembled within the walls of the Ashley Room at City Hall on Tuesday.

The group nearly spilled out into the hallways as dozens listened to Mayor Jon Mitchell announce the city’s new Arts and Culture Plan as well as 12 “Wicked Cool Places” grants awarded to community art programs.

“I mean this in the most affectionate way, this is a motley crew,” Mitchell said. “This is great. I can just feel the creative dynamism just in your presence.”

Tony Sapienza, president of the Economic Development Council, reminisced about 13 years ago when the idea to unite the arts and culture community emerged at an EDC meeting. The term used to describe the feat of collaboration was “herding cats.”

“So I can only say that to now be a motley crew, it is a big step up from herding cats,” Sapienza said.

The 200-page plan consisted of contributions by more than 10,000 individuals, according to Margo Saulnier, the city’s cultural coordinator.

The plan includes upward of 80 goals, which Saulnier is tasked with accomplishing. Not every goal coincides with the achievement of another, which drew the monikers at the press conference by Mitchell and Sapienza.

“We’re all in the same room, and there’s no way everybody’s going to agree with everything and that’s just as well,” Mitchell said. “Because that’s where the idea exchanges come from and the creativity comes from.”

Highlights of the plan include a sense of shared purpose for everyone to create cultural districts, more fundraising and more public art. Steps in accomplishing those goals included the $50,000 in grants announced on Tuesday.

The recipients included the 3rd Eye Youth Empowerment, SuperflatNB, Reggae on West Beach Series and Kite Festivals Workshops.

“In New Bedford, the creative community is an engaged and powerful partner inspiring social , economic and cultural growth,” Saulnier said. “In this authentic seaport city, each and every person enjoys an opportunity to experience a diversity of cultures. Art is everywhere. Encouraging fun, provoking thought and nurturing the soul.”

The Arts, Culture and Tourism fun, proposed by Mitchell in 2016, approved by the City Council last year and led at the state level by state Sen. Mark Montigny, provided the finances for the completion of the plan by Webb Management Services.

“This is really top notch stuff. This was not fly by night organization,” Mitchell said. “This is something that took a lot of work and a lot of planning.”

The timeline for the goals, which include creation of creative districts, collaboration with UMass Dartmouth and Bristol County Community College, range from a year to a decade.

Certainly new goals and ideas will be added with the city acting as a the beneficiary.

“This will make the city a more vibrant place to live,” Mitchell said.

Original story here.

MassDevelopment issues $132M bond for UMD project

MassDevelopment has issued a $132,185,000 tax-exempt bond to help build, furnish and equip a five-story, 306,900-square-foot residence hall at the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth.

The new facility, which will house approximately 1,210, mostly first-year students, will include a dining hall and space for student activities and academic support. The residence hall will replace an existing dormitory, built in the 1970s, which the university will demolish once the new facility is opened.

The bond was issued on behalf of Provident Commonwealth Education Resources II Inc., a public-private partnership, according to a news release.

PCER is a nonprofit corporation created by Provident Resources Group Inc., the University of Massachusetts Building Authority, and Greystar GEDR Development LLC. PCER will enter into a long-term ground lease with UMBA for the land on which the building will be located, and will finance, construct, own, and operate the dormitory. The university will participate in the management and operation of the dormitory through its participation on the Project Operations Committee and through its residential life programs. Once PCER’s ground lease expires, ownership will revert to UMBA for the benefit of UMD.

“Our students will benefit from these investments in quality living and learning facilities that will prepare them to succeed in a rapidly changing, highly competitive global economy,” said UMass Dartmouth Chancellor Robert E. Johnson in a statement. “When combined with our first-rate faculty, these facilities will guarantee our students the private college educational experience and public university value they so deserve.”

Community Foundation awards nearly $700K in grants

By The Standard-Times
Posted Dec 17, 2018 at 2:09 PM
Updated Dec 17, 2018 at 5:58 PM

NEW BEDFORD — The Community Foundation of Southeastern Massachusetts announced Monday that 15 of its funds granted a total of $691,000 to dozens of local nonprofit organizations and public schools in a flurry of year-end awards.

Among the awardees were the Carlos Pacheco Elementary School and Irwin M. Jacobs Elementary School, which each received a grant of $48,000 to support enrichment and instructional resources from the Community Foundation’s Jacobs Family Donor Advised Fund, according to a news release.

Global Learning Charter Public School also received $80,000 to support curriculum development and technology needs. Awards also included $25,000 for the Buttonwood Park Zoo’s Nature Connection Education Center and the New Bedford Symphony Orchestra’s Learning In Concert program, which also received $25,000.

“The Community Foundation is proud to be the partner of choice for creating philanthropic impact in the SouthCoast region,” said Community Foundation President John Vasconcellos in a statement.

“From the support of deserving scholars in their pursuit of higher education to building the foundational elements of academic success for children at local elementary schools and youth-serving agencies, our work with engaged donors such as the Jacobs Family is bringing change to our community,” Vasconcellos said, “and these timely, year end grants also recognize the important work being done by several trusted and innovative nonprofit organizations in those areas that matter to the donor but also resonate for our community: arts and culture, the environment, economic opportunity, and health and human services.”

Joining the Jacobs Family Donor Advised Fund in making year-end grant awards from the Community Foundation was the Acushnet Foundation Fund, which granted over $85,000 to 10 SouthCoast nonprofits including $30,000 to public health initiatives, as well as the Henry H. Crapo Foundation Fund, which made over $90,000 in awards, including a $50,000 grant to the Buzzards Bay Coalition in support of their effort to help protect 150 acres of coastal farm land.

Other notable grants included an award of $10,000 to PACE Inc. from the Bank Five Foundation Fund to support the construction of a playground, and a total of $12,500 granted by the Lipsky-Whittaker Fund to Coastline Elderly Services Inc. and the Southcoast LGBTQ Network Inc. for programs that advance equality for, support and awareness of the LGBTQ community.

The MacLean Children’s Fund granted $12,000 to Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School in support of its mentoring program, with yet other Community Foundation funds making grants to the Sippican Historical Society for a statue of Elizabeth Taber and to the Town of Marion to support property tax relief for residents in need, according to the release.

Original story here.

BCC, UMD launch program to streamline path to bachelor’s degree

Posted at 12:39 PM

Bristol Community College and the University of Massachusetts Dartmouth have signed a memorandum of understanding to launch the Plus Program: Bristol + UMassD.

The program will provide students with access to associate and bachelor’s degree opportunities, and it will begin enrolling students in September 2019, according to a news release.

“Students in our region deserve to have seamless access to a high-quality and affordable education,” said BCC President Laura L. Douglas in a statement. “The Bristol + UMassD program provides a bridge between institutions that is collaborative and combines the specialized resources of both institutions, creating a rich college experience, while also streamlining the transition to a bachelor’s degree.”

UMD will award merit scholarships of at least $2,500 a year to BCC students who have earned a cumulative GPA of 3.0 or higher and who enroll as full-time, day students. This program is open to BCC students with fewer than 30 credits, as well as students who are participating in the UMD/BCC articulation agreements or the MassTransfer A2B programs.

Students who completed their AS/AA degree from BCC will enter UMD as juniors.

“This innovative collaboration advances our goal to increase educational attainment across the region,” said UMD Chancellor Robert E. Johnson in a statement. “Together, Bristol Community College and UMass Dartmouth are equipping students with the adaptable skillset and agile mindset required to succeed in a rapidly evolving economy.”

In addition to guaranteed admission to UMD and no application costs, BCC students will also benefit from additional offerings including:

    • UMD’s career development staff will offer workshops at BCC so that students can plan their career path.
    • BCC students will receive priority registration in UMD courses for their entering semester.
    • Students will have access to the library, fitness center, bookstore, and dining halls at both campuses.
    • Students will receive BCC and UMD ID cards that provide access to sporting events, musical and theatre productions, speaker programs, and other events at both campuses.

BCC students who sign up for and meet the guidelines of the Commonwealth Commitment program will attend UMD at frozen tuition and fees throughout their remaining two years of study, a 10 percent rebate on tuition and fees per semester, as well as the MassTransfer tuition credit, according to the release. The Massachusetts Department of Higher Education’s Commonwealth Commitment is an agreement between the state’s 15 community colleges and four-year institutions that freezes tuition and fees upon program entry while offering other rebates.

For more information, visit umassd.edu/plus/ or contact the Bristol Community College Office of Transfer Affairs at 774-357-2234 or email transfer@bristolcc.edu.

Original story here.

Grant money will have ‘transformative’ effect on Port of New Bedford

Posted Dec 7, 2018 at 8:02 PM

Ed Anthes-Washburn can’t remember a larger grant awarded to the Port of New Bedford than the $15.4 million announced Thursday night.

The funding, which will be used to extend the port’s bulkhead and remove contaminated materials, represents the largest project by the city on the water since the 1970s, Anthes-Washburn said. Of course, New Bedford Marine Commerce Terminal was larger with a more expensive price tag, however, that was state operated.

“The upside is very transformative, we think,” Anthes-Washburn said.

This was the third time the Port applied for the grant.

The project, according to the grant proposal, will result in 898 new and permanent jobs with $65.1 million in additional wages and local consumption, which will also result in $11.5 million more in state and local taxes.

“The strength of our fishing industry and the ties potentially and the opportunity with the offshore wind industry are what put this over the top,” Anthes-Washburn said. “But it was our core industries, it was the commercial fishing that got us to the table.”

The funding from the Department of Transportation will create an additional site for offshore wind staging as well as provide room for 60 more commercial vessels. The proposal showed pictures of vessels lined up five wide from the dock.

The construction will occur north of the EPA Dewatering Facility.

As fishing ports along the East Coast continue to shrink, New Bedford consistently grows. Anthes-Washburn said the port’s year over year growth exceeded 125 percent.

“We’re becoming a hub of commercial fishing on the East Coast and that continues to happen,” Anthes-Washburn said. “That’s because of our strong fishing industry and the strength of the supporting businesses as well.”

The project will also remove 250,000 cubic yards of contaminated materials and provide the beneficial use of 130,000 cubic yards of sediment. The clean soil will be used as the backfill for the new bulkhead, which is funded by grants from the state.

In June, the Baker Administration awarded New Bedford $1.6 million for the design and permitting of Phase V dredging.

It’s an example of a multi-layered public project that also has private backing, Anthes-Washburn said. Each business that’s dependent upon direct water access and berth dredging will pay 20 percent of the cost of Phase V dredging.

The timeline for the project directly linked to Thursday’s grant was expedited because it involved cleaning up the harbor. Anthes-Washburn said the project is already fully permitted. Design should be done by the end of the spring with approval complete by the end of next year. Construction would commence at the end of next year or early 2020.

Follow Michael Bonner on Twitter @MikeBBonner

Original story here.

New Bedford Port Authority to become fisheries rep to offshore wind

NEW BEDFORD — The New Bedford Port Authority has reached an agreement with all offshore wind developers operating in the Massachusetts/Rhode Island market to serve as the designated Fisheries Representative of the commercial fishing industry to each of the development companies, according to a news release.

Under federal guidelines issued by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management offshore wind developers must establish a fisheries representative to be the fishing community’s primary point of contact for communicating project-related concerns to the developer.

“The NBPA has been contracted by the developers to represent the interests of commercial fishermen, and to be a conduit of information between the developers and the commercial fishing industry as offshore wind farms are developed on the Outer Continental Shelf,” said Port Authority Director Ed Anthes-Washburn in a statement. “We’re very excited to have all three developers on board for this timely announcement. Adequate and sustained engagement with the fishing industry will translate into more conciliatory communications and interactions with fishing communities up and down the eastern seaboard as the offshore wind industry begins in the United States.”

In this role, the Port Authority will act as a central clearinghouse of information, convene stakeholders, facilitate dialogue between fishermen and respective developers, and advocate for ways to mitigate impacts of wind projects on commercial fishermen, according to the release. The Port Authority will also work with state and federal agencies to adopt policies and regulations needed to ensure the viability of commercial fishing operations.

“As the epicenter of commercial fishing in the Northwest Atlantic, New Bedford is the most logical place for the offshore wind industry to interface with fishermen,” said New Bedford Mayor Jon Mitchell, who also serves as chair of the NBPA, in a statement. “The New Bedford Port Authority is a key organization to successfully facilitate the development of the offshore wind industry within a vibrant commercial fishing community.”

Lafrance Hospitality to open Merrill’s on the Waterfront in New Bedford

NEW BEDFORD — Merrill’s on the Waterfront is coming in early 2019 to the former Waterfront Grille, which was purchased by Lafrance Hospitality in June 2018.

The restaurant is in the works to re-open after renovations as Merrill’s on the Waterfront, located across from Lafrance’s Fairfield Inn & Suites by Marriott and Waypoint Event Center.

The name pays tribute to Captain Edward Merrill, who purchased the waterfront property in which Merrill’s on the Waterfront resides, in 1837. Merrill constructed the largest of seven wharves built between 1841 and 1849. The property remained in the Merrill family until 1905 but was renamed to Homer’s Wharf in 1920. The historical counting house, which Merrill built in 1847 still stands, according to a news release.

Merrill’s will provide guests a front-row seat into the country’s most valuable fishing port. Fresh, local seafood will be a staple to the dining and banquet menu, too. Merrill’s will have indoor private event space and an outdoor ceremony site that is to be designed for use for weddings next summer and fall.

“With Merrill’s on the Waterfront, Lafrance Hospitality is excited to further highlight the rich whaling history of New Bedford,” according to the news release. “You can expect to see printed history about this historic era of New Bedford along with more of Captain Merrill’s life adorning the restaurant.”