This morning, the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 9-1 in favor of Alma del Mar expanding by 450 scholars in an innovative new partnership with the City of New Bedford.
Below is Executive Director Will Gardner’s full statement to the Board:
Thank you to the board for having me and a special thank you to the Commissioner for really having the boldness to enter what I know is an extremely difficult issue, and to facilitate a compromise that I think all of us believe will be in the best interest of kids in New Bedford. I’d also like to thank my counterparts Mayor Mitchell and Superintendent Anderson for their willingness to come to the table on this agreement and their willingness to think outside the box to hopefully create something that is going to be really great and also aligned with our common vision.
My name is Will Gardner, I’m the executive director and founder of Alma del Mar. When we first began work on Alma del Mar, I had founded it alongside a group of community leaders and concerned families and educators. I was working at the time at middle schools in the district in New Bedford. At the time there was great concern about the performance of these middle schools, the high school and other schools in the district. That concern remains, despite the progress we’ve made as a city. At the time, we believed that the best way to improve outcomes for the kids we were serving at that middle school level would be to start in kinder and to provide the kind of high demand, high support education, rich in content, that would lead to them being on the path to college.
We were chartered in 2011 and opened with 120 scholars in grades K-2. We’ve grown since then to serve nearly 450 scholars in grades K-8. Our middle schoolers are now the top performing students in the city. They outperform many students in the state as well as many of their suburban peers.
We’ve become known for serving English Language Learners especially well and we’ve also been cited by the Department for our exemplary work with family engagement. Among many things we do, we believe that relationships drive our success. Examples of what we do to build those relationships are: We start the year by doing a home visit for every single one of our scholars including those who are returning. We give cell phones to all of our staff members so that they are able to be in frequent contact with and put plenty of money in the bank in those relationships with families and that’s led to a lot of success.
It’s for this reason in particular that we are really interested in this innovative proposal before you. We believe that this neighborhood model of a charter school would enable us to magnify this strength we have in serving families and focus it on a targeted geographical area. We’re excited about this and we can’t wait to begin this work.
We’re also excited about this proposal because it’s in line with the vision that Superintendent Anderson and Mayor Mitchell have for the district and given that we believe it opens even more doors for further collaboration in the future. We believe we can bring a lot of resources to bare on turning around the district in the years to come. Along with Superintendent Anderson and Mayor Mitchell, I share a vision that very soon, as soon as possible, every family in New Bedford will be surrounded by high quality, high performing school options. We believe that this proposal is one important step toward that day. I ask that all of you on the board support this work and this important step that we are making together. Thank you.