Mitchell Says He Hasn’t Seen Improvement in Oliveira’s Behavior
Mayor Jon Mitchell said he had no problem with the New Bedford School Committee voting to continue the No Trespass order against member John Oliveira, because the mayor said he hasn't seen any improvement in Oliveira's behavior.
"I have not seen improvement," Mitchell said in his weekly appearance on WBSM. "I suggest you talk to every other School Committee member about this, but if I could characterize their sentiment, it is exactly the same as mine. There hasn't been, on his part, any ownership of the problem."
The School Committee voted 6-1 Monday night (with Oliveira the lone vote against) to continue the No Trespass order that was originally brought about by Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin, following visits to her office by Oliveira on back-to-back days following his election in November. In those visits, Oliveira admitted to becoming irate with Dr. Durkin's inability to meet with him, going so far as to yell and slam doors in his frustration.
The No Trespass order means Oliveira cannot step foot on any New Bedford Schools property, except to attend full School Committee meetings. Any other visits--including subcommittee meetings--would require Oliveira to be accompanied by a police officer.
"Let me make something clear--the School Committee made this decision. It's not the superintendent making the decision, nor is it about the superintendent per se," Mitchell said. "It's about the School Committee taking steps to police the behavior of its members, and that is something we have to do as a body."
He said the School Committee should be setting the example for students.
"When a School Committee member raises his voice, and slams doors, and carries on in the way that might be intimidating to persons in the school, that's just something we can't accept," Mitchell said. "We should be holding ourselves to a higher standard. It's hard for us to say that kids shouldn't be carrying on in such fashion in our schools, if the School Committee members themselves can't observe that standard."
When asked by host Barry Richard if anyone in the school department still feels threatened by Oliveira, Mitchell said it's "fair to say that there is a concern."
"It's a discernible concern on the part of folks in the front office of the school system, that they feel uncomfortable in his presence, given his behavior in their midst back in whatever it was, November," Mitchell said.
Mitchell said he and the other School Committee members have spoken with Oliveira, in order to better help him understand his role on the School Committee.
"There's a lot to learn in the way the school system works, and what the obligations of a School Committee member are, and are not," he said. "It is not an operational responsibility...the superintendent is the one who runs the school district, not the School Committee members."
"He'll have the opportunity to demonstrate that he's owning the problem, and we hope that he does, and becomes a fully engaged and productive member of the School Committee," Mitchell said. "Look, I want him to succeed as a School Committee member, I really do...I hope he is able to recognize what his due obligations are as a School Committee member, and discharge them appropriately."
Mayor Mitchell, who also serves as Chairman Ex Officio of the School Committee, also addressed the issue that arose in Monday night's meeting, in which Oliveira accused Mitchell of 'hijacking' the search for a replacement for Dr. Durkin. Oliveira and fellow committee member Chris Cotter both expressed concerns with how Mitchell's list of seven proposed members of the Superintendent Screening Committee was pushed through last month.
"The idea that this is somehow a rigged process is just nonsense," Mitchell said. "We're trying to put together a screening committee that is a fair representation of the community, and that's what it is, in every aspect."
Cotter claimed Monday night he told Mitchell prior to the list being submitted that he wished to be part of the committee, but he was not nominated by the mayor. The School Committee voted Monday to add Cotter, along with two other members of the community, to the Screening Committee. However, Cotter's inclusion still awaits a legal opinion to ensure that, by joining a committee that already includes School Committee member Josh Amaral, there will be no violation of the state's Open Meeting law.