NEW BEDFORD — The School Committee has been busy in 2018. After electing a new superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools back in March, the committee has moved on to the process of approving the budget for the next fiscal year.

The School Committee held a public hearing to present the $137.3 million budget slated for the 2019 fiscal year. The budget was unanimously approved by the committee toward the tail end of what ended up being a three hour session open to the public.

“Thanks for all of your hard work along the way, it's not easy stuff, and that's why we have multiple hearings along the way,” said Mayor Jon Mitchell, who also chairs the School Committee. “This year's budget marks a set of steps in the right direction, we always want more money of course, but we've done a great job with what's given.”

From assessments taken by administrators throughout the district, meant to identify the areas with the highest need of support from the budget, it was found that additional support for technology, counseling and student support systems, and English Language Learners (ELL) are of top priority for enhancement throughout NBPS.

Superintendent Dr. Pia Durkin talked about the necessity of enhancing education for English Language Learners across the district, especially with the intake of refugees from Puerto Rico following last year's hurricane season. Durkin, whose resignation is effective at the end of the current school year, says her administration is “looking forward to a budget that meets those needs as priorities” when NBPS adds additional ELL teachers to its payroll.

“The most pressing aspect of the budget is to continue to give the resources to our teachers so that they are able to meet the needs of an increasing population, particularly our ELL population,” said Durkin. “So, the ESL needs are great as well as all the other enhancements when we come to our curriculum resources.”

School Committee Member Josh Amaral recognizes that the district can't possibly afford to address every need of every school in the city, but is happy with the commitment of the committee and Dr. Durkin's office to be multifaceted with a tight budget. Amaral pointed to the planned addition of ELL teachers into the FY19 budget along with a push for additional maintenance and upkeep of facilities.

“We've prioritized taking care of our buildings this year while also keeping up with the needs of our students and adding staff where we need to, so it's an exciting time,” said Amaral. “That's long been a sticking point for me and I think for my colleagues on the committee.”