NEW BEDFORD — The search for a new Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools (NBPS) is in its final stages with the School Committee beginning the public interview process with the four finalists for the job this week.

After interviewing Dr. Robert Gerardi on Monday, the committee sat down with Dr. Heather Larkin on Tuesday. Dr. Larkin is known in New Bedford for her work in and out of NBPS.

Larkin currently serves as the Director of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Services at Greater New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School (GNBRVT), a position she’s held since 2016. Previously, she was the Director of Special Education and Student Services at Middleborough Public Schools from 2014-2016. For NBPS, Larkin served as the Assistant Superintendent of Student Services from 2009-2014, and before that worked in the district as the Director of Guidance and Pupil Personnel Services after serving as the Director of Safe Schools and Healthy Services Grant.

“I hope that everyone knows that the success of New Bedford Public Schools is near and dear to my heart. It’s important to me that I’ve been given the opportunity to come back and to continue the work that I’ve done,” Larkin said. “When I left New Bedford Public Schools I was not happy about it, but as I’ve told so many committee members today, I know that I had to do that because it provided me opportunity, and it provided me with understanding and knowledge of how other districts work.”

The School Committee questioned Larkin on multiple aspects of the school district, including the teacher retention rate, effectively utilizing the budget, her views on standardized testing, and discipline and care of students with behavioral problems, among others.

When it comes to teacher retention, Larkin argues that “it goes back to the culture” of the school district.

“It goes back to the culture in the schools and it goes back to the culture of the district as a whole,” Larkin explained. “Individual teachers and individual counselors talk. They talk to their colleagues in other districts, and if they’re saying, ‘New Bedford Public Schools is the absolute best place to work. We are supported. You should see what we’re able to provide to kids. You should see the support that we get,’ then those messages just spread.”

Larkin continued on saying that the district has to do a better job at “attracting the absolute most dynamic and most talented teachers that there are,” and stressed the importance of cultivating the teachers already in the district.

On standardized testing, Larkin argues that it provides educators with good information and that teachers and school administrators need to be held accountable to reaching certain standards.

“I think that we have to use our formative assessments and use that information to drive instruction and determine what is needed.  We have to use that data to pull kids and provide those interventions that are necessary,” said Larkin. “We have a spectrum, and we have to be able to teach that whole spectrum of kids, so we have to use that data. I don’t agree with teaching to the test, but I believe that if we do our job than the test is the test.”

Due to a district wide early release day in preparation for the expected snow storm, the School Committee has postponed their Wednesday interview with finalist Ana Riley. The School Department says it will announce a make-up date shortly.

The committee is still scheduled to interview finalist Thomas Anderson on Friday.