Six candidates running for a seat on the New Bedford School Committee discussed a variety of issues during a debate Wednesday evening at the New Bedford Whaling Museum.

One major focus was the amount of standardized testing.

Candidate Warley Williams says all high-stakes testing should be eliminated and teachers should have full autonomy when assessing students. He says until the state ends mandated testing, schools can start cutting back on their own exams.

"Alleviating or getting rid of some of the benchmark testing is a good place to start and cutting down on some of the ubiquitous testing taking place inside of these schools," Williams said.

On the other hand, incumbent Joaquim Livermento believes testing is necessary in order to measure the progress of students and what material needs more focus.

"Testing really evaluates that process to bring that forward and to find out where do they need work? We need to find that out and I think even the students need to find that out for themselves," said Livermento.

School safety and discipline were other popular topics during the debate.

Serving as a school resource officer for a number of years, candidate Chris Cotter has seen the way discipline is handled within schools. He believes a centralized plan needs to be put in place to treat all students fairly.

"They need to make sure that that discipline policy is district wide and it's not just left up to a principal, or an assistant principal or an administrator," Cotter said.

Incumbent Bruce Oliveira agrees with the need for a district wide plan and says the School Committee is already working on one.

"Students have to know that regardless of what school they're at or what house they're in (at New Bedford High School) or whatever that they're going to be treated at the same level," Oliveira said.

Oliveira says that plan has been in the works for the past few months and is expected to be implemented next September.

Candidate George Rogers says there isn't much discussion during meetings because the decisions are made beforehand. He says all the votes are unanimous without any discussion "because they've already discussed it in the pre-meeting."

Fellow candidate Celia Dos Santos believes more discussion should take place during open sessions so parents and taxpayers can stay informed.

"There is a hidden agenda. Everything should be open because we are, at the end, taxpayers and have our children in the schools," said Dos Santos.

Three candidates will be elected to the committee by your votes on the November 3rd ballot.

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