NEW BEDFORD — It's been almost five months since Dr. Pia Durkin submitted her letter of resignation to Mayor Jon Mitchell and the School Committee. On Wednesday night at Keith Middle School, the School Committee elected Thomas Anderson as the newest Superintendent of New Bedford Public Schools in a 6-1 vote.

In an exclusive interview with WBSM News following the election, Anderson says he's excited to get started.

“It's exciting, definitely exciting. It's a great opportunity to join some great work that's taken place and I'm looking forward to it,” said Anderson. "We're at the end of March but July 1st will be here before we know it, so there will be a lots of things and lots of discussions before that to look forward to.”

Fresh into the position, Anderson says that he wants to dig into the ins and outs of the school system to see how it operates, and what needs to be addressed. While he's catching up on the day-to-day work of New Bedford Public Schools, Anderson says that he also wants to make an effort to lower any anxiety that teachers and staff may have about a new superintendent coming into the district.

“Change is always going to create a certain level of anxiety. I want to come in, not raise the anxiety any more than it is already is on a natural level and really get a chance to learn the people, learn their skill sets, what gifts they have,” he explained. “Everything we do is in the best interest of the student, but making sure we understand the impact on staff and making sure to give them that support. That's what's exciting. They don't know me and it's an opportunity for me to allow them to know who I am as a person. I'm not this 'superintendent person,' I'm Thomas.”

John Oliveira is the only member of the School Committee who did not vote for Anderson, instead voting for Dr. Heather Larkin. Oliveira says that Anderson was paired with Larkin as his top two choices for the job, and says that Larkin got his vote because he felt that “she would've been able to really hit the ground running.”

"I felt that Dr. Larkin had a plan that she gave us in place. She would've been able to really hit the ground running and she is certainly committed to the community and the area. As far as Mr. Anderson, I look forward to working with him,” said Oliveira. “I'm looking forward to us having our first conversation.

"It would be nice to be able to have a conversation with the superintendent," Oliveira said, alluding to his contentious relationship with Dr. Durkin.

Oliveira also made it clear that while he wants to give the new superintendent room to grow into the position and prove himself, he also wants the School Committee to hold him accountable, something that he says didn't happen with Dr. Durkin's administration.

“We all need to give this new superintendent a chance, but it is imperative on this School Committee to hold that superintendent accountable and that we don't give away the keys, like we did with this last administration,” Oliveira said.

Anderson said that a challenge for him when getting started will be continuing to build and uphold strong communication and transparency between NBPS and parents when it comes to school operations and how the students are being taught.

“I think the challenge all around is having seamless parent communication in terms of how can we do better, no matter where we are in having that two-way engagement with the parents and the community. I think there's always an opportunity to do that,” Anderson explained. “In order for us to really continue to pull those students up and then push some of the others, we just want to make sure that we are making sure our parents have a good understanding of what's going on in the educational process. I think that makes life a whole lot easier for everyone.”

The search for the city's next superintendent was extensive, beginning with a pool of 39 total applicants that was dwindled to the four finalists: Dr. Robert Gerardi, Dr. Heather Larkin, Thomas Anderson and Ana Riley.

Don Macrino and Dan McCormick of Hazard, Young, Attea & Associates, the executive firm selected to lead the search, ran the screening and selection process for the School Committee all the way down to the final four candidates. Macrino and McCormick also assisted in developing a large pool of questions the committee could select from to ask during the public interview process.

Dr. Pia Durkin's resignation will be effective at the end of the school year on June 30. Anderson will officially assume his superintendent duties on July 1.

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