The Standard-Times’ Education Series will Expose Region to Success

New Bedford, MA

More than 10,000 miles, months of reporting and writing went into the series of stories "Building Better Schools" that has begun in The Standard-Times of New Bedford, MA., and on its website,

The newspaper decided to undertake this enormous project in the months following the forced resignation of Portia Bonner, the first African-American woman to serve as school superintendent in New Bedford. The circumstances of her departure were the result of a bitter fight with the School Committee and Mayor Scott W. Lang.

The Standard-Times did not believe they could simply criticize from the sidelines. Instead, they decided to try to do what they could to help.

First, The Standard-Times convened one of their regular public affairs forums to talk about leadership in the public schools, an event that saw a large turnout and that served as the initial public appearance of Bonner's successor as superintendent, Dr. Mary Louise Francis.

“I didn’t think it was good enough for the newspaper just to cluck its tongue over what was wrong with the city’s schools. It was important that we do something to help,” said Bob Unger, editor and associate publisher of The Standard-Times and SouthCoast media Group in New Bedford, MA. “We reassigned Charis Anderson, one of our best reporters to the education beat, and I asked her to find school districts that were demographically similar to New Bedford’s but which were having success in improving student performance. We sent her to districts in North Carolina, Texas, California and Massachusetts. She spent a week in most of those districts and wrote about what she learned. In the fall, we will conduct one or even two public affairs forums to public education to help establish the community’s education agenda. New Bedford needs great schools, and we will play a lead role in making sure improvement happens.”

The Standard-Times hopes that what they learned might contribute to a new model for not only New Bedford, but perhaps for other schools in our region.

Further, with a municipal election scheduled for November, The Standard-Times believes it is vital to place public education at the top of the long list of voter concerns when they vote for the next mayor and members of the New Bedford School Committee.

Finally, The Standard-Times will also ask teachers, school leaders and other education experts to join us in a public affairs forum this fall to talk about public education and what needs to be done to improve it.

To follow the school series visit