NEW BEDFORD — After more than a year of stalling to fill the New Bedford seat on the GNB Voc-Tech School Committee, Kimberli Bettencourt’s appointment was unanimously voted in favor of at Thursday night’s City Council meeting.
Bettencourt will be replacing Joshua Amaral who stepped down in August 2020. Mayor Jon Mitchell nominated Joaquim “Jack” Livramento to serve on both New Bedford Public Schools and Voc-Tech school committees, but the nomination was rejected by the committee in April.
The director of Student Services in Acushnet Public Schools, Bettencourt was previously the executive director of Special Education and Student Services for New Bedford Public Schools. In the past, she has served as the special education supervisor at the elementary level and special education facilitator for NBPS. She was Day School director for the Schwartz Center for Children in Dartmouth for 20 years.
“I am honored to have been chosen to represent New Bedford on the GNBVTHS School Committee and appreciate both the Mayor and City Council for their endorsement,” Bettencourt wrote in an email. “I look forward to serving with fellow members from New Bedford, Dartmouth and Fairhaven and supporting the school in a new capacity. I have always been a supporter of vocational education, having served for many years on the GNBVTHS Advisory Board and welcome this new opportunity.”
Looking at Voc-Tech admissions
Bettencourt said she would like to focus on admissions criteria for Voc-Tech. Currently, the school determines a student’s acceptance based on three areas: conduct, attendance and grades. Students must be recommended by their current middle school guidance counselor. With Bettencourt’s knowledge in special education and representing students with disabilities, she would like to see the school make accommodations and be more accessible for them to pursue a trade.
“We think about people who live independently who have a variety of different physical disabilities: we accommodate, we make provision for the way they live, their activities, and I think there’s opportunity for that to be done at any school district and any type of school setting,” Bettencourt said.
With a variety of admissions models in the area from charter, public, private and voc-tech schools, Bettencourt would like to look at all of the models and blend them together if needed.
“All means all, and in this community all should mean all, every child should have access to the same education,” she said.
Conduct remains one of the largest barriers to admission to Voc-Tech, and Bettencourt would like to take a deeper dive into those conduct records to look at each individual infraction.
“Middle schoolers make bad choices, but they’re not bad kids,” she said. “I don’t think something you’ve done in sixth, seventh grade should follow you for the rest of your life.”
Bettencourt’s background in education
She was chairperson for both the City of New Bedford Commission for Citizens with Disabilities and Coastline Elderly Foster Grandparent Advisory Council for a decade and currently remains as a member on both committees. She is a member of both the Voc-Tech Advisory Board and Opioid Prevention Task Force. In the past, Bettencourt has served as a special education consultant for the New Bedford Community Partnerships for Children and a New Bedford Community Based Instructor through Wheelock College, one of her three alma maters.
Standard-Times staff writer Kerri Tallman can be reached at [email protected]. Follow her on Twitter at @kerri_tallman for links to recent articles.
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