Meet James O’Brien
James O’Brien is running for a seat on the Old Rochester Regional School Committee. Previously, O’Brien served for nine years on the Committee, taught at New Bedford Regional Vocational Technical High School and also worked as theNew Bedford vocational school’s superintendent.
O’Brien said he is running for office because there is “no better way to serve the community than assisting the school district and the superintendent along with his administration and his teachers to continue moving the district forward.”
O’Brien said that his past experience as a teacher, administrator and School Committee member gave him the experience “to be that conduit between the administrative team … teachers, faculty and staff.”
“We all need to roll up our sleeves and work together — and that's the key word, together — on what the mission is for the school,” he said.
According to O’Brien, the mission is to “make all students feel welcome.”
“You want [students] to feel comfortable within their community … so that they can learn all the academic rigor in mathematics, English,” extracurricular activities and sports,” said O’Brien.
If elected, O’Brien said he hopes to address the “strain” on the school district’s budget.
“Many school districts along with Old Rochester are dealing with a continued increase in the strain of the overall budget regarding special education, the funding of the transportation part of the budget, along with increased health care costs [and costs associated with] providing necessary support due to Covid-19.”
O’Brien also proposed funding initiatives to bring more “hands-on training” to “middle-of-the-line” students in the Old Rochester Regional School District.
He added that he will commit “to work on issues that truly matter” and will work “with, not against, others to come to compromise and resolution.”
“I witnessed this happen at maybe four or so School Committee meetings where it’s almost impossible for the present School Committee and the superintendent and his team to do the day-to-day operations of the school because of many of the issues in the spotlight,” said O’Brien.
This year, ten library books held in the Old Rochester Regional High School and Junior High Schools were challenged for alleged explicit content. This has sparked discussion over suitable in-school materials.
“I have to respect the decisions of the school committee and the administrative team with the procedures they have in place,” said O’Brien, noting that the challenged books can be a resource for students who are “questioning their identity.”
“If looking at those books can stop one student from committing suicide or [stop] one other student from having to go to the crisis center, then it's done its job,” said O’Brien.
According to O’Brien, the greatest strength of the Old Rochester Regional School District is the schools’ “commitment to excellence.”
He pointed to the district’s multiple Dalton Awards for athletic excellence as an example of this “commitment.”
“You look across the board … and the sports teams are unbelievable,” he said. “And that's just one for example. Their MCAS scores are usually in the top 10%. There are parents who work two or three jobs and dream someday to move to the Tri-Town … so that not only can they enjoy the quality of life, [but so they are] able to send their son or daughter to one of the best school systems in the area.”
“I'm just a common, everyday guy and I hope I can get enough votes to win,” said O’Brien. “I know that I've worked diligently to try to get them, but time will tell.”