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Our Interview with former Fall River School Committee member Sara Rodrigues



Fall River School Committee member Sara Rodrigues resigned during a committee meeting this week and she agreed to answer some questions about what happened and what’s next.

Last night, you seemingly abruptly resigned from your elected seat on the Fall River School Committee. Before we get into the reason why, can I ask if you had previously thought about resigning from the committee or was this something that was truly done on an impulse?

This wasn’t an impulsive decision, but it wasn’t something planned either. I constantly assess whether I am effective in the role I am in and looking for ways to improve how I serve others. I have continuously considered where I am able to effect the most change and whether I am able to fulfill those pieces of advocacy work through my role on the committee. Last night, it became obvious that I will be better able to advocate for students, families and educators from outside the political realm.

Now that it has been a few days, do you have any regrets about your resignation?

No, I feel very secure and confident that it was the right decision.

Have you had any communication with any members of the committee and if so, what has been said?

I’ve heard from two members who have both voiced their respect for my decision.

Mayor Paul Coogan seemed to take a backhanded swing at your stepping down by saying if someone doesn’t want to be on the board, they should leave, so to speak. How did you interpret his comments about you resigning?

I’m not going to apply meaning to someone else’s comments. Everyone is entitled to their own thoughts and opinions. If people have specific questions or concerns, I am happy to discuss them.

Why do you think the school committee got it wrong when they chose to not select Riley as the next superintendent?

The decision isn’t wrong. Everyone is able to make the decision based on the criteria they’ve set out based on their values and priorities. My issue lies with the process and procedures. Unfortunately, we were unable to have a constructive or, even civil, discussion the other night. The process leading up to the meeting wasn’t one that was transparent, fluid or clear and that is what my concerns are. I am one voice and only one vote. I do not expect anyone to make a decision based on my opinion. If we could have a had a reasonable and rational discussion, I would have supported the majority vote.

Can you expand your thoughts on why you believe the eventual choice for superintendent was a politically motivated choice by the other members of the committee?

The process, which took roughly 3 months and cost nearly 10k, did not play out as was originally outlined. We did not collectively outline the expectations or vision for the next superintendent prior to the position being posted. I learned of the finalists with the draft agenda for the 5/20 meeting but had already received many calls and questions from community members asking why we were having interviews at all since it was presumed that Dr. Curley was the next superintendent. I asked several times for the summaries of the finalist interviews in order to prepare for this week’s decision but never received a response. The full committee was asked to provide topics for questions to generate which was certainly relevant and necessary. However, we were also asked to provide specific questions to the mayor with the assumption that they would be forwarded to the Mass Association of School Committees.

I can’t speak to the intent of anyone in their decision-making process. I can only speak to the perception of these events as a whole. Hearing that a rationale for not choosing Ms. Riley was that her husband is a principal in the district seemed a bit of a reach given that the current superintendent does not evaluate Principal Riley. We certainly could have had that discussion but, again, it was clear that there was no room for genuine debate at the meeting. Given that those comments were made by someone who also has a relative in city politics and were then acknowledged and supported by other colleagues who also have relatives in the school department, one member whose full-time position is partially funded by the district, seemed highly disingenuous to me. Again, I cannot speak to intent, but I can certainly address the impact of what played out and the mayor was right, that is not a system that I wish to be a part of. Staying, despite my reservations, would be condoning that behavior.

Collin Dias was sworn in Thursday morning after your resignation to fill your seat. Have you spoken to him and how do you feel he will represent parents and students in this unexpected new role?

Collin and I spoke briefly and are working out some time to connect. Collin is a hard worker and makes decisions based on what he feels is the right call. He is an active listener and seeks to learn as much as he can about an issue. I feel very confident in Collin and his ability to lead with integrity.

What message do you have for those who voted for you and may be unhappy at your sudden departure?

I appreciate the support. I also understand the frustration and even anger. I encourage folks to reach out to me. I am happy to answer questions and I am certainly available to talk things through.

What are your future plans, and do you plan on staying involved to advocate for special education students in the city?

I will continue to do the same work I was doing while sitting on the committee except from the outside. I will actually be away next week doing this advocacy work specifically for autistic and otherwise disabled youth.

Do you have anything else you would like to add?

I want to be very clear that my decision was not made based on who was chosen. It was based on the continued system of making decisions based on who is well-connected and how that impacts real people: our kids, our families and our educators. I will not assign intent to anyone’s decision. People have to rest assured and be confident in the decisions they make just as I have to with my own. I appreciate the support, and nothing will change in terms of my work in advocating for students and families, particularly those that are most vulnerable. When we can fully support our high needs (to use school terminology) students, we support ALL students and create an environment where people can thrive.

Primary correspondent for the Greater Fall River area, Jess focuses on human interest stories and investigations into political corruption. She is a former fill-in host and digital contributor at The Howie Carr Show, former host of The Jessica Machado Show and SouthCoast Tonight on WBSM in New Bedford, former blogger at The Herald News and a former fill-in host at WSAR in Fall River.



  1. Anita Berube

    June 7, 2024 at 11:34 am

    Very informative.
    Good job

  2. Kfurtado

    June 7, 2024 at 2:02 pm

    Abide by Emporer Coogan’s wishes or be cast away. Fall River politics at its best. Sara made a wise choice. No sense staying if others just want to go with the status quo. Btw, there was a Riley running against Coogan for mayor. If it’s family then could this be payback ? Clearly superintendent Riley was a better candidate

  3. Travis Bickle

    June 8, 2024 at 12:48 am

    How many pedophile stings happened this year again?

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