NEW BEDFORD — Competing pictures of discipline at the city's middle schools emerged Monday as the three principals updated the New Bedford School Committee on changes in the schools this year.

School Committee member Christopher Cotter said he continues to hear complaints about discipline at Keith and Normandin middle schools, both of which have new principals this year. If 5 percent of the students are “running the school” with their behavior problems, then the behavioral intervention system isn’t working, he said.

“The climate, the discipline, really has not drastically improved,” he said.

But Roosevelt Principal Daniel Bossolt said he knows the behavioral intervention system is working because hundreds of students are earning awards for achievement and behavior. He will be able to put numbers to the issue in the spring, he said.

Bossolt said the system couples positive reinforcement with “real consequences and interventions” when necessary.

Cotter encouraged the principals to seek honest feedback from teachers and give them assurances they would not suffer repercussions.

“A lot of people are afraid to talk because they’re afraid that they’re going to be targeted for some reason,” he said.

When School Committee member John Oliveira asked the principals for their assessment of how much discipline has improved, Bossolt said it has improved, but not by a wide margin. The other two principals said they could not compare to last year because they are new to the schools.

Joshua Almeida, principal at Keith, said he would suggest revisiting the cell phone policy that allows phones to be in school if they are locked in lockers, because the staff still spends a lot of time dealing with things that arise on social media.

“I can’t tell you how many minutes a day we spend,” he said.

Each of the middle schools began a redesign process last year in which faculty worked with the administration on changes focused on three areas: academic achievement, climate and culture, and family and community outreach.

The principals said academic changes already implemented include a more customized scheduling process, curriculum coordination with the high school, and designating content-area leaders to run weekly teacher collaboration meetings.

On climate and culture, the schools have added a morning advisory period and “success centers” to support students’ social-emotional needs. Family events held this year include Science Night with guest scientists, an anti-bullying night, open houses and concerts.

The schools have also worked with numerous outside organizations, including the Zeiterion Performing Arts Center for sixth-grade enrichment and Bristol Community College for a speaker series.

Planned for the future are additional professional development, investments in technology, Anti-Defamation League training for students and staff, and family events that have an academic focus, such as events for math, literacy and culture.