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The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Level 5 Planning in Lawrence Public Schools

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Mitchell D. Chester, Ed.D., Commissioner
January 13, 2012


The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on November 29, 2011, to designate the Lawrence Public Schools as a Level 5 district, pursuant to the Board's authority under M.G.L. Chapter 69, s. 1K and 603 CMR 2.00. The following is an update on the Lawrence Public Schools receivership since the December Board meeting.

Notice to key officials

On December 29, 2011, I sent a letter to the mayor/school committee chair, the city's finance director, and the state's fiscal overseer for Lawrence, notifying them that the district is under state receivership effective January 1, 2012, and that until the appointment of a full-time receiver, I would personally exercise the powers and duties of the receiver. On January 12, 2012, I notified these officials that I have appointed Jeffrey C. Riley as the full-time receiver for the Lawrence Public Schools, effective January 17, 2012. Under state law, the receiver exercises all the powers of the superintendent and school committee. Both letters are enclosed for your information.

First day of school under receivership

January 3, 2012, was the first day of school in Lawrence after the winter break and the first school day under receivership. All went smoothly. Senior Associate Commissioner Lynda Foisy went to Lawrence that morning on my behalf, to symbolize my commitment to the district and to assure district leaders that my senior staff and I would be available as we manage this transition.

Receiver for the Lawrence Public Schools

On January 11, 2012, I announced my appointment of Jeffrey C. Riley as the receiver for the Lawrence Public Schools, at a press conference at the South Lawrence East Educational Complex (see attached press release). Maura Banta participated in the press conference and represented the Board at the announcement.

Over his nearly 20-year career in education, Mr. Riley has worked in urban and suburban educational systems as a teacher, administrator, principal, and deputy superintendent. He comes to us from the Boston Public Schools, where he was most recently its Chief Innovation officer. Previously, he served as Boston's Academic Superintendent for the Middle and K-8 Network. In 2007, Mr. Riley became the principal of Boston's Edwards Middle School, which was then one of the district's lowest performing schools and on the brink of closure. He successfully led the school's turnaround effort, and Edwards saw remarkable gains in student achievement. Today, Edwards Middle School is one of BPS's highest performing schools.

I look forward to introducing Jeff Riley to you at our meeting on January 24th.

Department activities and planning

Under the leadership of Deputy Commissioner Wulfson and Senior Associate Commissioner Foisy, staff has been working to provide Mr. Riley with a list and timelines of essential decisions he will be required to attend to in the early weeks of receivership. They have collected practical information about the district and the community to help the receiver get up to speed quickly. I will continue with our internal coordination meetings on Lawrence so that we are providing the necessary support to Mr. Riley. In addition, the Department has a number of current activities, grants, and other involvement with the district, which we will review with him to address coherence of focus as he develops his strategic plans for the district.

School Committee

On January 3, 2012, I attended the swearing-in of the new Lawrence School Committee and City Council. At that event, I reiterated to them that while the authority of the school committee is held by the receiver, I will keep them updated about our work in Lawrence, and they will be involved as we move forward.

Level 5 District Local Stakeholder Group

State law requires that a Level 5 District Local Stakeholder Group (LSG), with representation from parents, teachers, district administrators, the school committee, the teachers union, social service agencies, early education, higher education, and community members be convened following the designation of the receiver. This LSG will provide recommendations to the receiver and Commissioner on the district's Level 5 district turnaround plan. One of Jeff Riley's first tasks will be to work with me to determine the LSG's membership and to convene the group to begin its work.

I look forward to discussing this important initiative with the Board on January 24, and to working with the receiver and the entire Lawrence community to transform the school district into one where strong education outcomes are the rule and no longer the exception.


Dec. 29, 2011 letter
Jan. 12, 2012 letter
Jan. 11, 2012 press release

Last Updated: January 19, 2012
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