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For Immediate Release
Wednesday, November 15, 2017
Contact:Jacqueline Reis, 781-338-3115

Lawrence Public Schools Receivership to Enter New Phase

Governance to include more local voices starting in July

LAWRENCE - Lawrence Public Schools, a district that has been in state receivership since 2011, will enter a new phase of receivership with a local and state partnership governance structure, Acting Commissioner Jeff Wulfson announced today.

Triggered by state-appointed Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley's decision to step down at the end of the current school year, the new governance structure will consist of a partnership board that will oversee the district starting July 1 and oversee a new superintendent to be hired by the board. The board will report to Commissioner Wulfson.

The partnership board will serve as the receiver for the district and will have the statutory authorities granted by state law. The board, with the commissioner's approval, will hire a superintendent who will manage the district on a day-to-day basis starting July 1. The superintendent will report to the partnership board.

"I am very grateful to Jeff Riley and Lawrence Public Schools faculty and staff for all the work they have done to ensure that Lawrence schools offer their students the same opportunities that any parent would want for their child," Commissioner Wulfson said. "I believe that the best way to continue these significant improvements is to appoint a partnership board of state and local officials that can capitalize on state/local collaboration."

"I am proud to have been a part of the improvements that Lawrence students, teachers, families and community members have created within our schools," Mr. Riley said. "I agree that much remains to be done, and I believe this is a good time for the receivership to take a different form with additional local voices."

The board's members will be appointed by the commissioner and will include Lawrence Mayor Daniel Rivera, community members and state education experts. The board will meet in open session regularly during the next academic year. The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) will continue drawing up details of the board over the next month.

"I cannot say enough about the role Jeff Riley has played in improving the life and lot of families in Lawrence," Mayor Rivera said. "We are all better for his time here, and I will be sad to see him go. I, however, look forward to this new shared governance with the state and welcome my role on the board. As a product of the Lawrence public school system myself, I will ensure the voice of parents and students are first and foremost in our decisions, while also supporting the teachers and staff of the district."

"In addition to thanking Jeff Riley for his dedicated service to the Lawrence Public Schools, I also want to thank Mayor Rivera for his collaboration over the last four years and his commitment to being a part of this new state-local partnership governance structure," Education Secretary James Peyser said. "As we enter this new phase, I am confident that the Lawrence Public Schools will continue to improve, not only to meet minimum standards, but to achieve real excellence for the children of Lawrence."

Mr. Riley continues to have full authority in the district through the end of June. His work in the district, the first to be placed in state receivership under the Achievement Gap Act of 2010, has brought significant improvements, including:

  • An increased percentage of 10th grade students scoring Proficient or Advanced on the MCAS. Between 2011 and 2016,

    • Achievement in math improved 18 percentage points, and
    • Achievement in English language arts improved 24 percentage points.

  • In that same time span, the district's graduation rate improved 19 percentage points, and the annual dropout rate fell by more than half.
  • Also during that time, the schools created more opportunities for students to participate in the arts and other activities.
  • However, much work remains:

    • While Lawrence's annual dropout rate has significantly improved, it is still more than double the statewide rate (4.2 percent in Lawrence in 2016 vs. 1.9 percent statewide), and the four-year graduation rate (71.4 percent) is still substantially below the statewide rate (87.5 percent).
    • The district needs to develop the capacity to

      • sustain improvements that have already been made and
      • make additional improvements.

    In the coming months, ESE will announce the other members of the partnership board, and they will work with Mr. Riley to review the district's performance under the first phase of the receivership and develop strategies to ensure continued academic progress.

    "When the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education placed Lawrence Public Schools in receivership in 2011, they did so on the recommendation of then-Commissioner Mitchell Chester, who said the receivership was not for the limited goal of stabilizing the district but to ensure 'that students receive the quality of education that they need to meet the high standards that we hold for all students in the Commonwealth,'" Commissioner Wulfson said. "We look forward to continuing the work in Lawrence and celebrating its success."

    For more information on Lawrence and Level 5 (chronically underperforming) districts, go to http://www.doe.mass.edu/level5/districts/.

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    Last Updated: November 15, 2017
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