The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education

Update on Level 5 Schools and Districts: FY2018 Quarter 1 Reports, Southbridge Receiver Search, and Schedule for Receiver Presentations

Members of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education
Jeff Wulfson, Acting Commissioner
October 13, 2017

This month's memo highlights several aspects of our work with Level 5 schools and districts. I am presenting the first of four FY2018 quarterly progress updates to the Board on the four Level 5 schools' implementation of their school turnaround plans, focusing on activities from July-September 2017. Future quarterly updates for FY2018 will be presented in January 2018 and April 2018, and a final annual review in June 2018.

Each school and district receiver will present to the Board at least once this school year. Included in this memo is a schedule for the presentations. The memo also contains an update on the receiver search for Southbridge Public Schools.

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston and Ventura Rodriguez, Director of the Office of Strategic Transformation, will join us at the October 24 meeting to answer your questions.

Update on Receiver Search for Southbridge Public Schools

Senior Associate Commissioner Russell Johnston has been serving as interim receiver in Southbridge since May 31, 2017, working with staff from the school district and the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (ESE) to carry out the district turnaround plan.

In August 2017, with support from the non-profit organization Chiefs for Change, DESE engaged Matt Brunell, former President of Nativity School of Worcester, former Chief Operating Officer of Building Excellent Schools, and a professional with experience conducting community-informed school leadership searches. Mr. Brunell was asked to facilitate a community engagement process in the town of Southbridge regarding the qualities and values that the next Receiver/Superintendent for Southbridge Public Schools should embody. He developed a comprehensive plan, in close consultation with the leadership team of Southbridge Public Schools, to solicit feedback about the aspirations of the Southbridge community for the next receiver.

Mr. Brunell engaged with a broad and diverse group of Southbridge community stakeholders, through community convenings, focus groups and surveys. These stakeholders included students, parents/families, educators and staff, and the administrators of Southbridge Public Schools. Mr. Brunell also engaged with the Southbridge School Committee, the Southbridge Education Association, and community members at-large. Upon completion of this community engagement process, Mr. Brunell aggregated, synthesized and distilled the feedback. The emerging trends from this process - alongside other important information (i.e., perceptions from interim leadership) and necessary legal conditions (i.e., from statutory/regulatory requirements) - will form the core competencies of the receiver's job posting.

DESE is currently reviewing the results from the community engagement process. We expect to post the job description by mid-October. The application process will include multiple steps, including an initial resume review, in-person interviews, and completion of performance tasks. Our goal is to select a receiver by late November or early December. However, we remain committed to finding the right individual for the role, even if it means pushing back the selection date.

Level 5 Schools

In the fall of 2013, four schools were designated as chronically underperforming (or Level 5) schools in response to their low performance and lack of improvement while Level 4 schools: John P. Holland Elementary School (UP Academy Holland) and Paul A. Dever Elementary School (Dever) in Boston, Morgan Full Service Community School (Morgan) in Holyoke, and John Avery Parker Elementary School (Parker) in New Bedford. This memorandum provides an update on each school.

Paul A. Dever Elementary School, Boston, MA
Prepared by Superintendent Chang, Receiver


As a result of these three embedded professional development systems and structures, the Dever staff begins the year with consistent and predictable mechanisms to develop a shared vision of effective instruction to accelerate student learning outcomes.


UP Academy Holland, Boston, MA
Prepared by UP Education Network, Receiver



Morgan K-8 Full Service Community School, Holyoke, MA
Prepared by Superintendent Zrike, Receiver



John Avery Parker Elementary School, New Bedford, MA
Prepared by Superintendent Durkin, Receiver



BESE Level 5 Receiver Written Reports and Presentations Schedule

Below is the schedule for presentations to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education this year by Level 5 school and district receivers.

Board MeetingWritten Report(s)Receiver In-Person Presentation
OctoberLevel 5 Schools (Q1)

NovemberLawrence Public Schools

Jeff Riley
DecemberSpringfield Empowerment Zone Partnership (SEZP)

Chris Gabrieli, Colleen Beaudoin, Julie Albino
JanuaryLevel 5 Schools (Q2)

Dever Elementary School

Tommy Chang
FebruaryHolyoke Public Schools & Morgan Full Service Community School

Steve Zrike
MarchParker Elementary School

Pia Durkin
AprilLevel 5 Schools (Q3)

UP Academy Holland

Veronica Conforme
MayLevel 5 DistrictsJeff Riley
Steve Zrike
Russell Johnston (Interim Receiver)

JuneLevel 5 Schools
(End of Year Reports)