In the Merrimack Valley: Mayor Lantigua Seeks State Take-Over of Schools

The City of Lawrence continues to struggle with leadership issues. In today’s Eagle-Tribune, Mark Vogler writes of Mayor William Lantigua’s letter  to Mitchell Chester, the state’s elementary and secondary education commissioner, requesting the “appointment of a Receiver, pursuant to all applicable laws within the Commissioner’s authority to assist Lawrence Public Schools.” The Mayor might be requesting the inevitable given the”Level 4″ status of four Lawrence schools possibly going to a “Level 5” and recent  discussions and comments at the state’s Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting.

Lawrence currently has no Superintendent of Schools and the interim Superintendent’s contract ends in a matter of weeks with no plan in place. Many blame the Mayor for the continued turmoil with school department leadership. State Rep David Torrisi is blunt  and critical in his assessment of the Mayor and the situation:

“He (Lantigua) said he’s inviting them in,” Torrisi said. “In my opinion, the state was ready to kick down the door anyway. My impression is that the state has been looking at a way to come into the city.

“It’s very clear from the district review that the state is concerned that there’s an utter lack of leadership from the mayor and the School Committee. The current leadership is derelict in its duty to find somebody to run the place,” Torrisi said of the committee’s inability to find a permanent replacement for ex-Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy, who was indicted 19 months ago.

Torrisi also criticized the mayor for making his request for a state takeover without consulting the current or newly-elected School Committee members.

“In my conversation with him a couple of weeks ago, I had suggested he talk to the School Committee, all these new members, because they should be involved in some way,” Torrisi said. “I am upset he’s doing this unilaterally. Making this decision unilaterally is not the way to go. The new members should have a chance to weigh in.”

The state hasn’t put a school district into the hands of a receiver since the city of  Chelsea twelve years ago and that decision also invovled Boston University and its President John Silber.

In the meantime, the state and the district are working to improve the condition of education in Lawrence, but the full impact has yet to play out. Stay tuned.

Read the full article with views from other public officials  here in the Eagle-Tribune.