In the Merrimack Valley: State Takeover of Lawrence School A Done Deal?

While State Commissioner of Education Mitchell Chester and the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education have invited Lawrence residents to a hearing to give their thoughts on a possible state takeover of city’s schools, many think that the “takeover” is already a done deal. The hearing is scheduled for this evening in Malden. In today’s Eagle Tribune writer Alex Bloom notes comments from current and incoming school committee members and the teachers union president that indicate their concern on the one hand of the need for some intervention but on the other that the process might be too speedy.

Will Mitchell make the takeover recommendation to the Board? Bloom tells readers that he indicated so in a recent memo and what the fall-out would be:

“On November 29, I likely will recommend that you declare the Lawrence Public Schools a Level 5 (“chronically underperforming”) district,” state education commissioner Mitchell Chester said in the first sentence of a memo last week to his board members.

The recommendation would give the state’s 11-member Board of Elementary and Secondary Education guidance on what to do about the city’s failing public schools. The board will vote tomorrow morning on the designating Lawrence as “chronically underperforming,” giving Chester the power to install a receiver to takeover the city’s school system. The move strips the city’s School Committee of its authority to govern.

Read the full article here at


3 Responses to In the Merrimack Valley: State Takeover of Lawrence School A Done Deal?

  1. jennifer stern says:

    I am one of the teachers in this under preforming school district. We work harder and harder everyday to get our students to perform. It is not our failed efforts. The blame is on Chester and Lantigua. They have no foresight and are now scrambling to make the numbers they need to look like they are doing their cushy jobs. Don’t want to hear any excuses.I invite these men to come and walk the hallways, stay in our classes and model a couple of lessons for a week. Then tell us what you think we should be doing. Oh by the way our attendance drops down during the winter months so our immigrant families can fly to the DR for lavish vacations. Must be nice to be able to afford vacations on a whim. Doesn’t sound like low-income to me.

  2. DickH says:

    Throughout the 13 years that my son was a student in the Lowell Public Schools (he graduated in 2008) I was very active in the Citywide Parent Council and followed K-12 education issues much closer than I do now. From that experience one thing became perfectly clear: education is all about a dedicated, well-trained teacher in a classroom with a group of students who show up motivated and prepared to learn.

    The flaw in the formula is the “motivated and prepared to learn” ingredient because for too many kids today, that’s just not the case. Part of that is self-inflicted: I don’t know about “lavish” vacations, but I do know that parents taking children out of school for extended periods for family trips was a chronic problem in Lowell. I see this as a symptom of the devaluation of education not just in certain communities, but in our culture as a whole.

    But poverty and its consequences is a major factor. If a kid does not have a warm, calm, supportive place to eat, live and sleep, that child is not going to be ready to learn when he or she arrives in the classroom no matter how qualified the teacher. For that reason, I’m pleased that the state has “taken over” the Lawrence Public Schools because now we will see that it doesn’t really make any difference. What will the “state” do differently, other than continue to scapegoat teachers and helplessly ignore the reality that the problems in public education are caused primarily by factors outside of the four walls of the school.

    One reason that public education is so costly is that the only way that teachers have a chance in their classrooms is if they have a comprehensive support system of social workers, guidance councilors, security guards and other specialists who can tackle all the problems that the kids carry to school with them, problems that in a perfect world, wouldn’t exist or would be dealt with in the home or the church or the neighborhood. Those external entities either don’t exist anymore or are ineffective, so now it all falls on the school.

  3. PaulM says:

    Dr. Patrick J. Mogan’s education revolution in Lowell, dating from the late 1960s, was predicated on the idea of improving what he called “the 80 percent factor,” meaning that part of the student’s experience that occurs outside the classroom. Pat was convinced that the school setting accounted for about 20 percent of successful learning. He and the community radicals from the Model Cities Education Component and Human Services Corp. of the 1970s envisioned a city-scale urban laboratory for teaching and learning.

    Drilling down farther into the concept, they conceived of a “center for human development,” an experimental place or “school” that would integrate all services needed by families and children so that the classroom was not compartmentalized.

    What we know as the national park in Lowell grew out of the broad notion of “the educative city”–using the immediate environment as a classroom without walls for lifelong learning.

    Pat quoted education theorist Jerome Bruner who promoted “active learning” and “believed learning and problem solving emerged out of exploration.” In an interview with me when he was in his 70s, Pat said he “had the concept for years of making the 80 percent factor a school, a school in a different sense, but a learning environment that was going to help people when they got in to the 20 percent factor, the school–and I’m still consumed with that idea.” Now in his 90s, Dr. Mogan is still passionate about helping people learn.