As many readers know, the city of Lawrence is among the most impoverished cities in the Commonwealth. It is also one of the most, if not the most, dysfunctional. Over the last few years, the superintendent has gone to jail, the mayor has been the subject of multiple investigations, and the schools have been severely undernourished and ignored. In short, the city and its schools are in deep trouble. The solution from DESE: appoint a school czar and let him abolish the teacher union contract.
The state-appointed receiver/superintendent is Jeff Riley, formerly of the BPS and very well-regarded. Mr. Riley has been given unprecedented power and authority to fix the schools — but his plan so far is only to fix the teachers. Whether his authority extended to abolishing the teacher union contract remains to be seen. The teachers and their union are challenging the unilateral authority that Mr. Riley has assumed.
Unfortunately, Mr. Riley does not have the authority to rid Lawrence of its poverty, improve its housing stock, raise revenue for its schools, and establish credibility for its city government. No one is sure yet if his authority does extend to city schools in the manner that the DESE would like. In any case, the teachers and paras in Lawrence are being scapegoated for all of what’s wrong in Lawrence.