A decison long...long overdue

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    A decison long...long overdue

     The Massachusetts DOE finally voted earlier today for a state takeover of Lawrence's failing school system. In my opinion this vote is long overdue. The state of education in the city of Lawrence has been dangling off the edge of a cliff for some time now..and with the addition of more failing schools in the city..including two at the high school level, it was really hanging on by a thread.

    Over the past couple of years there has been plenty of finger pointing and blame by all sides. This will no doubt continue over the next few weeks and months but make no mistake. In this case there can be no finger pointing, because everyone is to blame. This is not just a failure of teachers or administration, or government only..it is a gross failure of all three. The teacher's union for putting greed and compensation first...the administration for being at best..inept and at worst corrupt ..and most of all the local government including the school committee , the mayor and the city council for their complete lack of leadership...such a lack that it was virtually non existent.
    My comments are not meant to indict the entire school system of Lawrence. To be sure..there are several bright spots..schools that function well..literally against all odds, but one only has to walk the halls of any one of the failing schools in Lawrence to understand why they are failing. The administration in at least one of the failing schools is so consumed by their own sense of power and ego that no one stands a chance at change. Frustrated teachers just give up and no one wants to do what research and evidence tells them will improve education.
    Assistant Superintendent Bergeron is a remarkable woman. She has been acting Superindent for two years..ever since the previous Superindentent was indicted on a whole bunch of charges. She has had..literally..no support from the School committee, the city, the administrators and little support from the teachers. The school committee..in two years has been unable to hire a permanent superintendent  at the same time refusing to give Bergeron the position. In fact..there's been no evidence that a serious search has even been conducted.

    The sad fact is that most people who could have made a difference..chose instead to put their own selfish interests ahead of what was best for the children of Lawrence. Up to this point..the only one's who have been suffering have been the innocent. I am hoping that now at least..the pain will be spread around a bit to those who deserve it.

    Maybe in light of today's events..the Governor and the state legislatures will smarten up and realize the same thing should happen to the city as whole.
     
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    State takeovers no panacea

    We wish Lawrence parents, teachers and public school students well. Their counterparts in Fall River and Holyoke will be watching closely for signs of progress rather than confusion. State takeovers of municipal functions are no panacea. It depends on who runs them.

    We've just passed the twentieth anniversary of the Chelsea receivership. The first receiver, Jim Carlin, appointed by Republican former Gov. Weld, made services run again--with a chainsaw approach to departments and budgets. He lasted a year. The second receiver, Lewis Spence, was more successful at long-term change. He integrated the police department and rehired some firefighters dismissed by Carlin.

    After four years in receivership, Chelsea returned to elected leadership under a new charter, with a powerful city manager position. However, revitalizing of Chelsea public school owes more to the Boston University partnership, set up two years before the municipal receivership and lasting nineteen years.

    Chelsea's luck was to have as a candidate for city manager, the first hired, Guy Santagate, a veteran of the old city council but not known as a member of its corrupt old guard. During his five years, he began a capital improvement program and supported the B.U. school partnership by building seven new public schools.

    Unfortunately, Mr. Santagate got greedy. In 2000, he resigned after the Globe exposed his $360,000 salary, but he might have left a tradition behind. This year, Chelsea Housing Authority director Michael E. McLaughlin resigned after the Globe exposed his $360,000 salary, and the authority was taken over by the state.

    Camden, NJ, makes a contrasting study. When placed in receivership in 2002, it did not help to have a corrupt municipal government run by a corrupt state government. Schools, public safety, roads and services remained in dire shape, and little headway occurred in restoring stable finances. After more than seven years, the state government gave up on Camden in 2010, returning it to elected leadership without significant progress.

     

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