Hours after the state identified 12 Boston schools that will probably be declared “underperforming," Superintendent Carol Johnson said today that five principals will be replaced and the entire staffs of six schools will have to reapply for their jobs.
Johnson said at a press conference that schools must have top-notch staffs to succussfully turn them around. She emphasized the staffs are not being fired and employees not chosen to stay at the schools could find work at others in the district.
"We feel it's important for teachers to recommit themselves to the tough work ahead," she said.
Her move drew immediate ire of the city's powerful teachers union, which accused her of trying to "evict" hardworking teachers from their jobs.
New principals will be assigned next school year to Harbor Middle School, Orchard Gardens K-8 School, William Blackstone Elementary School, Paul A. Dever Elementary, and John F. Kennedy Elementary.
Staff at Jeremiah E. Burke High, Trotter Elementary, Blackstone, Dever, Harbor, and Orchard Gardens will be required to reapply.
The Boston schools were among nearly three dozen across the state identified today by the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education, under a new law that gives superintendents sweeping powers to overhaul those schools.
Ten are in Springfield, and the remaining 13 are scattered across Fall River, Holyoke, Lawrence, Lowell, Lynn, New Bedford, and Worcester. (Click here for a list of the schools.)
The schools are considered to be the worst of the worst, culled from a pool of roughly 370 schools – the bottom 20 percent of the state’s 1,846 schools, based on persistently low test scores and other longstanding academic issues, such as failure to meet federal education standards.
School superintendents will have three years to turn around the schools. Failure to do so could prompt the state to take them over.
“These are schools where results are unacceptably low,” said Mitchell Chester, state commissioner of elementary and secondary education, of the newly identified schools. “Kids are not being well-served in these schools.”
The state will require superintendents in these districts to remove principals at these schools who have been there for at least two years.
Superintendents can also tap dramatic powers under the new state law to overhaul these schools. Actions that could be taken include lengthening the school day and forcing all teachers and staff members to reapply for their jobs.
Governor Deval Patrick said today that the identification of the 35 schools can serve as a catalyst for a turnaround.
“It’s an opportunity for some additional federal aid, for some state support, to try do things to bring some innovation to bear, to try reach kids who have been left behind. ... It's not about tearing down, it's about building up.''
Asked if he was worried about stigmatizing the schools, Patrick said: “I’m worried about the kids. I’m worried about the kids being left behind. I’m worried about the kids getting the resources they need.”
The list of underperforming schools is considered preliminary because the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has not yet approved regulations to execute provisions of the two-month-old law. The board is expected to vote on those regulations later this month.
Chester said he decided to release the list today because many superintendents have been clamoring to get going on turnaround plans.
Johnson, for instance, named 14 schools in November that she intends to overhaul. Ten of those schools appear on the state’s list, but it also includes the Agassiz Elementary School in Jamaica Plain and the Burke, long considered a barometer of Mayor Thomas M. Menino's impact on improving the quality of the city's schools.
Johnson, who was told by the state Tuesday which schools would be on the list, said earlier today that she was not surprised that about one-third of the schools were in Boston because the city has the largest school district in Massachusetts.
Michael Levenson of the Globe staff contributed to this report.
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