EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

February 18, 2013

State checks for violations in schools

Goal: Protect civil rights, learning for disabled and minority students

By Shawn Regan

---- — HAVERHILL — State education officials will visit city schools next month to make sure Haverhill is following requirements for teaching students with disabilities and those whose primary language is not English.

The team from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education will also investigate any allegations of civil rights violations when it tours the school system the week of March 18. The civil rights and equality review is done by the state every five years. The last one here was in 2007.

The 2007 review identified several areas of inequality in the district, such as some schools with much greater access to the Internet and other technology than others, and schools with vastly different concentrations of minorities and students from low-income families.

Next month, the state inspectors will review student records and teacher files, sit in on classes, and interview teachers, administrators and parents, Assistant Superintendent Mary Malone said. They will also review qualifications to make sure teachers are licensed in the subjects they are teaching, she said.

The state is also inviting any member of the public who wants to be interviewed over the telephone by the inspection team to contact Lynn Summerill at the Department of Education at 781-338-3735.

Although Haverhill’s special-education students with physical and mental disabilities and English-language learners have fared poorly on the annual MCAS test, Malone said the state review was not triggered by poor performance or any specific concerns or complaint.

“We haven’t received any non-compliance notices or warnings for any programs,” said Malone, who oversees curriculum and instruction in the district.

Malone said the inspection team is expected to visit half of Haverhill’s 16 school buildings. The schools included in the review are Moody, Golden Hill and Pentucket Lake elementary schools; Hunking, Nettle and Whittier middle schools; the high school; and the St. James Alternative School. Prior to the visit, the district is required to provide the inspection team with “floor plans” for all 16 city schools, Malone said.

The inspection team will rate the district either “commendable” or “not implemented” in several areas and provide a public report for the School Committee a few months after the visit, according to the education department’s Web site. Haverhill might be required to make specific changes in areas where services are found to be lacking.

How to participate in state review of schools Anyone wishing to be interviewed by the state during its review of special education and English language programs and civil rights in Haverhill schools should contact the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education at 781-338-3735.