EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Mayor Lantigua

May 26, 2011

Lantigua to detail plan for new school head

LAWRENCE — Mayor William Lantigua tonight is scheduled to outline his plan for conducting a search for a new superintendent of schools to a School Committee — and a city — that is sharply divided over whether a search is even necessary.

Last night, the leaders of the Lawrence Teachers Union began throwing the union's support behind interim Superintendent Mary Lou Bergeron, who was passed over for a permanent appointment to the post on May 12 when the School Committee voted 4-3 to conduct the search. The union's seven-member executive committee voted unanimously to schedule a June 1 vote of confidence in Bergeron by the full union, whose 1,000 members also include substitute teachers and nurses.

Later today, a group of Bergeron's supporters have scheduled a rally outside school district headquarters at 255 Essex St. calling on the School Committee to keep Bergeron in charge. The rally is scheduled for 5:30 p.m., so committee members may have to walk through it on their way to their 7 p.m. meeting.

"We're rallying for stability in the district," said Jen Cooper, a parent of a kindergartner and a first-grader at the Robert Frost Elementary School and a candidate for School Committee. "I hope Bergeron applies. I hope they choose her. But during the search, you can't leave these kids without a superintendent."

Bergeron has been serving as serving as acting or interim superintendent for two years, earning $170,000. She was named interim when her predecessor Wilfredo Laboy was fired after being indicted on eight counts of fraud and embezzlement. He is still awaiting trial.

Bergeron's appointment expires June 30, meaning city schools could be without a leader on July 1 if she is not retained, even with another temporary contract.

State education officials have expressed concern that time has run out to do an effective search. The Massachusetts Association of School Committees, which Lantigua has contacted to discuss its help with the search, said the effort would likely last months beyond June 30.

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