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May 10, 2013

State education takeover dulls interest in running for School Committee


The sole challenger to emerge so far is Homayoun Maali, who ran unsuccessfully for the committee in 2009 and 2011 and also sought the appointment to the District E seat Cooper gave up last year. He’s running against Mariano in the Sept. 17 preliminary election.

The School Committee is chaired by Mayor William Lantigua, who holds his seat by virtue of his office and does not run for it.

Blatchford said the state takeover has deepened already widespread apathy about the city’s public schools.

“This election will be worse than the others because of the state takeover,” said Blatchford, who ran unopposed last year and so far is unopposed this year. “The state takeover emphasized how much people don’t care that much about Lawrence Public Schools and how there’s no emphasis on the schools in they eyes of people in Lawrence.”

Blatchford said his point is proven by the fact that none of the six elected members of the School Committee has a child in Lawrence schools. Although Lantigua has a son who attends a charter school, the school is not governed by the School Committee.

Lantigua’s interest in city schools appears uneven. He has said the state takeover was his idea, and records show he has attended just seven of the 15 meetings of the School Committee since the takeover. Surillo has attended all 15, Vittorioso and Blatchford have attended 14, Santos has attended 12 and Payano has attended 11. Mariano has attended six of the eight meetings since joining the committee in September.

Through a spokesman, state Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester said the Lawrence School Committee still has a role even if it has no vote.

“We know the superintendent definitely values their input,” said the spokesman, J.C. Considine, referring to Jeff Riley, who has been running the city’s schools for the state for 17 months. “He listens to their input. Ultimately down the road, we’re going to need a school committee in place that’s up to speed on the key turnaround work in the district, because at some point the receivership is going to end and the oversight of the district is going to revert back to the school committee.”

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