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February 15, 2013

Lawrence Teachers union to help develop new school

Oliver School will be split into 2 independent schools

LAWRENCE — The Lawrence Teachers Union will play a key role in the management of a new elementary school and the hiring of its principal next year.

“I’d say the specific model we’re doing is fairly unprecedented in Massachusetts public schools,” Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley said yesterday of the future Oliver Partnership School — one of two independent schools that he’s decided to create from the existing Henry K. Oliver School.

“The teachers union will be making recommendations for the leadership of that school, and every teacher in the building is going to have a say on how the school runs and what the curriculum choices are going to be,” Riley said.

The Oliver Partnership School, which will involve about 400 students in grades 1 through 5, comes from a union proposal recently approved by Riley as a plan to turn around one of the city’s poorest academically-performing schools.

Under the proposal, the union, the American Federation of Teachers Massachusetts (AFT MA) and the American Federation of Teachers (AFT) would work with Lawrence Public Schools to oversee improvements and changes for the entire school, grades 1-8.

Riley said yesterday that the middle school (grades 6 through 8) will be managed by Unlocking Potential (UP), “a proven turnaround operator and current LPS partner” currently overseeing the management of Grade 6 at the Leonard Middle School, another one of the city’s six schools declared “Level 4” schools — a designation for the state’s 43 lowest achieving and least improving schools.

But Riley said he was impressed for the most part with “The Oliver Partnership Proposal.”

“I thought it was a pretty thoughtful plan which showed a deep commitment to the children of Lawrence,” Riley said in an interview last night.

“The idea that teachers can have a voice well beyond their classroom and some of their other ideas were impressive. They (the union) challenged me to bring them to the table and we want them at the table. Now, we’re going to challenge them to make a great school,” Riley said.

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