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February 19, 2013

Rebirth for the Oliver School

Group of teachers to get a chance to turn their school around

LAWRENCE – When the Oliver Partnership School opens next fall, its teachers will have more power over how the school runs than any educators ever had in the history of Lawrence Public Schools.

The Lawrence Teachers Union will even get to recommend its choice for principal of the newly constituted elementary school – another first for the city’s public education system.

“It’s a school where the teachers will have unprecedented voice in the day-to-day functioning of the building,” Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley said in an interview last week.

“The union will play a bigger role in the hiring of a principal than it ever has. They will put forth a candidate or candidates. I think it’s likely I would go with their recommendation. Obviously, I have to do my due diligence,” Riley said.

Strong union participation in the management of the new Oliver Partnership School is at the core of a bold, new plan to turnaround grades 1 through 5 of the Henry K. Oliver School. The mission is to fix a school that was downgraded last fall to “Level 4” – a designation for the state’s 43 lowest achieving and least improving schools.

Riley has previously drawn heavy criticism from the union for his decision to form partnerships between the school district and four outside groups affiliated with charter schools to manage four of the city’s other failing “Level 4” schools and a new alternative high school created for dropouts and at-risk youth.

Part of Riley’s solution to turnaround the Oliver School is to split it into two separate schools – the Oliver Partnership School and an independent middle school for grades 6 through 8.

The new middle school will be called UP Academy Oliver and will be managed by Unlocking Potential (UP), regarded by Riley as “a proven turnaround operator and current LPS partner” which has already been overseeing the management of Grade 6 at the Leonard Middle School, another one of the city’s six “Level 4” schools. UP will manage grade 6 next fall, and grades 7 and 8 the following year.

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