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August 22, 2013

First day for a first of its kind school

Teachers union will help run Oliver Partnership School

LAWRENCE — At the Henry K. Oliver School, teachers are not only at the head of the class but also playing a role in running the school.

The first of its kind in Massachusetts, the Oliver Partnership School opened yesterday with 500 children in first through fifth grade.

In the second year of state receivership, the city’s schools began classes at least a week earlier than other local schools as part of an effort to increase learning time.

Teachers Sarah Lynch and Nancy Parchuke are “co-leaders” at the Oliver; there is no principal.

“We will run the school and involve the community,” Lynch said. “Parents, students and teachers will all have an equal voice. This is a real partnership. By having more teachers in the classroom who know what it takes to educate a child, we’re going to do it right. There is a real positive vibe of making this school a success.”

The school at 183 Haverhill St. was built in 1914 as an elementary school. For many years, it was a junior high school. In 2010, it alternative high school, while Oliver students moved to the old Lawrence High building across the street.

Lynch has been an elementary school and special needs teacher in Lawrence since 2002. Parchuke, a Lawrence native, has worked as a technology teacher at several city school since 1997 as well as at the Business Management and Finance High School.

The Oliver Partnership School came about after the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education identified it as an underperforming, Level 4 school, with substandard scores on MCAS English and math tests, for four straight years.

When Level 4 fail to improve for four years, the superintendent, school committee, administrators, teachers, parents and others draft a plan to improve the scores.

In 2011, fifth-graders scored 22 percent in English language arts, compared to a state average of 67 percent. Fifth-graders also did poorly in math, scoring only 5 percent while the state average was 50 percent.

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