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December 8, 2011

Education chief briefs Lawrence teachers on receivership

LAWRENCE — How will the Lawrence Public Schools change when a state-appointed receiver replaces the superintendent and School Committee on Jan. 1?

Members of the Lawrence Teachers Union got to ask state Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester that and other related questions yesterday in a private meeting at the Firefighters Relief's In.

"He still doesn't have the answers to a lot of the questions because he hasn't appointed the receiver yet," union President Frank McLaughlin said in an interview after the two-hour session.

"It was a very good meeting. He was extremely positive and extremely inspiring. When the teachers left the hall, there were a lot who disagreed with him — many who don't think we should be going into receivership. But every teacher felt they could work with him and every teacher wants to work with him," McLaughlin said.

Chester's briefing with the teachers union was the first in a series of community outreach visits he has scheduled for the city following last week's vote by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to designate Lawrence Public Schools as a "Level 5" school district, a classification for "chronic underperformance." The vote authorizes Chester to appoint a receiver to take over the city's troubled education system, which serves some 13,000 students.

"He anticipates picking the receiver within the next two weeks, or certainly by the end of the month," JC Considine, a spokesman for the commissioner said yesterday. "He's reaching out to a number of candidates, and some have reached out to him," he said.

Meanwhile, Chester will continue with two planned visits to Lawrence next week — one of them a community meeting on Monday to explain why he recommended that Lawrence be put on "Level 5" status and what it will mean for the school district.

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