EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

March 7, 2014

Educator warns of mid-level teacher exodus

Lawrence Teachers Union hosts roundtable discussion for local legislators

LAWRENCE — Area school superintendents should “throw a party” for Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley because his reform policies are driving away experienced mid-level teachers who are worried about job security, a veteran city educator told a legislative roundtable discussion yesterday.

“There’s a loss of institutional memory because mid-level teachers are leaving,” Lawrence High School teacher Frank O’Neil said during a gathering of about two dozen people in the Lawrence Teachers Union office at the Everett Mills.

If he were a superintendent in one of the area communities, “I’d throw a party for the superintendent (Riley) because he’s sending them teachers who are good — ones who have 10 to 15 years left in the system,” O’Neil said.

O’Neil, who has been an educator in the city for about three decades, was critical of the evaluation system, which he said makes many teachers — particularly mid-level ones with a decade to 15 years experience — feel insecure about their jobs.

“I am not for unions arbitrarily protecting people who can’t do their job. The issue here is guaranteeing and protecting the teachers who are here and are doing their job ... protection of teachers who care about the city. We need to do something to have those teachers who are here stay here,” he said.

O’Neil, a former School Committee member, was one of a handful of educators who spoke at yesterday’s roundtable, sponsored by the Lawrence Teachers Union. State Rep. Marcos Devers (D-Lawrence), State Rep. Diana DiZoglio (D-Methuen) and State Rep. Frank Moran (D-Lawrence) attended the hour-long session, which allowed union members to express their concerns about the current state of education in the city.

Lawrence Public Schools is the only public school system in Massachusetts that is under state receivership after being designated by the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education in late 2011 as a Level 5 district for “chronically underperforming.”

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