O’Neil said he believed the school district would not even be in receivership had Mary Lou Bergeron, who had served more than two years as interim superintendent, been appointed to the position full-time by the School Committee back in 2011.
“That was very political. Mary Lou Bergeron was very capable,” he said. Lawrence fell into receivership after Bergeron fell one vote short of getting a permanent appointment to the superintendent’s post.
Lawrence Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin in an interview after the roundtable discussion called O’Neil’s concerns “legitimate.”
“Frank may not necessarily speak for the entire union, but I would say he’s not exaggerating,” McLaughlin said.
“I can’t give you the number, but I know it’s a lot of mid-level teachers who have left. Of course, there are other factors. The Level 5 designation has brought on a lot of anxiety. There’s a lot of anxious teachers. There are legitimate fears that many teachers are facing,” he said.
McLaughlin cited the lack of a teachers contract for more than three years as a major contributor to teacher anxiety.
“The morale could definitely use a boost. We’re hoping to negotiate a contract soon that could be brought to the union and be ratified by the members,” McLaughlin said.
During the roundtable discussion, McLaughlin assured the legislators that despite the union’s differences with Riley, he’s enjoying a good working relationship with the superintendent-receiver.
“We’re looking to move the school district forward in this better climate,” McLaughlin said, noting his access to Riley’s office.
“That’s something I never had under the old administration (former Superintendent Wilfredo Laboy) and also from the mayor’s office (former Mayor William Lantigua, who chaired the previous School Committee).
“I can call (Mayor) Danny Rivera and go into his office and talk about things,” he said.
To that, State Rep. Frank Moran replied “Today you have a mayor (Rivera) who went through your school system and a state rep (Moran) who went through your school system.”