EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 12, 2012

State receiver embarks on historic mission to transform Lawrence's failed school system

LAWRENCE — Lawrence Public Schools made history yesterday when the troubled district became the first to be placed into receivership by the state.

But the school system will make even bigger history if the receiver's turnaround plan works, something that may take years.

Calling it "a great day," state Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester introduced the receiver he has appointed to oversee what is hoped will be a transformation of the failed school system.

Chester said the hiring of a Boston educator Jeffrey C. Riley, 40, to run Lawrence schools was an unprecedented response to the problems of a chronically underperforming public school system.

Riley will officially take charge of Lawrence Public Schools Tuesday, assuming the authority previously held by the superintendent and School Committee.

In making his announcement yesterday during a news conference at the South Lawrence East Educational Complex on Crawford Street, Chester said the Lawrence school system is the first public system in the state to be taken over by a receiver with authority to run educational programs as well as manage finances.

Riley, the chief innovation officer for the Boston Public Schools, was given a three-year contract that will pay him $198,000 a year as receiver.

"Jeff Riley is a very capable educator who brings to the role of receiver a successful record of leading turnaround efforts at urban schools where performance has risen for all students, including English language learners," Chester said.

"Under Jeff's leadership, Lawrence will implement the change needed to transform teaching and learning district-wide. Receivership, however, will not be a solitary effort. As receiver, Jeff will work closely with educators, parents, business leaders and students, as well as key external partners, to build on the strengths of the Lawrence community and develop a bold turnaround plan to dramatically improve outcomes for all students," the commissioner said.

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