- The continuation and expansion of involvement by four outside groups affiliated with charter schools to manage the city’s failing schools.
- Emphasis on improving special education and instruction for English language learners. The district has added 15 teachers to its staff for these two areas.
Many new faces
Riley said his office expects to hire up to 140 new teachers, about a dozen less than last year. But, that’s still substantially more than usual. Typically, the annual teacher turnover is 90 to 100. There are about 1,000 teachers in the system.
The school administration has undergone even greater turnover. Riley has appointed 24 new principals and assistant principals — 19 of whom are veterans within the city’s education system.
One of the newcomers is Rebecca Hyde, who comes to Lawrence after a decade in Lowell Public Schools where she was involved in turnaround efforts at the Murkland School, a “Level 4” school in that city.
“I wanted to come to a place where the vision of the leader matched my vision as well,” said Hyde, who will be at the Parthum Elementary School.
Hyde, 43, of Dracut, said she was just beginning her educational career in Tyngsborough at the time that Riley was principal of Tyngsborough Middle School. She didn’t know Riley at the time, but has recently learned that she shares his vision for a decentralized central office.
“His vision involves empowering school leaders, but also empowering teachers as leaders and decision makers,” said Hyde, who will supervise more than 40 teachers who will instruct more than 550 students.
The teachers union has concerns
Lawrence Teachers Union President Frank McLaughlin said he shares Riley’s passion and commitment to improve education for the city’s children, but disagrees with his approach to the turnaround.
“One of the big differences that I have with Jeff is that he’s looking to make a system of independent and competitive schools, with basically everyone on a different page,” said McLaughlin, who begins his 34th year in Lawrence.