EagleTribune.com, North Andover, MA

Merrimack Valley

January 13, 2013

RILEY'S REFLECTIONS

After a year, the superintendent/receiver says Lawrence schools are 'improving every day'

(Continued)

“Overall, it’s too early to talk about being proud, but we are encouraged by some developments that have gotten the turnaround plan off to a solid start,” he said.

Emphasis on reducing dropout rate

Riley said major developments so far include:

The hiring of four outside groups affiliated with charter schools to manage four of the city’s failing schools and a new alternative high school for dropouts and at-risk youth. About 1,000 of the district’s 13,211 students are enrolled in programs operated by these partners.

An increase in school hours for students in nonperforming schools. There are now 529 students in four schools using an extended day. By this fall, Riley expects that number could soar substantially.

Completion of a difficult review of underperforming teachers and principals. This led to the replacement of 10 principals and the hiring of 160 new teachers for the school year that began last fall.

More than $1-million spent on 56 facility improvement projects, ranging from $1,000 fence replacements to $300,000 roof repairs. From the outset of his appointment, Riley declared renovations and repairs of school buildings a top priority.

Six new daily bus routes from Lawrence High School for students staying after school for sports, extracurricular, tutoring and other activities. The buses leave every 45 minutes starting around 4:30 and are routinely packed. It keeps students from having to walk home in the dark and cold, enabling them to stay longer for additional schoolwork or activities.

New student enrichment opportunities. The school district launched a new school – the Fifth Grade Academy at South Lawrence East School – with a unique curriculum based around the importance of physical fitness and activity.

Pursuit of grants and corporate donations to improve school facilities. Just last week, the district held a ribbon-cutting at the Fifth Grade Academy to celebrate a new $100,000 fitness center. School officials also dedicated a newly renovated gym at the Bruce School – a gift of the Boston Celtics.

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