“The majority of our people are doing the right thing. We have a lot of talent inside the school system. But, there were some people we felt who weren’t getting the job done,” he said.
At last week’s School Committee meeting, Riley told members he was satisfied “we have a great team of principals in the Lawrence Public Schools now.”
Having completed “a thorough review” of teachers and principals, Riley said he will take a close look this year at the staff and operations of the School Department’s Central Office and make changes if necessary.
Meanwhile, Riley has plans to recognize the district’s best teachers.
“We will reward and celebrate our best teachers with the Sontag Prize in Urban Education and establish our Acceleration Academies which offer vacation academic camps for our most needy students,” Riley said.
Riley created the Sontag Prize several years ago while in the Boston Public Schools. He set up the national award as a way to honor outstanding teaching in Boston and other urban school districts across the country. Now, he wants to honor Lawrence educators.
“The dedication of our teachers is something that really impressed me,” Riley said.
“There’s a lot of uncertainty with the receivership and being on the front lines every day. But there’s also a lot of people working hard. There’s a lot of quality people improving things for kids.,” he said.
Riley credited the hiring of “educational partners” as crucial to the turnaround of the city’s six “Level 4” schools — a designation for the state’s lowest achieving and least improving schools.
“MATCH Tutors are working with hundreds of students in the Level 4 high schools (International High School and Business Management and Financial High School),” Riley said.
“UP and Community Day have taken on students at other Level 4’s (Leonard Middle School and Arlington Elementary School, respectively); and Phoenix Academy rose from scratch — we had to recruit a student body, build a staff and find a building. All in all, including 5th Grade Academy (not a partner but an innovative new model), we launched four new schools in a matter of months,” he said.