Under his plan to revive Lawrence’s moribund school system, Superintendent/Receiver Jeffrey C. Riley wants to give all city teachers a raise, allow the best and most experienced teachers to earn as much as $100,000 per year and plans to invite the top 100 teachers to serve in a “teacher leader cabinet” to advise him on the turnaround plan.
Yet, in spite of this effort to reward teachers for performance and bring them in to the turnaround process, the Lawrence Teachers Union finds itself aggrieved. The union contends Riley’s actions violate collective bargaining law. The union has filed three unfair labor practice complaints with the state Labor Relations Board in an effort to block Riley’s reforms.
Riley is justifiably frustrated with what he sees as the union’s stalling tactics.
“The union acts as if we are not in state receivership and that it’s business as usual,” Riley told reporter Mark E. Vogler.
“They simply want to maintain the status quo in Lawrence. As someone who is responsible to the taxpayers, parents, teachers and most importantly children, I cannot allow for ideology to get in the way of making the progress we need to turn around the district. The law requires that we take decisive action to fix the district quickly,” he said.
The teachers union, along with the School Committee and inept city management, can each claim a share of the blame for the school system’s miserable failure of Lawrence’s students. The teachers union, if its members truly want to help the city’s children and not just themselves, should be helping, not hindering, the reforms Riley has proposed.
The union, led by President Frank McLaughlin, notes in its complaint that talks ended on June 30 when Riley “issued an ultimatum, either the Union reached agreement with the Employer that day or it would no longer meet with the Union and would implement.”