School & District Management

Mass. Board Moves To Take Over Lawrence Schools

By Caroline Hendrie — June 25, 1997 2 min read

Massachusetts education officials took the first step last week toward seizing control of the Lawrence district, citing its high school’s loss of accreditation and a recent audit that turned up potential financial illegalities.

The state school board agreed with Commissioner of Education Robert V. Antonucci that the 11,650-student system showed evidence of chronic underperformance, setting the stage for a possible takeover as early as this summer. This is the first time the board has exercised powers granted under the state’s 1993 education reform law to strip local school officials of their authority.

“We’ve reached a point now where we have to step in,” Mr. Antonucci said last week.

The commissioner will now appoint a team of outside evaluators to examine the district’s problems and assess its prospects for correcting them. Based on the team’s findings, he will report to the state board no later than Aug. 15 on whether a takeover is needed.

The board also asked the state attorney general to review a report by state auditors released this month that uncovered evidence of possible criminal violations. Attempts to reach local officials for comment were unsuccessful last week.

Mismanagement Alleged

The state board began publicly discussing the possibility of a takeover in February as doubts about the district’s finances grew and it became clear that the New England Association of Schools and Colleges was on the verge of yanking Lawrence High School’s accreditation. (“State Board Mulls First-Ever Takeover Of Mass. District,” Feb. 12, 1997.)

The 1993 law, which rewrote the state’s funding formula, has meant millions of extra dollars for the impoverished district, which receives most of its $80 million budget from the state.

But in a report released this month, state auditors said the district appeared to violate state law by underfunding certain areas of its budget and then failing to account for the discrepancies. At the same time, the auditors said, local officials found room in their budget for such items as skating, bagpipe, and fencing programs, as well as administrative expenses that were 118 percent above national averages.

The report also raised questions about purchasing procedures, oversight of consultants, and unreported employee fringe benefits.

Besides the audit, Mr. Antonucci said that poor test scores, a high dropout rate, and low student attendance were evidence of a “lack of serious action to improve the education and achievement of Lawrence students.”

Related Tags:


Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.
This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Student Well-Being Webinar
The Social-Emotional Impact of the Covid-19 Pandemic on American Schoolchildren
Hear new findings from an analysis of our 300 million student survey responses along with district leaders on new trends in student SEL.
Content provided by Panorama

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 4 Ways to Keep Staff and Students Safe From the Delta Variant
Just as schools reopen, a super-contagious COVID-19 variant is infecting people nationwide at alarming rates. Here's what schools can do.
5 min read
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Denis Poroy/AP
School & District Management Opinion Q&A Collections: Education Policy Issues
Posts on the key education policy issues from the past 10 years.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images
School & District Management L.A. Unified to Require Testing of Students, Staff Regardless of Vaccination Status
The policy change in the nation's second-largest school district comes amid rising coronavirus cases, largely blamed on the Delta variant.
Howard Blume, Los Angeles Times
4 min read
L.A. schools interim Sup Megan K. Reilly visits Fairfax High School's "Field Day" event to launch the Ready Set volunteer recruitment campaign to highlight the nationwide need for mentors and tutors, to prepare the country's public education students for the upcoming school year. The event coincides with National Summer Learning Week, where U.S. Secretary of Education Miguel Cardona is highlighting the importance of re-engaging students and building excitement around returning to in-person learning this fall. high school, with interim LAUSD superintendent and others. Fairfax High School on Wednesday, July 14, 2021 in Los Angeles, CA.
In this July 14, 2021, photo, Los Angeles Unified School District interim Superintendent Megan K. Reilly speaks at an event at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles. Reilly announced a new district policy Thursday requiring all students and employees of the Los Angeles school district to take weekly coronavirus tests regardless of their vaccination status.
Al Seib/Los Angeles Times via TNS