By: Peter Larocque – June, 2012
I would like to respond to an Editorial entitled, “Bake Sale Band Flap” that was published in the Eagle-Tribune on 5/13/2012. Towards the end of the editorial, the writer makes a conclusion concerning the crux of the matter, “when Legislators hand off their power to control the fine details of people’s lives to unelected bureaucrats, where do voters turn to express their displeasure?”
It’s ironic that our Legislators who are supposed to represent the citizens of Lawrence in Boston have done exactly this when it comes to the Lawrence Public Schools Takeover by The State Board of Education!
As if by plan each Legislator spoke out loudly and in unison against a potential ban on Bake Sales for School Districts beginning with our State Senator Barry Finegold, Representatives Paul Adams, and David Torissi. Not to be left out, a strong opposition by Governor Deval Patrick! Then ending with the usual response from Representative Marcos Devers which was no response! It is a good thing to know where their priorities are! At all cost, we must by all means save the right to have Bake Sales!
But when it comes to the Takeover of the Lawrence Public Schools by the State Department of Education, (unelected bureaucrats), all we get is crickets! It has been clearly documented by the Valley Patriot and the Eagle-Tribune that the Takeover was never about Underperforming Schools. The Takeover was based on an 81 page review of the School District conducted by the Department of Education. This report made clear that the Takeover was due to the former School Committee under the direction of its Chairman; Mayor Lantigua which failed to provide Leadership for the School District and hire a permanent Superintendent of Schools over a period of two years! Instead of providing Leadership, they chose to fight among themselves and with the School Administration and Teachers for that period of time. Just because Mayor Lantigua, who still to this day, and as recently as in his State of the City Address, proclaims that it was his bold bright idea to invite the State to come in and take over the Lawrence Public Schools, makes it true!
In the piece of Legislation that permitted this Takeover lies an unknown truth to most of Lawrence’s citizens. The secret about this Takeover which is being led by the State’s Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester, (an unelected bureaucrat), is that there is absolutely no language stating that the freely elected School Committee is stripped of its authority over Lawrence Public Schools! Nor is it to be treated as such or insignificant!
Just because Commissioner Chester and Receiver /Superintendent Jeffrey C. Riley, (another unelected bureaucrat), are acting as if this truly is part of the law, doesn’t make it true!
Just because most of all the elected city and state officials representing Lawrence are of the same opinion, make it true! Now, I am no legal expert, but I can read and I refuse to drink from the same ccool-aid that they all seemed to have, including The MASC, The Massachusetts Association of School Committees, (more unelected bureaucrats)! Their mission is to train and serve School Committees in the Commonwealth, not to be the spoke persons for the Commissioner of Education or the Receiver/Superintendent! They should all be ashamed of themselves for telling our elected School Committee Members to get in step with the Takeover and support the decisions of the Commissioner and Receiver/Superintendent. But I would like to humbly add, support goes both ways and clearly it is not!
Now I am not advocating that the Receiver /Superintendent Mr. Riley pack up and leave Lawrence. As a matter of fact he may be just what Lawrence Public Schools needs at the helm to make the bold improvements in the School District, only time will tell.
What I am advocating is adhering to the Constitution of the United States of America which the last I checked holds the elections by free citizens of this Country as a sacred Right and doesn’t casually dismiss it to carry out an agenda of a one party ruled State! Lest be clear, this Takeover is clearly a part of the Democrat Party Agenda to expand Big Government in Lawrence beginning with the Governor and the Commissioner all the way down to Mayor Lantigua and the City Council!
As things stand now, we the citizens of Lawrence have no representation, which brings us back to the Editorial, “a place for voters to express their displeasure”. To put it bluntly, our Checks and Balances have been removed by the Democratic Party of Massachusetts. One Unelected Bureaucrat puts together a $151 Million Dollar School Budget and is presented in a poorly advertized Public Hearing to the public in a presentation that lasted only 20 minutes and not one Elected Official can do anything about it! I find this very disturbing!
On the contrary, according to the 1st Amendment to the Constitution of the United States of America, it is our right to petition the Government for a redress (remedy) of grievances. This means if government is exceeding the authority granted to it under the Constitution, the people have a right to formerly complain and the government must respond, (other than to just comment on potential bake sale bands).
Likewise, this Takeover clearly took place without the “consent of the governed”. As Citizens of Lawrence we must remember this when these same individuals come to us to be re-elected this coming September and November!
If they can so easily disregard our sacred documents like the Constitution and Declaration of Independence which speak of the importance of our vote and our voice, we should return the same in the election booth.
In summary, on Wednesday May 30, 2012 Commissioner Chester and Receiver /Superintendent Riley unveiled the Turnaround Plan for the Lawrence Public Schools. Unfortunately, the School Committee only got a mention. As a matter of fact, not one Elected School Committee Member was allowed to be seated up on stage. In my humbled opinion this was absolutely disrespectful to the voters of Lawrence. I really am excited about the plan and eager to see it come to pass, but what baffles me is the continued disrespect by Unelected Bureaucrats towards our Elected School Committee Members!
What I would like to offer as a solution is that both, Commissioner Chester and Receiver/ Superintendent Riley stop disrespecting our Elected School Committee Members and recognize them as more than just empty seats. I would like to see them work together as a team, all having authority in the day to day operations including budgetary decisions. Working together with a common goal, making Lawrence Public Schools the best District of Schools in the State of Massachusetts!