Chester’s Coup d’etat


By: Peter Larocque – January, 2012

As of the time this article went to print, The Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mr. Mitchell Chester held meetings with the Lawrence Teacher’s Union, Lawrence Parents and Community members, and finally with the Lawrence Public School Personnel.

His message to all is that he is going to need everybody’s help and cooperation to improve Lawrence’s Schools. Sounds like the same message that we heard from the last two Superintendents, so what’s new? It seems to me in my humbled opinion that Commissioner Chester hasn’t got a full grasp on what he has signed on for.

He doesn’t seem to understand that his concept of a good quality education for every student that attends Lawrence’s Public Schools is totally different from what Lawrence’s Hispanic Community, (who make up the majority of the parents of the students in Lawrence), think about education never mind a quality education. Part of the problem is that there is no incentive to learn English or to westernize in Lawrence.

There are even those that if they could have it their way would love to have Bi-Lingual Education back! There are some among the Hispanic community who are unlike other immigrants coming to America who believe that education and learning English is a priority to succeed in the United States.

Now there is another side to this coin, classes in Lawrence to learn English have long waiting lines and this is shameful! With all the money the City of Lawrence receives in the name of Education, very little is spent on Adult Education and ESL Classes, this I blame on politics. Lawrence is an Immigrant City and that is not going to change anytime soon so the politicians in this city and State need to wake up and make more of an effort to get their constituents educated!

Until this issue is dealt with, there will be no real change in The Lawrence Public Schools.

The Commissioner’s next move was to step aside and appoint a Receiver/Superintendent by January 1, 2012 who will have the ultimate responsibility to work with this paradigm and will be expected to deliver! But the Commissioner somehow forgot about Christmas and New Years so he decided to push back his appointment of the Receiver/Superintendent until sometime after the New Year. But in the meantime the Commissioner himself will assume the position of top man in charge. (Smells to me like Mayor Lantigua is still calling the shots.)

Not doing what you said you were going to do Mr. Commissioner is not a good way to start this takeover. It would help if you would say what you mean and mean what you say!

I truly want to be optimistic with the State’s takeover of the Lawrence Public Schools, but my gut feeling is that when all is said and done, very little in the way of improving MCAS scores will be accomplished. The example we have of a similar takeover of a School District was by Boston University in the city of Chelsea in 1989 and the most notable improvements were in updating the “day to day operations” and “the rebuilding of aging schools”.

So what is this take over by the State really all about? Well my friends I would like to offer what I believe could be one reason. We must take note of what is the common denominator of all the players who are involved in this endeavor, beginning in Washington D.C. to Boston and all the way to the City of Lawrence. The State of Massachusetts is in line to receive 50 Million Dollars in President Obama’s Race to the Top Grant Money for Education.

The question remains is how much of this will end up in Lawrence’s classrooms? I do not believe for one minute that Commissioner Chester made the decision to recommend to the Board of Education that the State take over the failing Lawrence Public Schools without the blessing of our Democrat Governor Deval Patrick. As you all well know this isn’t the first intervention by Governor Patrick into the governance of Lawrence. He has his appointed Fiscal Overseer Mr. Robert Nunes in Lawrence to make sure that the City’s Fiscal house stays in the order. So the City of Lawrence has its Overseer and now the Public Schools of Lawrence will have their State appointed Receiver/Superintendent. Does anyone else see a pattern here? It seems that whenever our wonderful Mayor Lantigua gets in over his head he calls in the Calvary in the form of Governor Patrick. So with the state now in on both sides of Lawrence’s Governance, why then do we have a Mayor? Why then do we have a City Council or School Committee? Why did the former City Council along with the former School Committee just lie down and hand over their responsibilities without any substantial fight? Why did our State Delegation sign onto this as well? Why is the Teacher’s Union President welcoming the take over with open arms? Oh there were little speeches given and letters to the editor in other local papers written, but in the end, The State is here in Lawrence indefinitely with little opposition. Then there are those who live outside of Lawrence who have expressed how happy they are that the State has finally taken over to keep a closer watch on their tax money. Most of Lawrence’s School Budget is paid by way of State aid in the form of Chapter 70 money. Don’t be fooled, this Takeover will not change this!

This brings me back to the common denominator in this scenario which begins and ends with our Democrat Governor Deval Patrick. All that you see taken place here in the City of Lawrence will all play an important part of the Governor’s run for the Presidency of the United States of America in 2016. Who by the way is following in the steps of his BFF and a former Democrat Senator from Illinois and now President of the United States, Barack Obama! The Democrat Governor has set the stage already by writing his book and going on a country wide book signing tour and making television appearances on the Sunday talk/news shows. If Governor Patrick were to be successful in turning around Lawrence, this would be a good accomplishment to boast about in his run for President. Imaging the jobs that could be handed out, beginning with Secretary of Education being the former Commissioner of Education of Massachusetts, Mr. Mitchell Chester. Why not, President Obama appointed Chicago’s CEO of Public Schools Arne Duncan as his Secretary of Education. How does Treasury Secretary Mr. Nunes sound? What position could Senator Finegold fill in a Patrick administration? What about Representative Devers? The list of possibilities goes on and on, so it would make sense to not make big waves just in case the future becomes promising. I don’t think that there is a place for Mayor Lantigua, but that is okay because from what I’m hearing he has aspirations outside of the United States. So let’s keep in mind that this takeover by the State of Massachusetts is all being done by a One Party State ruled by Democrats, under the goal of improving Education in Lawrence Massachusetts.

In conclusion, of course I could be all wrong and the education system in Lawrence will improve with MCAS scores moving to the top on the State’s list. We will just have to wait and see and pray that the children who attend Lawrence’s Public Schools are not ill affected by the politics in this situation.

God Bless you all and Happy New Year and may God continue to protect and keep the children in Lawrence’s Public Schools safe!