By; Peter Larocque – August, 2o12
That’s right, folks! I said orphanages. Lawrence, the nation’s first planned industrial city; which was once known for its massive mills lining the Merrimack River producing textiles for American and European markets, is now a mere shadow of its former self. Only time will tell whether or not the city is going to move ahead or is on a path of no return.
The public schools were taken over by the State this past year through a process of closed door meetings by our elected state legislators behind the back of the public. Slowly but surely, the details of this takeover are being unveiled. The new school administration only is required to update the public on progress once every three months; leaving the people of Lawrence with no say in their children’s education. This once proud industrial city begins this fall in its new undertaking, Orphanages.
Labeling our Public Schools “Orphanages” comes from the definition of the word. An orphanage is, “An institution that houses children whose parents are deceased or whose whereabouts are unknown.” It is a public institution created to provide care for protection for children without parents. Although many people presume that most children in orphanages are orphans, this is often not the case with four out of five children having at least one living parent and most having some extended family. The term is generally considered outmoded in the United States, but here in the city of Lawrence where its Public Schools now belong to the State, the word Orphanage is a perfect fit. Lawrence Public Schools are becoming residential institutions devoted to housing children and taking care of the ‘whole child,’ which is Receiver Jeff Riley’s own term.
Note the words; “housing children” as this describes perfectly what will be happening in Lawrence Public Schools beginning in the fall; especially to our level 4 schools. They will begin as early as 7:30AM and be in session until approximately 5:00PM. I have been hearing that all schools will have to add a minimum of 160 hours to the school year, but it may be as many as 400 additional hours. Bottom line, Lawrence’s school age children will be spending more time in school than with their parents, thus the term orphanage! Of course, I am assuming that the children will still need some sleep.
This new time schedule brings up a lot of logical questions the people of Lawrence and state taxpayers should be asking and demanding answers too before full implementation. Will we be serving our children not just two meals a day, but three (dinner)? Who is paying for all this? Can we afford a teaching staff for the additional hours? If not, will teachers quit and who will be teaching our children? Will all children have to stay in school that long or will families who wish to take care of own their children get to take their children home after core subjects are complete?
What is also disturbing to me is that all this additional time should equal more English, Reading, Math and Science, but that is not what I am hearing! The additional time will be for taking care of the “whole child” which means making school enjoyable so they want to be there while taking care of needs that may not be getting met by their families, such as dental hygiene, English immersion and tutoring.
Along with this new schedule comes a new teacher ‘contract’! Receiver Riley had the school district’s attorney, who by the way used to be the attorney of the School Committee, present the Teacher’s Union their new “contract;” which basically states: you go along with this or you will be replaced! You can only imaging the Union Leaders response; they are not happy campers. I find it amazing that the public along with the Teacher’s Union Leadership was fine with the Commissioner and Receiver treating the School Committee Members as nobodies when the school committee represents the community of Lawrence. Now that they are treating Teachers with the same astounding level of disrespect they have shown the people of Lawrence, all hell is breaking loose! The Union Leaders are yelling Teacher’s rights are being stepped on and violated! Hey Mr. Teacher Union President, what about voter rights which this entire takeover has been stepping on since day one? Mr. Teacher Union President, I thought you were fully cooperating with this takeover by the State for the sake of the children? It is time for new leadership in the Lawrence Teacher’s Union because you sat back as families were steamrolled and only spoke up when you didn’t get what you were led to believe would be your gold at the end of the receivership rainbow.
As I have been screaming for months from my soapbox, there is absolutely no language in the legislation regarding the takeover of Lawrence’s Public Schools that permits the Commissioner and Receiver to treat the School Committee as if it doesn’t exist and now also allows them to do away with the Collective Bargaining Rights of Teachers! The school committee should be sitting at the table, even if they cannot vote, to be witnesses on behalf of the voters and the children to reassure us this process is above board, but the state’s administration has locked EVERYONE out.
Where are our Legislators on this issue? Mr. Torrisi, Mr. Adams, Mr. Devers and the ring leader Mr. Finegold, can we the citizens of Lawrence get a response? No, I didn’t think so. Their silence and their uncaring attitude towards the education of the Lawrence children is deafening. I humbly say to all the Valley Patriot readers, not one of these gentlemen deserves re-election!
Finally, to the parents and the citizens of Lawrence, the future of the city is in your hands, not the states. Rolling over and playing dead to this new administration will only lead to the removal of more of your rights. How institutionalized do you want your children to become? How much of your authority as parents do you want to relinquish to the state? Whether it’s showing up at school committee meetings, demanding oversight at the state level, contacting your school committee representatives in writing to help give them more ammunition to fight to represent you, or as a last resort pulling your children out of the schools if you don’t trust this process; bottom line, you must do something!
To the surrounding school districts and local teachers unions in underperforming districts across the state, the legislation does cite there is more room for takeovers! Public education is a massive money maker for all of these private foundations. Watch out because they may be in Lawrence today, but they will be at your door next!
God Bless You All