Southbridge schools get fresh start
Troubled system under state receivership
THE NEWS WAS not unexpected when the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted in January to put the Southbridge schools into receivership. The small central Massachusetts district of 2,100 students struggled with low academic achievement for years, a challenge state officials said was made harder by a revolving door in the superintendent’s office that saw seven district leaders in six years (see “Musical chairs”).
Using the authority of a 2010 reform law designed to address chronically underperforming schools, Southbridge became the third district to be put into receivership, following Lawrence in 2011 and Holyoke last year.In late June, the state education department unveiled its turnaround plan for Southbridge. Like the Lawrence model, the plan calls for an extended school day or school year and grants broad leeway to the state-appointed receiver, former Cambridge schools administrator Jessica Huizenga, over teacher hiring and dismissal of teachers deemed to be ineffective.
The state has put down a big marker nationally with its vow to turnaround entire low-performing districts, something few reform efforts have had sustained success with.