Concerns Raised in Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Search Process

Concerns Raised in Lawrence Public Schools Superintendent Search Process

The Lawrence Public Schools’ superintendent search process has recently been questioned due to concerns raised by community members who participated on the Round 2 Interview Committee. These concerns center around alleged political strategy and deviations from community recommendations. Now, members who participated in the second round are urging Acting Commissioner Russell Johnston, the final decision maker in the hiring process for the superintendent, to intervene and safeguard the best interests of Lawrence Public Schools’ families and students.

“It has been brought to our attention that during the current superintendent search in Lawrence, there has been reason for those that were on the selection committee to lose faith in the process.  During Round 2, although the task of the committee – made up of one teacher, one administrator, 3 LAE members, and community members – was to rate the candidates based on performance measures and competencies,” said Lawrence Teachers Union President Kim Barry in an open meeting on 4/30 of the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education (BESE).

Political maneuvers have been used to remove former Lawrence Alliance for Education (LAE) members and strategically place new ones. The goal appears to have always been to hand-pick a candidate who aligns with specific political agendas for running the schools and, to the detriment of the process, not to choose a candidate who will bring the needed competencies to serve Lawrence’s students.

“The Mayor had his own candidate. There were 10 in the 1st round and the mayor’s candidate was not recommended to proceed to the second round. That’s when things started to turn. That’s when some of the LAE members wanted to change the process. They wanted to bring four names to the 3rd round, rather than the three expected names,” said Ms. Barry. She was joined by the President of the American Federation of Teachers in Massachusetts, Beth Kontos, to share concerns about the superintendent search in an open meeting on 4/30 of BESE.

The LAE Sub-Committee, responsible for the superintendent search, includes appointed

members Patricia Mariano, Juana Matias, and Maria Moller. These individuals play a crucial role in evaluating and picking the top candidates for the superintendent during Round 2. The remaining non-voting members of Round 2 comprised a parent, Johanna Mata; a teacher, Mindy Richardson; an administrator, Edward Reynoso; and Jonathan Guzman, a school committee member.

The committee as a whole was tasked with, among other responsibilities, ranking the competency of each candidate based on background, professional history, and proven record of working and turning around underperforming schools. Round 2 ended in generating feedback for the LAE Sub-Committee of the three top candidates. Despite the clear feedback, the final list announced by the LAE Sub-Committee reflected four names, one in addition to what the non-voting members consider the top over-performing candidates that were provided as feedback to the LAE sub-committee: Dr. Timothy Sippel, Dr. Alma Gonzalez de Castillo, and Ligia Noriega-Murthy. The non-voting members have collectively provided the feedback of not including Ralph Carrero as a candidate or adding a fourth candidate. They preferred to stick with recommending three candidates based on the collective scoring of competencies, discussion, and feedback from the Alma Advisory Group during the first round of interviews. Prior to Mr. Carrero, four other candidates were performing exceptionally well. Despite everything, the LAE Sub-committee’s decision, which was made by a 2 to 1 vote, advanced four individuals.

Mr. Carrero’s inclusion with the over-performing candidates has raised concerns as to whether the community members’ feedback in the Round 2 interviews was taken into account and whether the competencies were important for the LAE sub-committee, as non-voting members on Round 2 did not believe Mr. Carrero demonstrated what the LAE has adopted for competencies, and yet, he ended up as a finalist among the understood over-performing candidates.

The Round 2 interview committee utilized the following competencies to evaluate candidates, drawing from recommendations by the Alma Advisory Group and adopted by the Lawrence Alliance for Education:


  • Someone who is an effective relationship builder and two-way communicator
  • Has a track record of success in school improvement and turnaround
  • Cultural competence and fluency, strategic and student-centered leadership and vision
  • Team leadership and management.


“While local ties are important, they should not overshadow the critical competencies the LAE adopted from the Alma Advisory Group’s recommendations. Our focus should have been on finding the best candidate to lead our schools, regardless of their hometown,” said Jonathan Guzman, Vice-Chair of the Lawrence School Committee, “Being from Lawrence is not a competency or a requirement explicitly stated in the job description or the competencies used during the process.”

During the second round of interviews, non-voting members who participated understood that the LAE Sub-Committee had the finalizing vote. To the dismay of those members, the LAE Sub-Committee advocated for a candidate who did not demonstrate exceptional performance, despite other candidates having rightfully earned their place on the finalist list. What’s more concerning is that these same members leaked the executive conversation and placed a target on non-voting members who provided their feedback and were then attacked by the public. These same members resorted to utilizing political intimidation tactics to manipulate the feedback provided in the process. Non-voting members raised concerns about whether the sub-committee truly comprehended the proceedings of April 11. Instead of absorbing the feedback, the sub-committee engaged in debates with non-voting members, who ultimately had no authority in selecting candidates for the Lawrence Alliance for Education and Commissioner’s consideration.

“Community participation and adherence to established norms are vital for preserving confidence and integrity within the Lawrence Public Schools,” said Johanna Mata, Lawrence Public Schools Parent, “As a parent in the Round 2 Committee, it is critical to acknowledge that the LAE has broken the value of fostering transparency in decision-making, demonstrating that it was solely a political tactic.”

During this process, non-voting members requested consensus votes to progress with the process, as some LAE sub-committee members were either unprepared or failed to adhere to instructions. Consequently, non-voting members requested a consensus vote to avoid discussing a fourth candidate. In the end, the non-voting members cast a vote on a group of recommended candidates, leaving the final decision to the discretion of the LAE sub-committee. This situation has highlighted the importance of transparency, fairness, and ethical conduct in decision-making processes.


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