Education Commissioner Riley to Step Down, Gave Preview of ‘Deeper Learning’ in 2018 HHS Visit

Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley joined Mayor James J. Fiorentini, Superintendent Margaret Marotta, Haverhill High School Principal Glenn Burns and others for a visit to the school Sept. 20, 2019. (WHAV News photograph)

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Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley, well known in the valley for his supervision of Lawrence Public Schools and later influence on all area school districts, plans to step down next month after more than six years as commissioner.

Since 2018, Riley led the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with significant influence over expanding Early College, standardized testing, absenteeism policy and masking and student attendance during the COVID-19 pandemic. Riley’s plans were announced Thursday.

“We’re grateful for Commissioner Riley’s leadership to make sure Massachusetts continues to have the greatest schools in the country and to support our incredible students and educators every step of the way, particularly through the challenging years of the COVID-19 pandemic,” said Gov. Maura Healey.

Riley served as superintendent/receiver of the Lawrence Public Schools. As commissioner, he visited Haverhill High Schools in 2018. During an assembly with students in the auditorium, he presented a program that encouraged students that “all means all” when it comes to succeeding in their studies and extracurricular activities. He gave instructors in attendance a preview of a platform he called “Deeper Learning” to keep students engaged in and out of the classroom.

In a statement yesterday, Riley said, “From an early age, my parents instilled in me the belief that anyone can do anything in this country if they just worked hard enough. I came to realize, however, that only works if all kids start in the same place. In my 30-plus years in education, I have strived to level the playing field to give all children equal opportunities to achieve. It has been the honor of my lifetime to work on behalf of the students, teachers, and families of the Commonwealth. I am very grateful for the opportunity and proud of what our team at DESE has accomplished.”

The agency produced COVID-19 school reopening guidance in June 2020, launched pooled testing for all public and private schools, issued comprehensive guidance to support students’ academic and social-emotional recovery from the pandemic and provided districts with access to mental health grants, new tutoring programs and acceleration academies.

In 2012, he set out to turn around Lawrence Public Schools as the first state-appointed receiver of a school district. He served as receiver for six years.

Riley plans to step down from his role as Commissioner on March 15 and will recommend Deputy Commissioner Russell Johnston to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education to serve as the acting commissioner.

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