Two years after becoming superintendent of Lawrence schools, Cynthia Paris continues to receive praise from the Lawrence Alliance for Education, the board that hired her for the position in 2018.
The organization appointed to oversee the school system on the state's behalf said Paris has earned "proficient" marks for her performance over the past year. Member Noemi Custodia-Lora, like others, said Paris "went through the ring of fire" while dealing with multiple crises on the job, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Paris came to Lawrence in late August 2018 after four years as an assistant superintendent in Newton, Massachusetts. During her fourth week on the job, the Merrimack Valley gas disaster happened. The explosions and fires in Lawrence killed a high school student, destroyed or damaged 50 homes on the south side of the city, forced thousands of residents to evacuate, and terrorized Paris' 14,000 students and their parents, as well as the more than 2,600 teachers and other staff who work for her.
According to a summary evaluation written by Lawrence Alliance for Education Chairman Ventura Rodriguez, Paris came through her challenges with flying colors.
"The superintendent has shown exemplary conduct running the School Department under extreme emergency conditions, all the while being proficient in all indicators above," the assessment said, referring to tasks like budgeting, hiring and other policies and procedures. "Superintendent Paris has consistently demonstrated that she places student achievement as the top priority and uses it to guide important decisions, including increasing support services for high-needs students.''
In writing the assessment, Rodriguez used feedback from the entire Alliance for Education, which includes Mayor Daniel Rivera.
As a result of the positive evaluation, Paris will receive a pay raise, according to School Department spokesman Chris Markuns. The 2% increase falls in line with the raise given to teachers and other staff this year, Markuns said. Paris requested that if she got a raise, it be the same percentage as the staff receives, Markuns said.
With the pay increase, Paris makes $244,494, Markuns said.
In the performance review, Alliance for Education members said they want Paris to continue to focus on teaching and learning when she meets with them, and be more proactive with her communication efforts. According to the evaluation written by Rodriguez, Paris needs improvement where professional culture is concerned. This category includes things like communication, shared vision and conflict management.