By Christopher Roberson
Jeffrey Riley, commissioner of the State Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), liked what he saw during his recent tour of Peabody Veterans Memorial High School.
Since becoming the state’s 24th commissioner eight months ago, Riley has made a concerted effort to visit every school district in Massachusetts.
During his Dec. 11 visit, Riley was joined by Mayor Edward Bettencourt, Superintendent of Schools Cara Murtagh, High School Principal Eric Buckley, State Rep. Thomas Walsh and School Committee Members Andrew Arnotis and Beverley Griffin Dunne.
Some of the stops along the tour included the school’s salon, the student health center and an Honors English class. Riley also watched Jessica Manzo’s Spanish students playing Jeopardy and observed a fingerprinting exercise in Mae Taylor’s forensic science class.
“What I saw here today was engaging creativity,” Riley said following the tour, adding that he was impressed not only as an educator but as a father.
Buckley said he appreciates Riley’s enthusiasm and overall “down-to-earthness.” “I was really impressed with how he interacted with the kids,” said Buckley, adding that Riley was at the high school for nearly two hours. “He wanted to talk to the kids and ask the kids questions; he made them feel very comfortable.”
Prior to taking the helm at DESE, Riley was the principal of Tyngsboro Middle School and the principal of Edwards Middle School in Charlestown. He also spent six years fulfilling the task of hoisting the Lawrence Public Schools out of receivership.
Riley holds a bachelor’s degree in philosophy from Pomona College in Claremont, Calif., a master’s degree in counseling from Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore and a master’s degree in school administration, planning and social policy from Harvard University in Cambridge.