Massachusetts Education Commissioner Jeffrey C. Riley said Tuesday he will recommend an auditor or "some type of advisory board" to Boston Mayor Michelle Wu as the two officials try to hash out a compromise that would stave off a state takeover of Boston's public schools.

Riley made the suggestion at a nearly five-hour board meeting of the state's Board of Elementary and Secondary Education, where members reviewed a new audit of the district that found extreme dysfunction, including a special education program in severe disarray and routine dissemination of misleading data on key metrics like graduation rates.

"I'd like to have some time and space to work with the mayor," Riley said, noting that he is still considering receivership. "I believe we need assurances from the mayor now that they are going to handle this, going to take care of this."

The audit is the district's second since 2019. The state released its first findings just days before the district closed school buildings due to the pandemic. Opponents of a possible state takeover say the follow-up report released this week showing no progress, if not backsliding, could hardly come as a surprise, considering the effects of the pandemic on students and learning.

Wu, who has been mayor for about six months, agreed the problems call for urgent fixes, saying the district needs "systemic change" in how it delivers education to students with disabilities and provides services to English learners, particularly those also with disabilities. She said schools need to be safer and provide better bus transportation. The report found, for example, that more than 1,000 bus routes had no driver, but the district did not count those routes in its on-time performance metrics.

The first round of interviews in the search for a new superintendent, the mayor noted, begin next week.

"I ran for mayor to make sure Boston stops kicking the can down the line," Wu said in public testimony to the board earlier in the day, promising structural reforms and saying some are already underway. Wu also said that if the state pursues receivership, she will also seek a court hearing and/or legal intervention.

Students, parents and activists appeared at the board meeting to argue that other state takeovers of schools in Lawrence, Southbridge and two in Boston had not left them improved but had only destabilized them further.

About 100 educators, families and students rallied in front of the meeting before the 9 a.m. start to protest the threat of receivership, saying they represented a coalition of education and union activist groups called Our City, Our Schools. That group said receivership unfairly targets Latino and Black communities, removing local control of schools and disenfranchising families and residents.

Over 100 professors and researchers also sent a letter to Riley and his department, urging them to not take over the district. They say evidence from decades of state intervention in schools across the country, including in Massachusetts, shows receivership is “harmful and destabilizing to communities.”

“We know that the strongest school systems have healthy partnerships among teachers, school officials, and their communities (students, parents, community organizations, etc.),” the group wrote. “State takeovers are not about helping to build these partnerships; they are about separating communities from their schools.”

Now is not the time to be debating receivership, said State Sen. Lydia Edwards, whose district includes parts of Boston.

"I not only oppose it," she said, "I think it's one of the worst things you can do for a community."

Board member Matt Hills of Newton advocated for receivership and challenged Riley’s decision to work with Wu on a solution, saying Riley should not give the city another chance. Hills asked when enough is enough.

"If God was superintendent, God would need receivership to be effective," he said.

The comment prompted loud boos from many in the audience.