Despite overwhelming opposition from the community, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted on April 28 to place the Holyoke Public Schools into receivership, stripping the city of local control.
MTA President Barbara Madeloni said she was appalled that a majority of the BESE members voted to support Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to declare the Holyoke Public Schools a Level 5 “underperforming” district and begin a state takeover. Chester will serve as the receiver until he appoints one in the coming months.
During a public hearing on April 27, HTA member Angie Thatcher read a list of the education associations, community organizations and labor groups that had signed a resolution opposing the state takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools.
On the evening before the vote, the BESE held a public hearing in Holyoke. For more than four hours, the board heard testimony from residents, educators, students and elected leaders. Almost all of those who testified spoke against a takeover.
Chester and his supporters on the BESE ignored the message that the community wanted to retain democratic control of its schools and that community members had expressed faith that educators and district leaders would continue making strides in student achievement.
The BESE vote also rejected a vision for public schools that had been defined by the Holyoke community.
“Parents, educators and students made clear that they want schools that offer a broad, well-rounded curriculum. It is chilling to hear BESE Chairman Paul Sagan refer to education as ‘data points,’” Madeloni said.
The MTA, the Holyoke Teachers Association, the Holyoke Paraprofessionals Association and the Holyoke Public School Secretaries will continue to make their voices heard as the receivership process unfolds, and they will continue to fight to protect collective bargaining and due process rights.
The MTA and the Holyoke educator associations are also committed to their work in the community. For months, the HTA and Western Massachusetts Jobs With Justice, along with their community partners, have been meeting with parents and residents.
“The HTA has clearly seen that parents and students are hungry for schools that have art, music and other enrichment programs; schools with librarians; schools with small class sizes and courses that reflect the city’s diversity,” said HTA President Gus Morales. “We have renewed relationships between educators and parents, and we will continue to build on those with the goal of creating the schools that Holyoke children deserve.”
Ed Doherty, Mary Ann Stewart, and Donald Willyard — the BESE members who respectively represent educators, parents and students — voted against the takeover.
Morales told Holyoke educators the day after the vote that they could take some satisfaction in the fact that the two BESE members who had actually visited the city’s schools — Willyard and Stewart — questioned the report prepared by Chester’s review team that declared the schools “underperforming” and voted in opposition.
Build the public schools that Holyoke’s young people deserve, Daily Hampshire Gazette
Hundreds attend Reclaim Our Schools forum, discuss future of Holyoke Public Schools, Springfield Republican
Mass Teachers Association president calls receivership of Holyoke schools 'drastic and disruptive action - Springfield Republican
Holyoke schools need solutions, not flattery or blame, Springfield Republican editorial
Holyoke school community angered after several elected officials fail to attend public forum, Springfield Republican
Forum held to discuss the status of Holyoke Public Schools, ABC40 TV News
Embattled Holyoke schools in a race against time, Springfield Republican editorial
Amid threat of school receivership, Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse says 'local control matters', Springfield Republican
Receivership still an option for Holyoke schools, commissioner says, 22 TV News
Holyoke Teachers Union President: ‘We Will Not Let Them Take Over Our Schools,’ In These Times
About the Level 5 Process
Information from the on 2/23/2015 Board of Elementary and Secondary Education meeting:
Department of Elementary and Secondary Education's history in Holyoke:
Lawrence: 2012 DESE Takeover and Aftermath
The Schools Our Children Deserve: White Papers from Urban School Districts
- Chicago Teachers Union: The Schools Chicago’s Students Deserve [English] [En Espanol]
- St. Paul Federation of Teachers: The Schools St. Paul Children Deserve [English] [En Espanol]