Organizing for the schools Holyoke children deserve

Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester is considering a takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools, effectively removing local control, ignoring input from district educators and weakening employment rights.

The Holyoke Teachers Association, the Holyoke Paraprofessionals Association and the Holyoke Public School Secretaries Association each unanimously voted on a resolution to oppose the state taking over the Holyoke schools. The MTA will support the local unions in campaigns to create the public schools that Holyoke children and their families deserve.

But time is short, and there is much work to do. Chester’s Department of Elementary and Secondary Education conducted a review of the Holyoke school district in January, several months earlier than originally planned. The DESE review was presented to the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education on Feb. 24.

The BESE will discuss the report at its March 24 meeting, and a vote to name Holyoke a Level 5 school district could occur as soon as April or May. If the board deems Holyoke to be a Level 5 district, a receiver could be appointed to run the district, as is the case in Lawrence, the first and only Level 5 school district in Massachusetts.

To fight the threatened state takeover of the Holyoke Public Schools, the MTA will work with the local associations to:

  • Initiate a campaign for “The schools Holyoke children deserve” with buttons, stickers and signs
  • Schedule forums for union members in each school building to help envision the schools Holyoke children deserve
  • Invite students and families to a second round of forums with educators in each school building
  • Organize members to speak out at BESE meetings where Holyoke will be discussed and assist speakers in preparing remarks for the public comment portion of the meetings
  • Hold community events to discuss the schools Holyoke children deserve
  • Create a document that articulates the schools Holyoke children deserve and from this develop demands for the resources necessary to create the schools Holyoke deserves

This is an important time to build power within the local unions, grow strong alliances with parents, students and the community, and encourage educators to act as community leaders.