Dozens support HTA president at rally

Gus Morales RallyHTA President Agustin Morales addressed supporters at a rally on September 8 at Dean Technical High School in Holyoke. The Department of Labor Relations is investigating HTA’s claim that Morales was fired in retaliation for his union activism.

Flanked by dozens of supporters at a rally on September 8, Holyoke Teachers Association President Agustin Morales announced that the state Department of Labor Relations has found there is probable cause to indicate that the Holyoke School Committee fired him in retaliation for speaking out against school administration policies that created a hostile work environment and shamed students.

Morales, who was accompanied by supportive educators, parents, students, community leaders and activists, spoke about the DLR’s statement before a meeting of the school committee.

 “If you take a step back and look at the bigger picture, it becomes clear that this is not just about me,” said Morales. “This is about a choice that the City of Holyoke has to make, that labor and community leaders need to make: Do we want a system that focuses only on high-stakes tests, that puts students’ names up on the wall next to their test scores, that humiliates and shames students and makes them feel useless and stupid?”

Fellow HTA member Dorothy Albrecht, a veteran high school math teacher, joined Morales in criticizing the school department’s use of “data walls,” and she told the crowd, “By firing our elected president, the administration of Holyoke Public Schools has, in effect, shown that our voices are not valued or respected.”

Representatives of several community groups and parents attended the rally, which was organized by the HTA and Western Mass. Jobs With Justice. One parent, Marisol Marcano, spoke about how Morales, by being both a challenging and caring teacher, had encouraged her daughter to achieve.

Fiore Grassetti, president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO, brought along poster-sized sheets of paper bearing the signatures of area labor union members as a show of support for Morales and the HTA. Grassetti called it an outrage that Holyoke schools Superintendent Sergio Páez would target a leader for speaking out.

Also showing solidarity were local MTA association leaders and members from Worcester, Springfield, South Hadley and Chicopee, who chanted “bring Gus back.”

 “Gus Morales stands up for students and fellow educators,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “If we allow these attacks to go unchecked, they will have a chilling effect on anyone who wants to raise concerns about the best way to educate students and improve working and learning conditions.”

In its statement, the DLR noted that Morales, who taught at the Maurice A. Donahue School, had received negative comments in his job evaluation only after he became active in the HTA and began speaking out against policies such as the use of data walls.

A hearing on the DLR complaint is currently being scheduled. 

“My goal, the goal of the teachers in Holyoke and the goal of the Holyoke Teachers Association is to work with students, parents and the community to give our students the best possible education, one that supports students in all their dimensions,” Morales said.

Video coverage of the rally

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