Statement by MTA president on BESE vote to place Holyoke schools in receivership

MTA President Barbara Madeloni issued the following statement on April 28, 2015, concerning the BESE vote to place the Holyoke Public Schools into state receivership.

I am appalled that the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education has voted to support Commissioner Mitchell Chester’s recommendation to place the Holyoke Public Schools into receivership.

“Chester and his chief supporters, BESE Chairman Paul Sagan and Education Secretary James Peyser, ignored what they heard.”

- MTA President Barbara Madeloni

During the four-hour public hearing the board held in Holyoke on the evening before taking this drastic and undemocratic step, the overwhelming majority of people who testified spoke eloquently against the state takeover of their schools. A broad cross-section of Holyoke parents, educators, students and other residents offered their vision for the schools their city deserves – and they were firm about their desire for community-based partnerships and local control so they could make this vision a reality.

Chester and his chief supporters, BESE Chairman Paul Sagan and Education Secretary James Peyser, ignored what they heard. Instead, they put forth an inaccurate narrative centered on failing schools. Holyoke residents and educators are well aware of the challenges faced by their public schools, but they are also capable of addressing those issues if they are given the appropriate resources.

School committees, superintendents, educators, parents and students across the state should be highly concerned about what is happening in Holyoke. By voting in favor of receivership, the majority of BESE members have made it clear that public input matters little in their decisions. They have also made it evident that they are determined to undermine collective bargaining, thereby taking a step that does nothing to improve our schools.

It is worth noting that board members Ed Doherty, Donald Willyard and Mary Ann Stewart – who represent educators, students and parents, respectively – voted against the takeover. Willyard and Stewart based their firm opposition to the receivership motion not only on what they heard at the public hearing, but also on what they saw when they made personal visits to schools in Holyoke.

The MTA will work closely with Holyoke educators, parents and the community to make sure all students receive a quality education as receivership is put in place. We will do all we can to ensure that democratic rights are honored and we will continue to fight for the public schools that Holyoke students deserve.

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