Welcome Back!

Welcome Back! 

As we embark on another academic year I’d like to first thank those veteran teachers who have chosen to continue the hard work and dedication to the children of Holyoke. I’d also like to take this time to welcome all the new teachers to the district. I strongly believe that you could not have joined us at a more pivotal moment in Holyoke’s history.  The experiences you will encounter as an educator in our current situation under receivership will be challenging, but I feel it will help all of us, especially our fledgling teachers, in creating a foundation for a long, rewarding career.

Although we face unprecedented times our mission does not change.  I’ve learned a valuable lesson while serving in the Marine Corps that I’d like to share with you: “To continue to exist despite adverse conditions; improvise, overcome and adapt.” We must rely upon each other as professionals. As returning teachers we should reach out to the new staff and take them under our wing. As new members I encourage you to seek out that guidance.  It is my firm belief that if we do our job to the best of our abilities, we as the HTA will be at the center of the success as part of the turnaround plan.

Please remember the HTA is here to support you.

 

Sincerely,

Ed Meyer

Vice President, Holyoke Teachers Association

For Immediate Release:

For Immediate Release:
August 21, 2015
Contact: Gus Morales, President Holyoke Teachers Association,

“State Issues Charge Against Holyoke Public Schools for Firing Union Leader”

http://massteacher.org/news/archive/2015/complaint_issued_in_firing_of_hta_president.aspx

The state Department of Labor Relations (DLR) has found “probable cause” to believe that the Holyoke Public Schools illegally fired Holyoke Teachers Association (HTA) President Gus Morales because of his activism as a union leader.
The DLR will hold a hearing on the complaint, which stems from a charge filed by the HTA on June 25. The DLR complaint is similar to a grand jury indictment; the upcoming hearing will have many of the characteristics of a trial, with witnesses and cross-examination.
“Because I speak out against policies that I see as bad for our students and bad for our educators, I have been targeted for two straight years,” said Morales, whose employment contract with the Holyoke Public Schools was not renewed at the end of the school year.
Morales, who does not have professional teaching status, was similarly dismissed at the end the 2013-14 school year after his election to lead the HTA. Then, as now, the DLR issued a complaint that found reason to believe that Morales was illegally terminated for his union activism.
In that case, following the initial DLR complaint, the Holyoke Public Schools agreed with the HTA and Morales to return Morales to the classroom in November. Shortly thereafter, the state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education announced a planned review of Holyoke Public Schools and its intentions to recommend that the district be placed under the control of a state-appointed receiver.
Morales and the HTA were vocal opponents of the takeover, which was imposed in April despite widespread objections from the community and several of its elected leaders.
“It is an outrage that an educator and leader such as Gus Morales, who has spoken out for the students and the Holyoke community, is being targeted for dismissal,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni. “The MTA will not tolerate attacks on educators, especially when the attack is meant to cause fear among those who challenge the deeply flawed accountability system used to punish educators, students and communities. Gus has the courage to address the real issues affecting Holyoke — such as economic and racial injustice — and the MTA supports him and the HTA in holding the state accountable for providing resources that the community can use to combat these problems.”
Throughout stakeholder meetings to craft a “turnaround” plan for Holyoke Public Schools, Morales and others from the HTA raised concerns about the influence of standardized tests, the need to provide social services to students living in poverty, inadequate programs for students on special education plans, the lack of ethnic diversity in the teaching ranks and other issues that they felt that the receiver needs to address.
“Before I became vocal about the problems I see in our schools, I received very good evaluations. But once I spoke out, my evaluations turned negative,” Morales said. “The real story here is how the current evaluation process lets administrators target and eventually terminate educators who challenge their authority.”

President’s Update

Members of the HTA,

The receivership is a big change for Holyoke; it’s too soon to know if it’s a case of “the more things change, the more they stay the same.”

One important factor is the turnover in the teaching staff. Commissioner Chester, on the advice of Holyoke administrators, terminated or non-renewed 78 teachers, including 4 who had PTS. In addition, many veteran teachers decided that this was the time to leave, going to places as far from here as Nantucket Island and Martha’s Vineyard. It’s too early to say exactly how many of our veteran members will be gone come September. Good luck to them, and kudos to all those who have stayed to try and create the best possible schools for Holyoke students.

One important task for all of us is to reach out to new teachers, to help them get their bearings, to be there for advice about professional issues, and to tell them about the union. Let’s make sure we identify the new teachers in our buildings and then make a plan so that an HTA member reaches out to every single new teacher in the district. Let us use this as an occasion to create solidarity among educators. We don’t yet have a full understanding of what Dr. Zrike will be like, but he has reached out to the union, met with us, and treated us with respect. It’s a good sign, but he was clear that he will be bringing issues to the bargaining table, and the rules for state receivership give him extra leverage in those negotiations.

Some people have asked about my own situation. It’s the same as it was last year at this time: the employer says I am fired, the union contests that, arguing that I was terminated because of my union activity. The state labor board had a preliminary hearing on July 29. Both last year and this year the board ruled in favor of the union, saying that there was “probable cause” to believe I had been fired for my union activity. Last year the employer settled before the case went to a full hearing; this year we don’t yet know whether the employer will settle or force us to go to a full hearing, which would come a couple of months from now.

I look forward to all of us working together in September to meet our challenges. If you have questions, comments, suggestions, or problems by all means be in touch.
In solidarity,

Gus Morales
HTA President

Meeting with Dr. Zrike

Members of the HTA,

On Thursday, July 9, the HTA leadership met with Dr. Zrike at the HPS offices. The stage was set for an open line of communication between the HTA and the receiver. We felt that a positive and successful discussion took place and are hopeful that the discourse will continue. Many mutual issues and concerns were shared and a follow-up meeting was scheduled to continue our discussion. We are confident that the HTA is part of Dr. Zrike’s turnaround plan by his statement about not being “here to bust the union. We need to work together and come to a common understanding.” The HTA is optimistic that this relationship will help us move forward and start the hard work it will take to change the Holyoke schools into the schools our children deserve.

Holyoke Teachers Association
Executive Board

LSG Meeting Update

Local Stakeholder Group Update:

The next meeting will be on Wednesday, June 10 from 3:00-6:00 p.m at the Leslie Phillips Theater at Holyoke Community College (303 Homestead Ave; Fine and Performing Arts (C) Building). The meeting will be focused on family and community engagement.

La próxima reunión será el miércoles, 10 de junio de 3:00 – 6:00 p.m en el teatro Leslie Phillips en Holyoke Community College (303 Homestead Ave; Fine and Performing Arts (C) Building). La reunión se enfocará en la familia y la comunidad.