Members of the Holyoke Teachers Association are deeply disturbed by how the threatened state takeover of our schools has deepened divisions, increased mistrust and destabilized our system. We are asking Superintendent Paez to join the union, the community, the parents and students in focusing our attention on the real threat to our community – a Level 5 designation and loss of public control of our public schools.
I would like to set the record straight on what the HTA has been doing over the past few weeks and what we plan to do now. Far from claiming that Holyoke already has the schools our children deserve, we are proclaiming loudly that Holyoke does NOT have the schools our children deserve.
We are asking teachers, students, parents and other community residents what their vision is for those schools. They have a lot of ideas, including better services for English language learners and special needs students and a rich curriculum with art, music and physical education in buildings that are as safe and well-equipped as those attended by children in wealthier Massachusetts cities and towns.
Far from defending the status quo, we are calling for nothing short of a major and dramatic change in society’s practices and values so that together we can drive policies that reduce poverty and guarantee all children a quality education – regardless of the color of their skin or their language of origin.
We have not heard anything from state policymakers that suggests these priorities are the state’s priorities. In fact I’m not sure how state policymakers would have any idea what the Holyoke community wants, since the first public hearing in Holyoke on this issue is likely to be on the eve of a final vote on the takeover – in other words, after the policymakers have already made up their minds.
To date, state intervention in Holyoke has been anything but helpful – both in the past when America’s Choice was brought in and as of now. Even the process the state has used in moving toward designating our schools “Level 5” has created huge rifts, hard feelings and bad blood. That’s what happens when a policy is rammed down the throat of a community without adequate input or a commitment to work with those who are most affected.
We stand for the children of Holyoke, and we stand with them. We invite the administration to stand with us. Together we can develop a strong vision for the schools Holyoke students deserve. The entire community needs to come together to create a shared vision of the schools Holyoke children deserve.