Joint HTA and HPS Statement

Joint HTA and HPS Statement

The Holyoke Public Schools and the Holyoke Teachers Association want to wish our staff and their families a happy holiday season! We appreciate that 2015 has been a year with many changes, including new district leadership and a bold turnaround plan. We applaud your continued professionalism, eagerness to share your input, and above all, your commitment to our students and their families.

It is important that you take time over the holiday break to rest, relax, and recharge. Research suggests that educators should use the holidays to disconnect from work (http://phys.org/news/2015-12-christmas-vital-teacher-psychological- wellbeing.html). As the findings point out, this will help prevent burnout and exhaustion in the long run.

We pledge to work together to ensure that you receive the support, guidance, and direction to deliver on our promises to children. We look forward to 2016 and building a bright future in the Holyoke Public Schools with you.

Holyoke Teachers Association Responds to DLC Report

For immediate release: Dec. 14, 2015
For additional information, contact HTA President Gus Morales, xxx-xxx-xxxx

Holyoke Teachers Association Responds to DLC Report

The Holyoke Teachers Association shares the concerns expressed in the community about the report issued by the Disability Law Center. Our members want to be sure that all students in Holyoke, and specifically those at the Peck School, are provided with a safe and productive learning environment.

As the professionals who directly address the learning and caretaking needs of students in a high-needs educational setting, our members at the Peck School have long raised concerns about systemic problems. Issues include the need for more resources, higher staffing levels, and appropriate student placements.

The HTA stands by the staff at Peck. A lawyer from the Massachusetts Teachers Association attended each of the interviews that the DLC conducted. Based on the attorney’s observations and report to us, the HTA believes that the advocacy group is not portraying an entirely accurate or fair picture.

We look forward to working with the district attorney and will cooperate fully with his office in the days ahead.

President’s Message / Back to School BBQ

Members of the HTA,
For our newest members, welcome to the Holyoke Public Schools and to our Holyoke Teachers Association family.
For those returning, welcome back and thank you for your continued service.
Now that you are getting ready to wrap up the first week of school with the kids it is important that we take the time to reflect. In the coming weeks I will be soliciting feedback from the membership on what goals the HTA should be focused on for the upcoming school year. It is important to promote peace and unity throughout our union and focus on creating the most positive space for all of us to thrive.
With the first week almost over, it is the perfect time for all of you to send pictures of your classrooms and reflections on what the first week was like via Facebook (www.Facebook.com/PresidentHTA) or Twitter (@PresidentHTA or link www.Twitter.com/PresidentHTA). The message should be one of positivity and continue the momentum begun at convocation.
On Saturday, September 12, 2015, the HTA will be taking part in a Back to School BBQ from 11-3 at Pulaski Park in Holyoke (link: https://www.facebook.com/events/934194853313097/#). This is an opportunity for us, as educators, to engage with the community and put a face to the teachers of Holyoke. It would be great to see as many of you there as possible and take part in a community celebration. 
I hope everyone has a good Friday with their students and please feel free to reach out anytime.
​In Solidarity,

Gus Morales

HTA President

President’s Message

What a difference a year can make.

I remember last year’s convocation leaving many teachers frustrated, anxious, and dismayed at the outlook for the year. Troubling comments were made about the Holyoke teachers not doing enough as well as an overall feeling of blame directed at them. Veteran teachers felt disenfranchised and clearly heard the whispers that the district’s predicament was mostly their fault. While it is true that we must all put the past behind us, only a fool forgets the context which makes up the present.

This year’s convocation was an absolute contrast. It is amazing what small gestures can mean to the hardworking teachers of Holyoke. A good chunk of time was allotted to celebrate our veteran teachers who’d been serving Holyoke for more than 25 years. It was nice to see all the educators who’ve given so much of themselves to Holyoke be given proper accolades and acknowledgment that they are the backbone of our Public Schools. We saw teachers get called in bands of 25+ years, 30+ years, 35+ years, 40+ years, and then finally only one was left standing to claim the very distinguished 50+ years of service to Holyoke Public Schools.

This year’s convocation set the tone for how future ones should look and feel like. Time was taken to welcome the newest members to the Holyoke Public Schools in a meaningful way that did not feel like an afterthought. Instead of the very dark auditorium, the gym was used and was very bright. There was singing and there was a great deal of laughter and applause. An atmosphere of positivity took place and we should look to capitalize on it. Let us hope that we can all work together to make this year a raging success that brings enjoyment to the students and the staff. Welcome back!

Gus Morales
HTA President

Welcome Back!

Members of the HTA,

Today was the first day back for most of you and I’m sure you’re all ready to begin the new school year. I sincerely hope everyone had a restful summer and had the chance to relax and enjoy the company of family and friends.

This year will not be like most years. There will be some new challenges that we face as teachers in Holyoke. Our job has never been easy and I ask you all to dig deep into your reservoirs and find the strength to guide you on this journey. It is important that we stand together and rely on one another with so much uncertainty and so many changes.

We lost a lot of teachers and of course that is a loss that will be felt, but we’ve also gained a lot of new colleagues. Our newest members will be the ones that need us all the most. Let us welcome them into our buildings with open arms and embrace them as the latest additions to our Holyoke Teachers Association family.

We all know we are in uncharted waters. We know it will be a difficult year. And still, I am hopeful that together we can make it a great year. I look forward to seeing you all in your buildings and working together to build union strength. Have a great school year!

 

In Solidarity,

Gus Morales

HTA President

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

HTA Local Stakeholder Group Representatives Update to the Membership

*The location of the next Local Stakeholder Group meeting has changed. The meeting will now take place at the Kittredge Center at Holyoke Community College. The meeting is scheduled to run from 3 to 6 p.m. on Monday, June 1. Please spread the word and plan on attending. Even though the meetings are not public forums, the public is welcome and members of the stakeholder group are accessible during breaks in the formal meeting*

HTA Local Stakeholder Group Representatives

Update to the Membership

 

Members of the HTA,

 

The Local Stakeholder Group (LSG), whose purpose is to serve as an advisory board to the state and make recommendations as the state begins the school turnaround process in Holyoke, held its first meeting Wednesday, May 27,  at the Holyoke Public Library. The group consists of 18 community representatives, including President of Holyoke Teachers Association, Gus Morales;  teacher representatives, Briget Reilly and Shelley Whelihan; parents; school principals; and leaders of local organizations. The first meeting set the stage for the work the group must undertake within the next 45 days.

 

With approximately 100 people packing the meeting as observers, the group spoke freely and discussed both the positive and negative aspects of the school district. Among the topics discussed at this meeting were Early Literacy Programs, such as Holyoke Early Literacy Initiative (HELI), the education of second language learners and how the city approaches this issue. The group also brought forward such pressing issues as class size, class period length, discipline issues, and  suspension rates .

 

To one point in particular, the HTA representatives questioned the state’s use of the terms “affordable” and “sustainable” as applied to the turnaround process. The LSG facilitators mentioned the possibility of start-up funds for some proposals, but the HTA will be looking for answers on long-term investments in education and community resources. As stated in a MassLive article posted yesterday:

 

State officials who facilitated the meeting asked members to ensure suggestions are “affordable, sustainable and scalable.”

 

Holyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales asked for clarification on this point. “Affordable for whom? For our district or for Longmeadow?”

 

Several other issues were brought up by the HTA that had to do with the start time of the meetings and the possibility of having the meetings televised. To the first, the HTA’s position is that the start time of 3:00 pm is not beneficial to the community, especially when considering the parents who do not receive their children from the bus until about 3:30pm. In order for this to be a truly public, open, inclusive process, all efforts must be made to ensure maximum participation from the community. As to the second issue of the meeting being televised, it is imperative that the process of the LSG be as transparent as possible. This entails making sure that even the folks that can’t attend due to childcare or work-related issues, should be afforded the same opportunity to bear witness to the events that will likely shape Holyoke’s future. The HTA feels strongly that the onus falls to the state to accommodate as many as possible and avail the process to the whole community.

 

Overall, the HTA Teacher Representatives were pleased with yesterday’s meeting and feel that several pertinent issues were brought forward by community members. Shelley Whelihan said, “It was good to see that the parent representatives and some of the community members seemed to understand some of the issues we, as educators, have been talking about and wanted addressed.”

One such example of the mutual understanding and productive back-and-forth discussion was the issue of 90-minute blocks for classes. Gus Morales was asked by a community member what he meant by 90-minute blocks. Dean Tech teacher Briget Reilly fielded that question by explaining the concept and the challenges of this schedule, further adding that it is an extremely difficult endeavor for students to sustain attention for long periods, especially for one class/subject. Principal Jackie Glasheen stated that she had “plenty of teachers begging (her) to give them longer periods of time with their kids.” Holyoke High School graduate and current Yale University student, Erin Hebert, a community representative on the LSG,  stated, from the perspective of a student who has experienced both, that “forty-five minute periods at Holyoke High were a breath of fresh air. Ninety minutes was just too long.”

 

As the work moves forward, the Teacher Representatives to the LSG will continue to meet with their Advisory Committee and hear from all teachers who share opinions and concerns. They will then take those concerns to the table and continue to add to the dialogue that is intended to try to create the schools our students deserve. It is important that we share the experiences of teachers working in the classroom. This will provide the proper context to the data being presented by the state.

 

“I always want to address the mistakes we’ve made and we really do need to address things that have not worked if we are to progress as a city. We’ve seen a good give-and-take of varying viewpoints, and I thought our facilitators were clearly capturing the ideas of the participants,” said Gus Morales, President of Holyoke Teachers Association.

 

The next meeting will take place on Monday, June 1, at 3:00 pm. It is of the utmost importance that we have a great showing of teachers, students, parents, and community members at all of these meetings in order to send the message that we are present and that we will hold the commissioner to his word about making this a transparent and public process. Even though the meetings are not a public forum, it is clear audience members can interact with members of the group during breaks and through other means of communication for those not present. We look forward to seeing you on June 1st and welcome all comments and suggestions.

 

If you have any imput you would like to share, please feel free to email Briget Reilly at BrigetReillyHTA@gmail.com.