HTA Vision Statement

For immediate release

Contact: HTA President Gus Morales

Holyoke Teachers Association releases vision statement for turnaround process

As the Local Stakeholder Group for the Holyoke Public Schools prepares to meet on Wednesday, May 27, the Holyoke Teachers Association released its vision for the turnaround process while district schools are in state receivership.

“Members of the HTA are looking forward to working with the stakeholder group, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and his appointed receiver,” said HTA President Gus Morales. “The HTA is hopeful that Commissioner Chester and the receiver will collaborate with educators and the community in a dynamic process that will require modifications and improvements as plans unfold.”

In its vision statement, attached to this message, the HTA prepared the guiding principles and goals it intends to adhere to as educators engage in the turnaround process.

The first guiding principle is an acknowledgment that a turnaround will be sustainable only if adequate and comprehensive investments are made in education resources, with a commitment to educating the whole child.

The principles and goals take into account that Holyoke schools are affected by the city’s economy, and the turnaround plan will not be long-lasting if the impact of poverty on Holyoke Public Schools is not addressed.

Educators will be advocating for a process that addresses students’ health and well-being as well as purely academic issues. The state Achievement Gap Act, which gives Commissioner Chester the authority to take over the school district, also calls for resources for the community to tackle the economic injustice that affects student preparedness.

The HTA is pleased to have members Briget Reilly and Shelley Whelihan joining Morales on the 18-member Local Stakeholder Group. Reilly teaches at Dean Technical High School and is in her 18th year in the district. Whelihan, a 20-year veteran teacher in the Holyoke Public Schools, teaches at McMahon Elementary School. Both are parents of students in the Holyoke Public Schools and both are members of families that are active in the community.

“I see my role as bringing the real stories of teachers into the stakeholder discussions,” Reilly said.

Whelihan said policies and plans put into place without authentic input from classroom educators are less likely to be successful than those derived collaboratively.

The HTA has also created a Stakeholder Advisory Group comprising educators from various grade levels and school buildings to assist in adding the perspectives of educators to stakeholder discussions.

The five scheduled meetings of the Local Stakeholder Group are open to the public.

Wednesday’s meeting, starting at 3 p.m., will be in the Holyoke Public Library.

***The HTA Vision and Guiding Principles document is attached to this post as JPG (photos) and are in English and Spanish. Please distribute***

HTA Vision Statement ENGLISH

HTA Vision Statement SPANISH


President’s Message May 3rd 2015

Members of the HTA,

As you know, on Friday, May 1, Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester made his first trip to Holyoke after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education approved his plan to place Holyoke Public Schools in state receivership.

Karen Robidoux, president of the HPA, John Cavanaugh, president of the HEA, and I were present at the meeting with Chester and others from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

I asked the commissioner for details on his plans for educator pay scales, benefits, seniority rights and professional teaching status guidelines. He had no information on any of those topics, so I asked that he provide answers as soon as possible.

Another item that came up was the Local Stakeholders Group (LSG). The commissioner asked me to provide within a week the names of four HTA members to serve on the LSG. The members chosen will be responsible for ensuring that educators’ voices and the HTA’s collective concerns are part of any plan for the district.

Moving forward, there is a meeting this week of the Executive Board, and the MTA is gathering information pertinent to collective bargaining and due process rights.

The HTA and MTA are committed to fighting for members’ jobs and rights.

Through this process, it has become clear that the community values our work and shares a vision with us about creating schools that provide all students with a well-rounded education.
We must remain united. We must continue collaborating with the parents, students, and residents who support us.

Please watch for announcements on upcoming meetings to review the report on Holyoke Public Schools prepared by the MTA. Your input is crucial as the report will be the foundation of our demands for Holyoke Public Schools.

This is not a time to feel defeated or adrift. The HTA is not abandoning the goals it set for itself with input from the community. Adhering to our vision and principles should not be misconstrued as being “confrontational.”

We owe it to the students and families who passionately spoke on our behalf to continue working toward the schools that Holyoke deserves.

The HTA has made clear that educators want to be active participants in the planning, as well as the execution, of plans for Holyoke schools. If this is not a collaboration of equal partners, though, I fear there will be no collaboration at all, just top-down directives.

Transparency and democracy will better serve you and your students.

I will provide updates as they become available.

In Solidarity,

Gus Morales
HTA President

President’s Message – Clearing The Air

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.

In Solidarity,

Gus Morales

HTA President

President’s Update

Members of the HTA,
I just had a very positive meeting with the superintendent where we discussed several of the issues facing Holyoke teachers. We talked about the future of Holyoke and the need to be on the same page. We both contributed ideas to the conversation and I have hopes that this is the first step in building a better relationship with the administration through open and honest dialogue.
As for the situation with the commissioner, the superintendent doesn’t know much outside of what he’s already revealed in his letter addressed to the HPS staff. As I learn more I will relay the information to you all. We are facing a situation where there is no familiarity, but we must face it together. The forces that work against our city mean to disrupt our way of life.
Some of you take issue with my words and I understand the reluctance to accept the situation as it is because it is scary. Here is what the commissioner had to say to a reporter today (full story out tomorrow): “The educators are robbing the youth of Holyoke of a brighter future.” If that doesn’t ring as a declaration of intent, then I’m not sure what will. That comment is a direct attack on every single teacher in our city who gives everything they have to Holyoke on a daily basis.
I stand ready to defend every single one of you against any who would try to besmirch the good name of Holyoke.
In Solidarity,
Gus Morales

HTA President

President’s Message

Members of the HTA,

I am glad to be back in the classroom. It is a tremendous feeling to again be working with the students and families in our community and teaching alongside the great teachers of Holyoke.

This fight was not just about me. As noted in the joint press release, the issue of teacher evaluations—both their use and implementation—affects all of us in the profession, and this conclusion helps ensure that educators will be properly evaluated.

Throughout this struggle I have gained an even deeper appreciation of union membership. Even though I am the elected president of the HTA, it should be clear to everyone that the real power of the HTA comes from its ability to work collectively. I am truly grateful for the support I received from the HTA and my brothers and sisters in the Massachusetts Teacher Association. I hope all HTA members can see in this outcome, the value of union membership.

It is time to move forward. I am really glad that my own situation will no longer distract us – union and school alike – from addressing the major issues and carrying out the hard work of protecting public education against those outside forces altering it in ways that are destroying it.

Thank you for all the support and I look forward to continuing to serve the teachers of Holyoke.

Gus Morales

HTA President

President’s Update 9-22-14

I hope you’re all well as you receive this message. It has been a crazy week and there continue to be issues all over the district. Please know that I am doing everything I can to help as many as possible. My mission is to fight for every single one of you and make sure that all of your rights are being respected.

I ask that when you send me your issues/complaints/concerns, that you please give me as detailed an account as possible. Sometimes the context is everything. If you forward an email that you think is important and that I should be looking at, please provide some background information to the situation.
Due to some pressing concerns, I’ve added another school this week. I will be meeting withKelly School teachers on Tuesday, Sep. 23, and with Lawrence School teachers on Thursday, Sep. 25. Next week, I will be meeting with McMahon School teachers. If you feel your school needs to meet with me sooner rather than later, contact me and I will do my best to accommodate.
Depending on whether most schools have a staff meeting on Monday, Sep. 29, we will be having an information session on the evaluation system and the changes that may take effect, depending on how the ratification vote turns out. In the event that Monday does not work for most teachers, we will hold the information session on Tuesday, Sep. 30. This is a most serious matter and requires everyone’s attention. This will affect every single educator in our district. Please attend the informational session and spread the word to other teachers who may not be receiving this email. Shortly after the information session (more information coming soon on dates) we will hold a ratification vote for the changes in the evaluation system.
On a lighter note, I’ve attached a flier(Pasi_Sahlberg flier) for the Oct. 2 forum at Westfield State University and I hope to see many of you there. It would be great for Holyoke teachers to lead the way in advocating for students and their learning conditions.
Remember that we are all in this together.
In Solidarity,
Gus Morales

HTA President
Attention: Building Reps
Please distribute the contact information sheets to the teachers in your building. Any issues, please contact me.

Presidents Message 9-18-14

Members of the HTA,


We have a lot going on in our district. Recently, many of you have taken me up on my offer to email me with concerns/issues. I am pleased with the response so far. I, along with the Executive Board, have been looking to resolve any issues we come across.


Recently, I began implementation of a new initiative that I hope will help to put us all on the same page. The goal is to meet with one school per week. This is meant to be an informal discussion about any pressing matters that YOU, the members, wish to discuss.


I met with Morgan teachers last week and I met with Dean teachers this week. Between the emails and the issues raised at these meetings, it is clear that much work is needed. Feel free to continue emailing and reaching out.


We are in the early stages of planning a New Members’ social and it’d be great to have some of our veteran teachers assist in putting this together. Also, if you have ideas you’d like to share about things you’d like to see, do not hesitate. This is OUR union. None of us stand alone.


Some important upcoming dates:


  • Tuesday, Sep. 23 – Meeting with Kelly teachers @ 3:15 (please pass this along)

  • Thursday, Oct. 2 – Forum at Westfield State University featuring Pasi Sahlberg @ 6:30

  • Tuesday, Oct. 7 – Board Meeting @ 3:30

In Solidarity,

Gus Morales

HTA President

As always, feel free to contact me with any union-related concerns. Also, for the most recent updates see:

President’s Message 9-4-14

Members of the HTA,

As stated in previous messages, my aim is to send out the President’s Message once a week and my preference would be Thursday of every week. Please email if you have thoughts or suggestions on the matter.

I want to take a moment to welcome the new teachers to our city and for those of you who’ve been around, thank you for your continued service. Sometimes, we feel beaten down and unappreciated, yet we endure.

How do I know that you’re all amazing teachers? You wake up every single day, come to work and bring every ounce of energy you can muster to teach our children. That is amazing! Please remember that we are all one team and we need to not only be able to talk to one another, but we need to stand together.

Now, on to more pressing matters specific to the HTA.

1. Part of the plan for this Executive Board is to start visiting schools every week. The first will be Morgan School on Wednesday, September 10 at 3:45 p.m.. I will post the schedule for the coming months in next week’s President’s Message.

2. Several bylaw change proposals:

·       Retirees can retain membership, while limited, if they pay a nominal fee/dues.

·       Members who resign retain no membership rights effective on their resignation date.

·       Teachers/members involved in fighting dismissal/unjust termination will retain membership in good standing.

3. Some dates to keep in mind:

·       Board Meeting, September 9th      

·       MTA Forum: September 15th @ HCC Kittredge Center (more details to follow)

4. We are in the middle of contract negotiations. We will be updating you very soon on everything that has transpired thus far. The “Bottom Line”, a message from the negotiations team will be published very soon. There is lots to discuss, so please be on the lookout for this message, as well as your monthly “Common Purpose” newsletter.

I’d like to conclude with what would have been the closing to my convocation address:

No matter what anyone says, OUR students are awesome. No matter what anyone says, OUR city is awesome. No matter what anyone says, OUR teachers are awesome. Hold your heads up high. Walk with confidence. You’re a Holyoke Teacher. Be proud.

In Solidarity,

Gus Morales

HTA President

As always, feel free to contact me with any union-related concerns. Also, for the most recent updates see:

President’s Message 8-21-14

Members of the HTA,

As your new President, I wish my first message to address some issues that have been at the forefront of everyone’s minds lately. First and foremost, let me say that it is my distinct pleasure to serve as your president. Each and every one of the Executive Board members and myself made a promise to you that we would do our best to serve you and to make OUR union strong again.

We have many issues to tackle and it is a long road ahead of us, but I promise to tackle these issues to the best of my ability with your best interests at heart. I know there are a lot of members with issues surrounding their union in the last few years. I know there are a lot of you who remain disheartened about being a teacher in Holyoke. I know there are a lot of you who face friends and family that have sympathetic looks on their face when you say that you’re a teacher. I promise to work toward better days and to make all efforts that we might bring reverence to our profession. We all want the same thing. We want to do what’s best for the students of Holyoke. We want to do what’s best for the teachers of Holyoke. We want to work together with administration to make Holyoke schools the pride of Holyoke as they once were.

I endeavor to do everything in my power so that TOGETHER WE CAN make being a teacher a great source of pride in our great city. I promise that I, along with Executive Board members, will work tirelessly to make sure that teachers’ assignments are all equitable and that the word equity is a forethought in the decision-making process. I will WORK WITH YOU so that TOGETHER we can create better working conditions and see that our lives are not consumed by grievances and legal battles. TOGETHER WE WILL seek a new direction where administration and teachers work hard together for our students in an open and public discourse where everyone can weigh in on what matters most. It is my strong belief that we, the teachers that spend day in and day out with the students of Holyoke, be directly involved in shaping any policy that affects ALL of us.


I desire a future for Holyoke in which students receive a well-rounded education rivaling any other and for teachers to be able to walk in the community with their heads held high. I am confident that YOU want the same. I am YOUR President. YOUR votes put me here. This is YOUR Presidency. I thank all of you for YOUR support and ask that WE STAND TOGETHER as we travel this road.


In Solidarity,


Gus Morales

HTA President