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

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.



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”

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.

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