Last meeting in Holyoke before possible vote on state takeover

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HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Hundreds of Holyoke residents filled the War Memorial Building in Holyoke to make one last appeal to the Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education board members and Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester.

The City is divided over whether the board should vote in favor of Commissioner Chester’s recommendation of a state receivership of Holyoke Schools. The District is already a Level 4 District for its low test scores and graduation rates.

At the public forum Monday night, Commissioner Chester told the crowd he is deeply concerned for the future of young children in Holyoke. He cited recent statistics showing only 1 in 7 3rd and 4th graders testing at grade level on state standards.

Some parents said they hoped for state receivership if that meant more resources for Holyoke Schools, in the form of more teachers and money. Others, like State Senator Don Humason and Holyoke Teachers Union President Gus Morales, urged for local control of the schools. Humason said no matter the decision, he hoped it would be made soon so the district would be prepared for next school year.

Superintendent Dr. Sergio Paez announced last Thursday he was open to state receivership if he could be made receiver and still lead the same administration as they continue to improve the school system. Dr. Paez was hired less than two years ago to make changes and he said he has already noticed improvements. He just needs more time to implement his plans.

Most parents, teachers and community leaders agree that the schools need more resources and aid. They disagree on how that should be done.

Sandra Harnois, a parent supporting state takeover, said, “They need more teachers. Everything you know it would be a good thing. The teachers aren’t going to like it but I think so”

Robert Bard, an art teacher against state takeover, said, “Anybody who knows anything about change knows it’s going to take a whole lot longer than one or two years to see significant results. There have been positive steps.”

The board will meet on Tuesday for its April board meeting in Fitchburg. The members could vote on state receivership. 22News will be there and update you when it happens.

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