Holyoke high school students protest non-renewal of teacher’s contract

Hampden County

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – Holyoke High School students staged a walkout on Wednesday to support a teacher who is being let go by the district.

The students want the school district to change their decision and bring back one of the high school’s teachers. About two dozen Holyoke High School students at the North Campus walked out of class, on what was the last day of the school year.

Students held signs and chanted, protesting the school districts’ decision to not renew the contract of ethnic studies teacher Alicia Thomas.

“This is my first teacher of color, teaching ethnic studies and I feel that’s very important,” said Selena Garcia, a junior. “She’s related to us like nobody else and I feel like the freshman entering high school she’s been a big support to them so I feel like you’re connected automatically to a person like that who helped you so much.”

A student protest was also held Friday in protest of the non-renewal of Thomas’ contract. Students at Wednesday’s rally spoke out against the non-renewal of Thomas’ contract as well as the non-renewal of another teacher’s contract. Thomas is the only black woman teacher at the school.

Thomas told 22News the school district did not give her a reason why they didn’t renew her contract this month.

During the first rally Holyoke Public Schools spokesperson, Judy Taylor, told 22News they typically do not comment on personnel matters.

Executive Principal of Holyoke High School, Dr. Stephen Mahoney, said, “We respect and honor our democratic principles of free speech and freedom of assembly, and 100% respect students’ rights and initiative as members of our school community and as citizens.”

Mahoney added, “We strive to support all our students, faculty and staff to adhere to all of our schoolwide rules and expectations, and believe that we do so in as fair and equitable a manner as is possible.”

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