Monday, April 27, 2015

Holyoke state takeover hearing

I we're having public address issues; the chair's mic is very scratchy and dull
posting as we go
Bit of a delay here as we try to figure out how anyone is going to be heard if the Chair's mic doesn't work
They've turned off the sound system; Sagan has come to the front of the stage to opening the meeting. Chester's introduction meets with boo's; the rest with scattered applause.

Sagan: here as part of an important process; heard from many of you
invested in your community
"we understand that you care deeply about what happens to your children; we do, too; that's why we're here"
Sagan has just been handed a bullhorn
"we have a limited amount of time...that's your decision how we use the time"
been asked to make a very difficult decision
here today as part of a very long process; not rushing this
ensure that every children here in Holyoke
"Many of you have asked us not to approve receivership for this district"
"that's not happening today and hasn't happened for many, many years"
if a change has a likelihood of making change needed
"through decades of reform legislation"

five minute wait for a better PA system

have no doubt that we'll hear some of what is working and what isn't working
"going to continue to seek information...until we have the information we need to make our decision"
one point that needs to be made: suspends the democratic process
"I don't believe that's the case...the decision that we're been asked to make sits in the history"
public education invented here rehearses ed refrom history starting in 1993
2011 Ed reform law: schools "that are stubbornly stuck"
put under a new form of state control
"but the Legislature also made it very clear that this tool is be used when the future of our children is being lost"
many wonderful educators doing wonderful work, day in and out
ground rules: have to sign up to be heard
give preference to people who live and work here
public officials first
I will give names only for those I am most clear on; apologies in advance
Sagan: "I don't know that I'm going to get to the bottom of the box"
"any time used up by interruptions" comes out of the total time

Chester: three areas: why making recommendation, address misinformation, quick sense of what happens after state takeover
why so concerned about Holyoke:
"incredible concern of the future of young people of Holyoke"
1 out of 7 in early ELA
1 out of 4 in math
lowest graduation rate; one of the highest dropout rates
"some will thrive, but the majority will not thrive"
not true that receivership will mean mass firings (but check the turnover rate after state takeover)
"we need you to be part of this receivership"
"we welcome you to remain on staff"
not privatization, says Chester: will be run by public "of Massachusetts"
high school students will get diploma
next: over two months will ID receiver; will have local stakeholder group; will begin implementing over next school year

Mayor Alex Morse: many coming tomorrow, as well
"the point at which we can get clarity and can move forward.." requests vote sooner rather than later
"nobody would want for Holyoke Public Schools"
can agree that all have worked tirelessly, schools aren't where they need to be
"we need to account for all the kids, who aren't here tonight in this room and have fallen through the cracks"
have to govern holistically
"need partners" to succeed
"can address all of these issues innovatively and collaboratively"
"to showcase what works" and improve what doesn't
"every day we wait, more and more of our kids will drop out"
"instead of rehashing debates about control"
lesson of Lawrence: "schools are still ours to shape"
not, let's say, a stirring defense of the schools

State Senator Humason: has gotten great admiration for parents
has talked to many...share many concerns....
low test scores, low reading rates, high dropouts
"favor local control"
"respectfully ask Board" to reject state receivership
then ask that they move quickly and "stop stringing along people of this proud and challenged city"

Rep. Vega: "I think that we need to look at timing...four or five years ago, it'd be a different conversation"
"what has happened in past year is unprecedented"
"did not happen overnight and success will not happen overnight"
asks that they consider Sergio Paez (current superintendent) as reciever if they vote takeover
"look at us in another two years"

Sergio Paez: reasons why we believe that changing the course is not a good idea
"how policymakers attempt to educate students that don't look like them"
performance of urban students
"have consistently providing suburban solutions to urban children"
"lack of urban education"
"have been working tirelessly my entire life to overcome challenges students face"
"this sense of urgency has always been present in our work"
"no finding that doesn't
"every change in education takes time...I just can't understand why time isn't being given to us."

Devin Sheehan, vice chair of School Committee
"We don't come to you today without a plan"
talked to Chester about who would be the next superintendent of Holyoke
Paez was picked unanimously: "the best superintendent to create change for the schools"
"we learned to work together to bring what was best for the children of the Holyoke Public Schools"
dual language, pathways to graduation program,
"we picked the best person to be superintendent"
"what makes us the best ability to run our public schools is the people behind me"
"we've seen dramatic increases in our graduation rate and decreases in our dropout rate, and we're proud of that"
"I'm asking that to let the leaders that have been chosen by the community and our school committee to continue"
"urge you to vote no tomorrow"

another board member: "more weight" Giles Corey and the Salem witch trials
"I bring this up as analogy as to what the state has been doing to the Holyoke community"
Holyoke Public Schools being pressed under weight
"unlike Giles Corey...Holyoke remains very much alive"
"wasn't totally funded...'though welcomed and appreciated"
was current administration
list of tuanrounds that have happened in the past year
suspensions have decreased, graduations have increased
Corey's "was so cruel and gruesome" that it ended Salem Witch Trials
"people began to doubt that so many people could be guilty"

member, City Council: no need to take our schools over
superintendent "has put together a phenominal plan that is still in its infancy"
"last tool to use" "what I didn't hear was a plan" from the state
"the only person who has offered up a plan is our superintendent"
asks that evaluation team alongside Paez's team
"you owe us a chance"
"I ask that whatever the Board decides allows us a chance"

Gus Morales, president of the teachers' union
"community that does not want a takeover"
Board is"here under the pretense of a threat"
"assistance should have been offered" by state
extraordinary step
making sure that every single party has been informed and notified
"what we want is for you to show compassion"
"somehow poverty being treated like some sort of abstract"
"but all somebody cares about is somehow, they get their test scores up"
concern about the wellbeing of our children and not just their test scores
"state takeover is what it is: it's a hostile takeover of our city"

chair of SpedPAC
don't make this decision until you personally visit our schools
has most dedicated and hardest working administration, teachers, paraprofessionals
speaks highly of process of getting son's needs taken care of
"felt confident that everyone involved in our son's education" cared for him
"we know because we make it our business to know"
"our schools do not need new leadership; our schools need to strive for parent and family involvement"
"please give us the adequate time to show us the progress we're making as a district"
"we need to keep the 'Holyoke' in the Holyoke Public Schools"

now to public testimony, taken randomly

Parent "implore you to look honestly at the data before you"
"you must if you are an intellectually honest man"
13% lower rate of poverty among children in Lawrence
"they cannot be compared"
"lets you as a professional" to do otherwise
"every single member of this Board have not addressed graduates"
upper level of MCAS, SAT, ACT
"nobody has addressed a single one of our students" about what will happen
"I say that in and of itself is to fail"
when something goes wrong in the educational system of the village, we choose only to do otherwise
deserve to be judged by a system of your peers, "I submit to you today that the students of Holyoke are not receiving that guarantee"

Teachers; has seen many changes
never has changes: dedication of teachers
never crossed my mind than to send my children anywhere else
eldest graduated with Abigail Adams scholarship last year
youngest a first grader
"I am asking that you continue to allow our schools to stay under local control"
"have seen my children grow from learners to scholars"

student speaking
"I want to start by saying the schools are about learning, not about a score on a test"
"I think all of my teachers should keep their jobs"
"I know how hard my teachers work because my mom is a teacher, too"
"I do not think that the Holyoke schools should be taken over; what you are doing is wrong!"

"it is a fact that Holyoke's difficulties begin and end with poverty"
a huge percentage is "transient, poverty stricken, and may not read and write in English"
"provide Holyoke with the funding it needs to reduce class size and improve student achievement" NOW
child in a class of 27 students; "numbers like this are ridiculous"
"It takes money to provide students and teachers with the resources they need" to improve reading
"a state takeover would be a slap in the face" of teachers who have devoted their lives
"living in Holyoke comes with a stigma"
"families that have lived here for generations"
"don't add to the stigma"
"we are worthy and our children are worthy"

junior at Holyoke High contrast with time she spent in a central Mass suburb
got a better education here than there
"when I go to school every day, I see tons of kids who are thriving"
asks how a state takeover will benefit them more than the resources they have been deprived of

educator from Holyoke: need educators at the table
have met many other teachers
"about a system that isn't working and hasn't been for some time now"
"talking about progress of all of our students; not just some of our students"
"the reality is that some in our city are opposed to change"
"and we need to ease the fears of those who are opposed to change"
says that charter schools can partner to bring
have to have the energy that 'enough is enough'
"let's use energy to work together"
"And for that reason, I support receivership"
also asks for a charter cap lift

parent of student in charter school: "I don't know what we're going to do when she goes to high school"
"We need the kids to have a healthy education"
"if you're a teacher in Holyoke, I hope you know Spanish" (which got a negative reaction from the crowd)..."so you can help them"
"they're all children, and that's what matters"

Shelly Wellingham, teacher for 20 years
"while the teachers have helped them, I really congratulate my sons for their reaching their goals"
"we're not Level 4 and 5 in all the other schools"
"as a resident, I think about...our property taxes may decline"
points out that Morgan (under state control) didn't start on time last year; we can't afford that as a district

math teacher: the two resources that are the most critical to educators are time and money
what I'm asking and pleading for is a chance
"this reminds me of my brother of taking the remote in the eight level of Mario" (I think?)
"he takes the remote for a minute and keeps it for the rest of the game"
have been having a turnaround: five out of six years, Holyoke has performed better in growth than the state
poverty is a reason to want to do better, to get out of it, to compete with those suburban graduates
"ask you to give us a chance: we can do this and we will"
"It's not about takeover: it's about collaboration"

City Councilor since 1980, lived in city all my life
Holyokers understand what education is about; local control is what makes it work.
"charter schools are wonderful; the funding mechanism doesn't work"
education being there children
"I support and ask you to consider that local control of education stays with the city of Holyoke"

parent: interesting Board can in a 65 page report, tell us what the problems are
in a normal process, you'd have to tell us what the solutions are
"don't understand how you can take something away from these people beyond saying 'we want a change'"
"don't believe there is one [challenge] that we can't take on ourselves"
find it interesting when you look at Lawrence: Holyoke did 11 points over five years; Lawrence did 3 points over four years
"That receivership isn't working"
Lawrence: 10 point increase in math; 7 point increase in science: did that by increasing student time 300 hours and spring break/summer academies
ask crowd if with increased time "we can increase scores by a paltry 10 to 7 percent?" (to applause)

student: motivation teachers provide to students
"we are one, we are a family, and if the receivership comes, that will take it away"
"this is not the time to say that Holyoke's family has failed"
"Holyoke needs another chance"

City Councilor at large; has son going into high school next year with two to follow
comments on enthusiasm in room
was first person in family to graduate from college
"we all have a fantastic education from the Holyoke Public Schools"
Savage Inequalities: "we don't see these inequalities in Amerst, in Longmeadow"
cites the amount Holyoke is speading on homeless student transportation

music teacher: "standing in front of a very talented group that knows a whole bunch about the children of Holyoke"
"when you outsource, you usually get a rather poor product as a result"
have to ask what would motivate such a move on your part
"would of course result in the demise of our great city"
"I feel like the Lorax up here"
suggested to Commissioner that you talk these things out, "have a few cannolis"
ten minute break

student at Holyoke High: "we haven't been properly funded"
compares a student with a calculator to one with a pencil and paper to one with just his head
"one with the calculator should be put it out there faster"
"But I also want to say that I don't think that's important"
"if I know the material, that's what's important"

parent who several years ago was homeless: son graduating with honors from Holyoke High; going into STEM
son recommended for honors physics
daughter at Morgan under state takeover: "my daughter now lives in Springfield with my sister...and if that's what a state takeover means, I don't think Holyoke needs that."

student: fail to see what benefits we could see from receivership
"would distract the students and the teachers from doing their best work"

3rd grade teacher: now reading the list of associations of teachers and school committees that have supported motion against state takeover

parent of children in first grade to a senior in high school; have been a full time volunteer
"while my children have been successful, I know many others have not"
most volunteer time spent with students
"know that all students have what they need to successful"
Paez promises plan to "transform our locally run schools"
"believe in his plan 100%'
have seen greatest change in last 17 months (during Paez's administration)
"my heart in the last 17 months has been truly happy"
"locally run district to move forward"

"hope that you have come tonight with an open mind"
state may select a receiver that has no connection with Holyoke, Massachusetts, or western Mass
plan will not have any update through our elected officials
while we are reminded of state's involvement, we have yet to hear of state's responsibility in "failure" in Holyoke
state takeover of schools locally show no promise for state to make a difference
"18 months is not long enough"
receivership to Paez is disengenuous: "a sophisticated way of union busting"
will work if given more time and support

long-term resident of Holyoke: my child was not successful in the Holyoke Public Schools
ended up dropping out, didn't get the scores that she needed, at Careerpoint, took the GED and passed it
opted for school choice for younger children
"I will not have them here until this city is ready and is able to offer the education that I want for them"
need to prepare students for the future

long-term resident of Holyoke: graduated in 1985, and I am a successful individual
"the ward that is impoverished and the ward that is underperforming"
interesting that Governor Baker comes down here in November, then find out in December that review has been pushed up
April three day review: "no way that you can adequately review the hard work and the process in three days"
65 page review: justifying takeover, not supporting us as a community
"I want to argue that undefunding, over reliance on test scores...has contributed to the situation for our students"
"today MCAS, tomorrow PARCC"
"Holyoke can do anything that Lawrence can--and better"

teacher for 40 years
Massachusetts community school teacher of the year for 2015
want to advocate for : THE ARTS!
love being an educator...even if teachers are retained...going to lose dedicated teachers who can't help but be cynical about the future of education
troubling thing about art education, has already been eliminated
96% of private schools have some form of arts education; closer to 30% in public schools
"where is the connection to your imagination?"
have to tap into desire to learn "I don't know that I've ever known a student who desires to take the MCAS test"
would like to see arts education in the equation to improve education, because we know it works

Student "Think about meeting our needs instead of our scores"  

Teacher talks about difficulty of retaining good young teachers because of state Accountabilty levels. 
Speaks of alignment of resources and curriculum
Also chose to send children to Holyoke Public Schools
Strong education and sense of community
11 year old fifth grader becomes overwhelmed at the mic; aunt says she doesn't want her teachers to go away

"I've gone out and done my work and done my vote"
"A lot of the issues are social problems, and I'm not sure that's your job"
"Then we hear that the receivership: did anyone ask them?...Lawrence is the only place in receivership that you were INVITED"
And if you have, wants to see emails so can see who sold them out

Parent: here to advocate for needs of students in Holyoke and to discuss leadership for that
To make leadership decisions, you must have a connection to that population 
Board of Ed knows our kids by test scores, graduation rates, and request for sped
they don't walk the halls, they don't see their faces

administrator: should remain under current leadership
when started,
"felt like we started from one grant-based initiative to the next"
Paez: changes were made with the way things are done; worked non-stop to unite our schools and our vision
beginning stages of true reform
changes now would be devestating to our students
"constant training is happening...unprecedented time is being spent improving our time and practice"
"it takes time to make changes..."
"children of Holyoke are in the best possible hands right now and need to stay there"

community member whose children attended public schools
"I'm a proponent of less government in our lives, but I'm also a proponent of ed reform from 1993"
hear parents don't support the teachers, teachers don't support the administration
more stories of failures than successes
have lost ground annually for at least twenty years
need to have full graduating classes
"at the same time, Dr. Paez has come to town and has made a big change"
"if you really think you can do a better job, do it; if you think that Dr. Paez is doing a better job, support him"
"don't takeover the schools unless you're sure you can do a better job"
"Please vote tomorrow"

parent of a high school senior, family has been here since 1888
every child in Holyoke can learn
when I met the principal of Dean (HS), he was so happy; he'd just bought his house in Northampton. "That's not what we need here"
"So happy this room is full"

have been following the MCAS scores of our children
a lot of teenagers have gotten out and they got a certificate, not a diploma
"that's coming from you, the state"
and then you raise the bar, "if it's difficult one year, it's more difficult the next"
"I had my children in the public school sometimes, then the charter school, then they didn't follow the rules of the plan"
moved back to public schools "her grades are high"
"teachers responsible, really want to know, really want to learn"

parent speaking on behalf of seven year old: I would like to finish at the Kelly School like my mom and my cousin.

Erin Brunelle, school committee member: "I speak not only for myself, I speak for all the people that elected us"
since Lawrence has been taken over, meet once a month, and have voted twice
"they are an advisory committee"
"one of the things I'd like to discuss is funding"
last year had to slash $4.5M from budget
28 students in her daughter's first grade class
funding directly impacts how many teachers are in front of how many students
"funding absolutely is a problem"
"Guess who were the first ones to go? Librarians. We are in a district that struggles with reading and we don't have librarians."
"you have no suggestions for our problems because you're not part of our community"
when you get a group of 15 students together in kindergarten, 12 of them are three years behind
"we're not getting there by third grade, but we're getting there"
expansion of preK; more and more children coming in at an early level
"you approved everything we have to do, but we're not doing it fast enough"
first year we've had preK; let them get to third grade MCAS

chair of Holyoke Chamber of Commerce
you've seen our statistics
"we trust the Board will arrive at a thoughtful decision"
change is imperative for our students
praises Paez's relationship with Chamber and business community
stand ready to partner with schools; enjoy fruits of relationship
Holyoke Gateway city like Lawrence; would like to learn more about how Lawrence is coordinating change; will take field trip

parent "putting education in hands of strangers is a mistake"
award-winning programs; award winning teachers
"appeal to the educator in each of you; look at the real issues behind the numbers"
"now that things are working" need time
"some recievership plans provide several years; why aren't we given the same opportunity?"
if this goes through, you'll be forcing me to send my children to schools that I did not choose, even if they stay in the same schools
"give our school system time and support and funding now will be a win for the state and especially for our children"

19 year old graduate of Holyoke: came to Holyoke at 15
met most amazing teachers; he asks Holyoke High teachers to stand
not only taught him "taught me to be a better person"
"if you decide to take over, it's going to be like Hell"

director of special education for Holyoke Public Schools; has worked here for 30 years
took over after six directors in seven years
"I don't blame you for thinking we need help"
aura of complacency had taken over; cites Paez as breaking it
"the outcomes are unacceptable; we need to develop a plan to improve"
returned from break with five calendar days to provide DESE will all of the documents state requested
ecstatic after release of graduation rates: largest positive change in the history of our high schools
historical data does not reflect work of past months to improve
mother of two school choice Holyoke High graduates

parent of three children who have gone through schools, youngest a senior at Holyoke High
works in administration
urging to support Paez as leader of Holyoke Public Schools
has demonstrated urgency and strong leadership
"the need to take ownership in this crisis"
took personal ownership in this crisis; evidence that all children are learning at the core of what we do
never experienced the alignment of practice, curriculum, and support
"urge you to do what is best for our schools and our community"

Holyoke City Councilor starts her remarks in Spanish (to some surprise from Board)
"don't see solution in a takeover"
"looking at your Board..." sees a single Latina on the Board
was on the School Committee for four terms, then on City Council
daughter was first class to take MCAS; lost
starting speaking Spanish: "imagine somebody taking this test" in not their native language
"new superintendent here after 18 months, to have a new person to learn who we are"
"as a Latina woman, the difficult decision you're going to make isn't going to make us better than we've been; it's going to bring us backwards"
"every one of the children deserves the same education"

community member: status quo isn't acceptable, don't know that receivership will be what is needed
"we don't know who or what will get there"
don't know what community input will look like
should address poverty directly, but have to work hard with children we have
racism is implicitly involved
"Holyoke kids are not worse than anywhere else, so we didn't reach these skyhigh suspension rates without racism"
need to be dealt with regardless of if there is receivership
"worrying to be that the most uniting in opposition to the state rather than uniting" to move forward
don't think high-stakes testing and charter schools are answer; but more interested in answers for all students, rather than holding onto own ideological space

Sagan announces plan to go til 8:15

Elizabeth Butler: "I am Holyoke"
resident, parent, and educator
"there is no group of people more committed to seeing our children succeed than the group of people before you tonight"
for decades have done what the state said "even when we knew that they did more harm than good"
"I teach today because of these people" (teachers)
our pleas too often fell on distant and detacted ears
"parents, teachers, and community members are more united than ever, and more organized than ever"
can only make a difference "if we truly have control, something which we've been denied for too long"
"just too important to leave to chance and last minute plans"

parent whose children graduated from Holyoke High and earned scholarships to college
knows that teachers at Holyoke High make a difference
"you don't have that in every city"
had students as trainees in store
"give us the money and the support we need for our children"
cities across the nation are facing the same issue
"not judge school systems by an arbitary school"
have had two schools under state receivership that have not improved their scores
"Lawrence asked to be taken over by the state; we in Holyoke do NOT want to be taken over by the state"
"we can do this"

"you've been sitting there for seven to ten years doing that...why didn't you help us?"
"These are smart children; just because some of them don't know English doesn't mean that they're stupid"
Parents talking about an educational boycott

community member: "new and bold initiatives that are giving more results"
son in dual language program has passed grade level in BOTH languages
results across the program
"you don't need to know or understand the language your child is learning"
consider the determental effect change could have
have seen limited results in Dean Technical; none at Morgan (two schools under state receivership)

charter teacher: "Board doesn't know the struggles like we do"
now having a back and forth with crowd of if they serve the same kids
somewhat unclear on what his point is
cites stats around Holyoke's dropout rate

resident and taxpayer since 1950
"very sorry for all of's not easy to sit here and hear 1200 people say they don't want you here. I don't want you here either."
have the most fabulous teachers in this system
"those who can teach; those who can't, make laws for teachers"
"you didn't make those laws; other people did"
"wonderful school board: I don't know how they do what they do with the little money that they have"
"when you talk about students having to leave school, they have to go to work to support a family...and I admire you for it"

teacher at Holyoke High: progress in schools has been organic
"all while treading water in a sea of unfunded mandates" economic downtown
have seen federal and state meddling impact on classroom
Holyoke has improved on the measures to close the achievement gap
Commissioner despite all of the accountability talk has been vague "amounts to nothing more than faith healing"

lifelong resident; graduate; guidance counselor
decision that will affect our destinies
people who have chosen to live here these past years, but no one wants to do that in a community in receivership
"receivership is the ultimate example of making the poor powerless"
"We all know that teacher retention is low at receivership schools...this is bad for the students."

mother speaking about her daughter who graduates this year; mother dropped out of Holyoke High 19 years ago to have her
daughter is going to Salve Regina for nursing
mother got her GED, went to the Elms and got her masters
"I know what the school system can produce"

John McAndrew, runs a business in Holyoke; three children went through Holyoke Public Schools, third generation resident
commends School Committee for hiring Sergio Paez
"my point here is only Lawrence, many of the same initiatives are being rolled out under receivership that have been in place in Holyoke for the last eighteen months"
cites Chester doing same thing and expecting different results doesn't work; agree, but that isn't what is happening in Holyoke
change in mindset: from blame to ownership
plea to keep current leadership in place
"can't afford to throw away eighteen months of solid progress"
"I don't know how a reasonable person goes and votes any other way than to allow this leadership to stay in place and continue the good work they've been doing"

"Board has a profound Constitutional duty" to help us (I'd dispute "Constitutional" as BoE isn't in state constitution)
citing dropout rate
"if you're convinced that he's developed a cohesive plan" let us continue
only take receiver "if you are morally committed" to community not just in resources or in resources
community committing to the success of every student

Mom "of six kids"
"in last two years our school system has changed"
"we're on an upswing"
"Holyoke has always been known as a city that will dig in"
"the state doesn't care about us; you can't tell us you're going to fix us."
"don't tell us you're the solution"
son getting A's and B's; he was so concerned that this year he's failing
"you're not going to solve our problem by taking away OUR system"
teachers using their salaries to pay for supplies
"Our kids are not for sale. You have no right to do this to our children."
"Teachers are compassionate;they're kind. Let them do their jobs!"
"Holyoke is strong!"

1988 graduate of Holyoke High now an attorney
"things that have been working"
"we need to make sure that we correct certain missteps that have taken place"
speaking of Dean Technical: unbelievable to me that the first planned industry city losing its vocational school
9th grade academy planned "and they're scared to death; they're going to avoid the schools until" they know what's going to happen
need state to stop sending 75% of homeless to western Mass; more money for police; better funding for initives that are happening
"you have our attention. Together we can avoid mistakes and succeed together."


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