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State Takes Control Of Holyoke Public Schools


For just the second time a public school system in Massachusetts has been put into receivership. 

    The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-3 Tuesday to declare the Holyoke Public Schools to be chronically underperforming and striped the locally elected school committee in Holyoke of its authority. 

   State education commissioner Mitchell Chester, who recommended the board take the action, will run the schools until he hires a permanent receiver.

" This is an opportunity for the city," he said.  " We are there to give students in Holyoke a better chance."

  Chester said there would not be mass-firings of teachers.

" We want teachers and administrators who will embrace the changes that are need. Business as usual is not going to get the job done in Holyoke," said Chester.

  There are 5,600 students in the Holyoke schools. 

  The Lawrence school system was put into receivership five years ago and state officials say graduation rates and student test scores have dramatically improved.  

   Officials in Holyoke are disappointed with Tuesday’s decision by the  Board of Elementary and Secondary Education.   Mayor Alex Morse said he plans to serve on an advisory board that will work with the receiver.  Morse insisted Holyoke is not stigmatized by having its schools in receivership.

      " There are a lot of good things about the district. We have a lot of great teachers, principals and administrators who need to stick with us during this transition. I will be as personally involved as I possibly can in this transition to make sure the voices of our community are heard," he said.

              Chester will have day-to-day control of the schools until he hires a permanent receiver.  A turnaround plan for the failing school system is expected to be rolled out over the summer.

The record-setting tenure of Springfield Mayor Domenic Sarno. The 2011 tornado and its recovery that remade the largest city in Western Massachusetts. The fallout from the deadly COVID outbreak at the Holyoke Soldiers Home. Those are just a few of the thousands and thousands of stories WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill has covered for WAMC in his nearly 17 years with the station.
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