Decision on fate of Holyoke schools expected Tues. afternoon

FITCHBURG, Mass. (WWLP)– State Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester and a panel of board members are reviewing a potential take over of the Holyoke Public School system during their monthly meeting in Fitchburg on Tuesday.

During Tuesday’s meeting, each board member spoke about the Holyoke schools, with each member expressing a favorable opinion about receivership. A vote is expected at around 1:15 P.M.

In a packed public hearing at the War Memorial in Holyoke Monday night, board members heard opinions from residents, teachers, and parents, about the potential takeover, which has been a controversial subject in the city. Chester brought a review team into Holyoke earlier this year, arguing the city’s public schools are consistently underperforming.

Many parents and teachers argue that the school system should stay in the hands of the local school committee and administrators, but others disagree.

One mother told 22News she supports a state takeover, because she recently moved to Holyoke from Chicopee, and has noticed a difference in her children’s education. “They need to do something. These kids are way, way behind other students, and its crazy,” Sandra Harnois said.

Board of Education member James Morton said that he wanted to leave Monday night’s meeting convinced of not voting for state receivership, but he said hardly any of the parents of the underserved children actually spoke, and he feels that they aren’t represented or helped enough. He said he will vote for the state takeover, because it’s his moral obligation.

In Monday’s meeting, some expressed a desire just to get the process moving. State Senator Don Humason (R-Westfield), told 22News that he would like to see the schools stay in local control, but would also like the decision to come sooner rather than later.

“I did say if the board is going to act to recommend receivership, they should do it right away without keeping us waiting. Just get to it, kind of like ripping the bandage off fast so we can begin to repair and heal the system,” Humason said.

22News reporter Kait Walsh is at Tuesday’s meeting in Fitchburg, and we will let you know if and when a decision is made here on WWLP.com, and on 22News on the air.

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