State education leaders visit Holyoke to talk “receivership”

22News asked to leave the meeting

HOLYOKE, Mass, (WWLP) – Holyoke students and parents spoke with state education leaders Wednesday night about the state’s takeover of the Holyoke school district. However, 22News had a very hard time getting inside the meeting.

The Department of Elementary and Secondary Education hosted the meeting at the Toepfert Apartments in Holyoke. It was a public meeting, and Mayor Alex Morse gave us the okay to go inside.

However, when we entered the meeting, the department’s representative got up out of his seat during the session, to kick us out. The department said they felt our presence would make parents feel uncomfortable to speak freely.

22News did speak to one parent outside the meeting Wednesday, who appreciated having her voice heard.

“You can actually talk to the person one-on-one. You can see them instead of just being on the phone. With smaller groups it’s easier to get the word out there,” said Natasha Rodriguez, a Holyoke parent.

Wednesday the department announced the 18 members of the “Local Stakeholder Group”. They’ll provide recommendations to the soon-to-be-named receiver in 45 days.

The Holyoke Teachers Association chose the teachers appointed to the Local Stakeholder Group.

Commissioner Mitchell Chester chose the administrators from a list of volunteers. Commissioner Chester also selected the representatives of state and local social service, health, child welfare and local workforce agencies. The parents were chosen by parents from school-based organizations.

The Local Stakeholder Group meetings will be open to the public, and the group’s first meeting will be from 3-5 p.m. May 27 at the Holyoke Public Library.

The members of the group are:

  • Holyoke Public Schools Assistant Superintendent Paul Hyry-Dermith (superintendent’s designee)
  • Holyoke Mayor Alex Morse (School Committee chairman)
  • Holyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales
  • Kelly Full Service Community School Principal Jacqueline Glasheen
  • William J. Dean Technical High School Associate Principal Vionette Escudero
  • Shelly Whelihan, a teacher at Lt. Elmer J. McMahon Elementary School
  • Bridget Reilly, a teacher at Dean Tech
  • Jennifer Keitt, a parent at Maurice A. Donahue Elementary School
  • Marie Auguste, a parent at Morgan Full Service Community School
  • Vilma Soto, a parent at Peck-Lawrence Full Service Community School
  • Edgardo Comacho, a parent at E.N. White Elementary School
  • Debra Sicilia, director of areas for Holyoke and Greenfield at the Massachusetts Department of Children and Families
  • Yasmin Otero, regional director of the Massachusetts Department of Transitional Assistance
  • David Cruise, president and CEO of the Regional Employment Board of Hampden County
  • Bill Ennen, program director for regional programs at the Innovation Institute at MassTech Collaborative
  • Stephen C. Huntley, executive director of the Valley Opportunity Council (representative of early education and care chosen by the commissioner of the state Department of Early Education and Care)
  • Jeffrey Hayden, vice president for business and community services at Holyoke Community College (representative of higher education chosen by the state secretary of education)
  • Erin Hebert, Holyoke High School class of 2014 (community member selected by Mayor Morse)

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