1 year after state takeover, what has changed in Holyoke’s schools?

Longer school days, merit-based pay being examined

HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – It has been one year since the state took over Holyoke schools, and in that time, there have been some major reforms. Longer days and merit-based pay are among the changes that have already happened, or are on the way. Dr. Stephen Zrike has been placed in charge of the district during this period of transition.

“A lot of what we’ve spent time doing since my arrival has been really reviewing the district,” Zrike said.

The central office was audited to help redirect school funds.

Related Coverage: State takeover of Holyoke schools

Plans for next year include more early childhood programs, dual enrollment opportunities, dual language classes, and longer days. The district is, however, still looking into just how long those days should be. A new, $1.2 million program is also in the works to keep and recruit skilled teachers.

“You move up in the pay scale based on your performance. If you are a proficient or exemplary teacher, you are rewarded and incentivized for that,” Zrike said.

How exactly can a teacher’s performance be evaluated? Zrike said it’s based on administrative evaluations, how teachers work with families, classroom management, and student test results, among other factors.

School Committee Member at-Large Erin Brunelle would have liked to receive the increase of state tax money to the district, without the state’s control. She is optimistic about teacher pay incentives.

“I’m sure there are teachers that don’t love the idea, but for me, I think it’s really important as long as we’re not tying to the big test, because not every student is going to test well,” Brunelle said.

Dr. Zrike and Brunelle said that most importantly, they have noticed more communication among parents, teachers, and students since the state takeover.

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