HOLYOKE, Mass. (WWLP) – In the first year of the state’s turnaround plan for Holyoke Schools, a major goal has been turning around parents’ views of the struggling system.
“Many parents had lost trust and faith in the school system,” said Dr. Stephen Zrike, receiver of Holyoke Schools. Dr. Zrike has focused on getting more parent involvement in education.
He thanked those parents Tuesday morning and explained why family involvement was important. “Making sure they understand the processes in school, how to navigate what is often complex information about their child’s academic progress,” said Dr. Zrike.
The state invested in opening an Office of Family and Community Engagement in February. Families are joining forces through a program called PMAD: Parents Making a Difference.
“Every month we reunite like in the welcome center at Morgan School and we decide things to do for the kids,” Chairyn Pagan told 22News. Pagan has three children in Holyoke elementary schools and recently graduated from Holyoke schools with her GED.
“It’s from, ‘how do parents engage in learning from home?’ That’s involvement. Involvement can be, come to our family fun night, come to the parent-teacher conferences, make a phone call,” said Glenda Morales, a family engagement coordinator at the Morgan Elementary School.
Dr. Zrike encouraged parents to continue pushing the district to improve and ask schools how their children’s education is going. This summer, in mid-July, he and other members of the school district will be informally touring the Holyoke neighborhoods, asking them to get involved.
Administrators are noticing a difference in their students. “They’re getting a unified message of how important school is. And when that doesn’t exist, it makes it harder for us to work with the kids,” said John Breish, the principal of Sullivan Elementary School.
Also part of the turnaround plan is longer school days. Starting this fall, the school days will be extended to 7.5 hours or longer for grades kindergarten through 8th grade. That will include more time for teachers to plan lessons with each other and a more individualized approach to students with more options for “specials” classes.