Monday, May 11, 2015

Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools

For Immediate Release

“Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week” in Massachusetts?
Parent and public input, democracy and education policy, and the push for receivership in Holyoke, MA

Press contacts: Dr. Ricardo Rosa,
José A. Soler,
Co-chairs of the Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools,
Co-chair, National Board of Save Our Schools March
National Steering Committee member of Save Our Schools March

cell: 508 863 5089, email:

As “Teacher Appreciation Day” has passed and “Teacher and Staff Appreciation Week” comes to a close, from May 4-8, we are thankful for all the students and parents who have shared their appreciation. The gifts of coffee mugs, chocolates, and cards were thoughtful. We should also pause and reflect about how teachers are treated in Massachusetts and beyond. Teacher Appreciation Week is a week of events and awareness of the value of teachers, but our caring for teachers shouldn’t be contained to one day or week but rather should be practiced throughout the year and reflected in our political discourse and public policies.

In Massachusetts we should particularly assess the push toward receivership of the public school District of Holyoke. According to a May 1st Associated Press article: “State takes control of Holyoke schools; Holyoke Public Schools will be taken over by the state, after the Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8 to 3 this week to authorize the education commissioner to appoint a receiver.” The board designated the district Level 5 and declared the Holyoke schools chronically under-performing, but the article doesn’t tell the full story about how hundreds of families, students, teachers and community members advocated against the state takeover.

We should ask what are the economic challenges that contribute to the two school districts with large communities of color targeted by the current Education Commissioner, despite public outcry against receivership. Both the Holyoke and Lawrence School districts do have economic challenges and need solidarity and justice for their immigrant communities. These districts could use state officials, who rather than condemning their poor scores, challenge the poverty and lack of support for services for English Language learners.  I hope that at the end of Teacher Appreciation week that we can consider the ways we can work toward policies that allow teachers to be professionals rather than people who simply push scripted curricula, teach to the tests, and monitor high-stakes tests. We need small class sizes, fully funded schools, investment in a broad curriculum, and wrap around services in all schools. Furthermore, and most importantly, we need to the root causes of educational disparities: economic and racial injustice.

When instances like the Holyoke takeover happen that ignore the clear input and pleas from local communities and teachers, it clearly contributes to the mistrust and tarnishes the good faith of the public. Anti-democratic trends in our education are increased when actions are taken that go against the current of community concerns, adding to political and social exclusion.

I invite students, parents, educators, and concerned community members to our upcoming Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools Summit- Transforming and Democratizing Public Education- on Saturday, May 16th at the Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street in Providence, RI from 10 am to 2 pm, to organize, to shift our policies to improve our schools and to reclaim our right to determine how our children will be educated.  For our future’s sake, we are organizing to revitalize an education system that, for too many children, focuses more on test preparation than actual education.  Save Our Schools mission is dedicated to public education as the cornerstone of a democratic society. We are committed to education policy and actions that allow students, teachers, families, and communities to work together to meet the needs of all children.

Please list as an upcoming event:
The Southeastern MA/RI Coalition to Save Our Schools will be hosting an education activist summit: Transforming and Democratizing Public Education on Saturday, May 16 at the Southside Cultural Center, 393 Broad Street in Providence, RI from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. (lunch included!) There will be no expert presentations, though the activists in attendance will come with tremendous expertise and drive. This event will begin with a sharing of struggles and successes among parent, teacher, and community activists discussing the following topics: Testing refusal – empowering curriculum, Parent Organizing/Communities of Color, Charter schools, Teachers unions, Student organizing, Higher education. For more information contact: José A. Soler email:, Ricardo Rosa:,  or Ellie O’Shea:

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