Holyoke awaits response from state education officials after sending a petition to end receivership
A petition to end state receivership of the Holyoke Public Schools has triggered a review process by the state. The petition was sent by Holyoke school committee members in mid September to Massachusetts Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Commissioner Jeff Riley.
Riley traveled to Holyoke this month to discuss the petition with with Mayor Joshua Garcia and three members of the school committee, including its Vice Chair Mildred Lefebvre, who said she was optimistic after the meeting.
"He sees within our board that we are united, that we are all striving for the same thing," Lefebvre said, "We're not a barrier to our students success."
That was not the state's opinion about the Holyoke School Committee in 2015 Lefebvre said, when the district was first placed in receivership.
Lefebvre acknowledged that among students, there is still a high rate of chronic absenteeism and MCAS scores aren't as strong as they could be. But drop out rates are down Lefebvre said, and graduation rates are up.
Now was the right time to petition Riley, she said, adding that for more than seven years the Holyoke school committee has been the watchdog for students — but without a vote.
"Although we may not have an active voice in making decisions, [our] voices can change the minds of those who do make the decisions," referring to Riley and to the state appointed Holyoke Public School Receiver, Anthony Soto.
A spokesperson for DESE said the commissioner was unavailable for an interview, but the state will be looking at a variety of data as it considers the petition. A response is expected by early 2024.