Holyoke Public Schools


The public schools in Holyoke, Massachusetts are about to finish the first academic year under state control. 

More than a decade of abysmal test scores and low graduation rates led to the entire school system being put into state receivership. 

Stephen Zrike is the state-appointed receiver who has been running the Holyoke schools since last July.  He spoke with WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill.

State and local officials in Holyoke, Massachusetts say they have acted aggressively to make changes in a public school program where emotionally disabled children were allegedly abused. A disturbing report this week from an advocacy group said children were restrained, tackled, and slapped for misbehaving. 

The abuses inflicted on disabled fourth through eighth grade students by staff at the Peck School are among the worst ever investigated by the Disability Law Center, according to Stan Eichner, the organization’s litigation director.


The Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday unveiled a turnaround plan for the public schools in Holyoke, which were put under state receivership earlier this year. 

  Commissioner Mitchell Chester said the plan to improve the public schools in one of the poorest cities in the state includes more time in school for K-8th grade students, a redesign of the secondary schools, and a downsizing of the central administrative office.

" I start with the presumption that business as usual is not going to move things in Holyoke," said Chester.


The new school year is underway in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  The long troubled school system was placed under state control last spring and a receiver was appointed June 1st.  On the opening day of school, as students arrived at Dean Vocational High School, WAMC’s Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill spoke with receiver Stephen Zrike.


The public schools in Holyoke, Massachusetts opened this morning to begin the first full academic year under state receivership.  While a district turnaround plan is not yet finished, there have already been some changes.

On the first day of school, Stephen Zrike, the person appointed to reform the long-troubled Holyoke schools, joined Principal Barry Bascom to greet students at the front door of Dean Vocational Technical High School.  Later, Zrike observed classrooms at the K-8th grade McMahon school.


A veteran educator with a track record of turning around struggling urban schools will be put in charge of a troubled western Massachusetts school system. The state’s education commissioner has appointed the current superintendent of schools in Wakefield as receiver for the Holyoke public schools.

Stephen Zrike, who was a principal at three Boston schools and led a network of elementary schools in Chicago, will now be in charge of the effort to improve student achievement at one of the worst school districts in the state.

Work begins today to develop a turnaround plan for the public schools in Holyoke, Massachusetts.  A temporary advisory group appointed by the Massachusetts education commissioner is scheduled to hold its first meeting.

Elementary and Secondary Education Commissioner Mitchell Chester has appointed 18 people to the Holyoke Local Stakeholder Group, a temporary advisory body that will make recommendations for a district turnaround plan that will be developed in the next few months.

The Massachusetts Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education, Mitchell Chester, is in Holyoke today.  It is his first visit since a state education board voted earlier this week to put the city’s public schools under state control.


For just the second time a public school system in Massachusetts has been put into receivership. 

    The Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted 8-3 Tuesday to declare the Holyoke Public Schools to be chronically underperforming and striped the locally elected school committee in Holyoke of its authority. 

   State education commissioner Mitchell Chester, who recommended the board take the action, will run the schools until he hires a permanent receiver.


With state receivership for the public schools in Holyoke, Massachusetts appearing increasingly likely, the city’s Superintendent of Schools is hoping for more time for an accelerated improvement plan to show results.

Holyoke school superintendent Sergio Paez said the recommendation by the state’s education commissioner that the State Board of Elementary and Secondary Education schedule a vote on receivership was “difficult to accept.”

" I think the commissioner is doing his job to do what he thinks is best, however I don't agree with that recommendation," he said.

The second largest public school system in Massachusetts is going to make condoms available to students as young as 12 beginning this fall. The school committee in Springfield, Thursday night, approved a condom availability policy that proponents say will become  part of a comprehensive effort to combat one of the highest rates of teen pregnancy in the state. WAMC's  Pioneer Valley Bureau Chief Paul Tuthill reports.