In Aftermath of Vote, Silver Hill School Looks to the Future

In Aftermath of Vote, Silver Hill School Looks to the Future

Thursday’s vote against renewing the charter of the Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School, on the surface, appears to seal the fate of the 10-year-school.

A Silver Hill parent said the institution will continue for the next school year, but its future beyond that is not certain. Officials of the Haverhill Education Association, however said, the 246 to 114 vote by teachers against renewal means it “will revert to being under the control of the Haverhill School Committee rather than under a separate board.” Haverhill School Superintendent James F. Scully, though, declined to make any predictions.

“Getting all the facts and try to separate fact from fiction and move forward for the best interest of the children of the Silver Hill School,” Scully said.

In a statement, Silver Hill Chairman Euthemia Gilman said “the most important function of the charter was the All-City approach to include all students from anywhere in the city.” In light of the vote, she said, “An educational community of instructional professionals, families, students and support agencies worked cohesively since 2007, when work first began on the charter, has been silenced.”

“Today, on my 67th birthday, I am asking again if the educators at Silver Hill can lift themselves up to continue to show the innovation in curriculum design and instruction, dogged determination for professional excellence and a passion for nurturing the well-being of children. I am asking if they can display once again, the energy to accept the challenge of continuing to use our mission for our neighborhood of Mount Washington. For that we need our own commitment and passion for being teachers.”

Parent Devan Ferreira said parents and school officials are trying to determine if there is a way forward for the school despite the union vote. “Silver Hill’s attorney is looking into the results this evening and will be contacting DESE (state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education) very quickly so that we can figure out what our next steps should be and what they recommend.”

Either way, she said, Silver Hill plans to seek renewal of its charter from the School Committee next Thursday, June 22. If the state says there is no path to renewal in light of the required union vote, Ferreira said, there must still be discussions about conversion of the school before the School Committee begins its summer schedule.

She said she was disappointed by the vote, but not surprised.

“I think that we knew all along from the very start that this decision was already made and that HEA was pawns in a political scheme here in Haverhill,” she said.

Ferreira has noted the Massachusetts Teachers Association, of which the local union is affiliated, successfully fought a ballot question last fall that would have lifted the cap on the numbers of charter schools that could be established. While a Horace Mann-type school is different than a privately owned one, she has said she believes the two types were being confused.

Begley acknowledges some were upset she involved all Haverhill teachers in the vote, rather than just those at Silver Hill, as had been done previously. “I still feel I did the right thing because the law allows all teachers to vote and my job is to represent all teachers. If I know that’s what supposed to be done, why wouldn’t I do it?”

Although the union has no say in how the superintendent may assign or move teachers, Begley said, she hopes the administration would help any relocated faculty move boxes to the next location. She explained this is currently happening with teachers moving to the new Hunking School.

One of the more controversial elements during the charter renewal campaign was whether the demographic makeup of Silver Hill students matched the rest of the city. Asked whether she would change that message if she could, the union chief stood by her convictions.

“That’s why I teach in Haverhill. I like the diversity that Haverhill gives. I’m going to support all students. I feel very strongly, especially in an age where people are worried about that the color of their skin isn’t white,” she said.

A fact sheet issued by the union indicates the numbers of minority students has steadily declined since Silver Hill became a charter school. “The percentage of Hispanic students dropped from 30 percent in the 2007-08 school year to 23.6 percent in 2008-09, the first year it operated as an in-district charter. By 2016-17, that number had declined even further, to 18.7 percent, or nearly half what it had been as a regular district public school.”

State education officials had also raised the question of whether the school had made enough progress in attracting Latinos to participate in entrance lotteries. They did admit, however, Silver Hill had not yet had a chance to put in place new “recruitment and retention strategies.”

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Published at Fri, 16 Jun 2017 04:02:56 +0000