HTA president says fight ‘not just about me’
H olyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales has gained wide support from fellow educators and union activists as he
fights to return to the classroom.
The state Department of Labor Relations will
hold hearings starting in December to determine
whether Morales was fired because of his union
activism, and a grievance filed by the HTA, now
before the Holyoke School Committee, seeks his
reinstatement to his position.
But Morales, an English teacher at the Maurice
A. Donahue School, says the fight is not his alone.
There are also several grievances before the School
Committee that seek to overturn punitive actions
against other educators based on faulty evaluations.
“If you take a step back and look at the bigger
picture, it becomes clear that this is not just about
me,” Morales said. “This is about a choice that
the City of Holyoke has to make, that labor and
community leaders need to make: Do we want a
system that focuses only on high-stakes tests, that
puts students’ names up on the wall next to their
test scores, that humiliates and shames students and
makes them feel useless and stupid?”
When he addressed more than 200 fellow
educators at an MTA All Presidents’ meeting on
Sept. 13, Morales received a standing ovation.
Just days before the MTA meeting, on Sept. 8,
he stood surrounded by dozens of supporters at a
rally in Holyoke as he announced that the DLR had
found probable cause to indicate that he was fired
in retaliation for speaking out against the school
administration, whose policies created a hostile work
environment and shamed students.
The DLR’s complaint noted that Morales had
received negative comments in his job evaluation
only after he became active in the HTA and began
vocally opposing policies such as the use of data
For Morales, who did not have Professional
Teacher Status in Holyoke at the time of his dismissal,
the immediate remedy would be reinstatement. But the
fight is also one that is being waged for all educators
against restrictive “improvement plans” and other
punitive evaluation measures.
Success for Morales would also be a victory for
“Gus Morales stands up for students and fellow
educators,” said MTA President Barbara Madeloni.
“If we allow these attacks to go unchecked, they will
have a chilling effect on anyone who wants to raise
concerns about the best way to educate students and
improve working and learning conditions.”
F iore Grassetti, president of the Pioneer Valley AFL-CIO, attended the rally and brought along poster-sized sheets of paper bearing the
signatures of area labor union members as a show of
support. Grassetti called it “an outrage” that Holyoke
schools Superintendent Sergio Páez would target a
leader for speaking out.
Fellow HTA member Dorothy Albrecht, a
veteran high school math teacher, joined the crowd at
the rally and also spoke out about retaliation.
“By firing our elected president, the administration
of Holyoke Public Schools has, in effect, shown that
our voices are not valued or respected,” she told those
Morales himself summed up what he and other
educators would like to see.
“My goal, the goal of the teachers in Holyoke
and the goal of the Holyoke Teachers Association is
to work with students, parents and the community
to give our students the best possible education —
one that supports students in all their dimensions,”
Holyoke Teachers Association President Gus Morales addressed supporters at a rally on Sept.
8 at Dean Technical High School. The state Department of Labor Relations has found probable
cause to indicate that Morales was fired in retaliation for his union activism.
Photo by Scott McLennan
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