T he Southbridge Education Association is raising the concern that the state’s
takeover of the Southbridge Public
Schools is causing unnecessary
problems, leaving many essential
teaching positions unfilled and
subjecting a large number of teachers
to a so-called receiver’s review.
One veteran Southbridge educator
expressed her frustration, saying,
“Rather than looking at ways to
improve teaching, we’re being forced
to prove we’re teaching.”
SEA President David Williams
said that a higher proportion of
Southbridge teachers landed on the
review list than in Holyoke and
Lawrence, the two other districts
under the control of the Department
of Secondary and Elementary
Williams said that many veteran
educators who were targeted by the
review opted to retire early or leave the
The union has filed a class-action
grievance related to the criteria used
to place some of the teachers on the
review list in the first place.
The state Department of Labor
Relations has also issued complaints in
response to SEA charges that receiver
Jessica Huizenga violated the law
when she implemented parts of her
school “improvement plan” without
engaging in collective bargaining with
Hearing dates are being set for
A year ago, the state Board of Elementary and Secondary Education voted to place the
town’s schools into receivership and
appointed Huizenga as the receiver.
At the time, the board highlighted the
lack of leadership in the district as the
biggest detriment to meeting students’
SEA members were heavily
involved in drafting a turnaround plan
given to the receiver, but Williams said
that what is happening in Southbridge
merely seems to mirror plans in place
in Holyoke and Lawrence.
“We were hoping that the state
wouldn’t just apply a cookie-cutter
approach to this,” he said. “We’re
seeing the same playbook.”
That has meant a persistent
shortage of staff and an over-reliance
on substitute teachers.
The SEA is also concerned that
students in programs for English
language learners and special
education are not getting the services
they need because of the lack of
“Coming into this process,
educators expressed the need for
more support for English language
learners, more opportunities for
early childhood education and more
outreach from the schools to parents
and the community,” Williams said.
“So far, we have seen none of that
from our new administrators, and we
remain concerned about the needs of
our students going unmet.”
SEA President David Williams said that what
is happening in Southbridge merely seems to
mirror plans in place in Holyoke and Lawrence.
“We were hoping that the state wouldn’t just
apply a cookie-cutter approach to this,” he said.
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