PRESS RELEASE: Holyoke Public Schools commits to building and retaining a workforce that is not only the most talented in the state, but also celebrates and reflects the rich diversity of its students

PRESS RELEASE: Holyoke Public Schools commits to building and retaining a workforce that is not only the most talented in the state, but also celebrates and reflects the rich diversity of its students

October 17, 2019




Holyoke Public Schools commits to building and retaining a workforce that is not only the most talented in the state, but also celebrates and reflects the rich diversity of its students


HOLYOKE, MA – The Holyoke Public Schools (HPS) is one of 15 school districts in Massachusetts that has been selected to be part of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE) Influence 100 pilot program, an initiative aimed at increasing the racial and ethnic diversity of superintendents and creating more culturally responsive districts and leaders in order to improve student outcomes. The district leaders who will participate in this two-year leadership development program are: Tiffani Curtis, a School Supervisor, and Anthony Soto, Chief of Finance and Operations and proud graduate of HPS. DESE also announced its second cohort of InSPIRED fellows (InService Professionals are committed to Increasing the Racial and Ethnic Diversity of the teacher workforce), which includes the following HPS educators: Lorie Banks (Lt. Clayre Sullivan School) and Janaya Little (Veritas Prep Holyoke). InSPIRED fellows meet with high school and college students to encourage them to consider teaching.  Both Influence 100 and the InSPIRED fellows aim to diversify the Commonwealth’s educator workforce.


Receiver/Superintendent Dr. Stephen Zrike shared, “We are excited to add the Influence 100 pilot and InSPIRED fellows to our efforts to reflect and honor the rich diversity and culture of our students, as well as build and retain a talented, diverse workforce.”


Nearly one in every two HPS students (43 percent) speak a language other than English at home; 18 languages are represented in its student population.  Eight percent (8%) of students are learning both English and Spanish at school through its dual language program, and 81 percent of students identify as Latino.  “To best support our students, we must both attract culturally, racially and linguistically diverse educators and retain them by providing the support needed to build a successful career,” added Zrike.


One way HPS is building and retaining a workforce that reflects the student population is by creating a pathway for HPS employees to pursue master’s degrees through the Mount Holyoke College’s Urban Teachers Pathways Program while they continue to work in the district. Rebecca Chaverri participated in the program and earned her Master’s Degree in Education, while she transitioned from her role as the HPS homeless coordinator to a science teacher at McMahon School. She shared, “Through the UTP Program I was able to access an education that fit my schedule and the current professional market needs.  The program set me on a new path that is both challenging and rewarding.  I am very lucky to teach students in Holyoke and I am making a difference while fulfilling my professional goals and aspirations.”


The district’s efforts to diversify its workforce have begun to bear fruit.  Thirty-four percent (34%) of staff employed by the Holyoke Public Schools are people of color (2018-19) versus 10 percent statewide.  Yet, HPS recognizes that there is still more work to do.  “Not only is it important for students to see themselves reflected in their educators and other leaders, but research also affirms the importance of teacher diversity in closing opportunity and achievement gaps,” stated Zrike. “A commitment to a highly qualified, talented and diverse workforce is an integral part of our mission to be the first choice for Holyoke families where all students graduate prepared to excel in college, career and community leadership.”


While HPS recognizes that teacher diversity is integral to their students’ success, having a leadership team that is diverse and capable of supporting teachers of every background is equally important.  Thirty-three percent (33%) of HPS principals are people of color (4 of 12), a 24-point increase from the 2014-15 school year when 1 of 11 principals was a person of color.  In fact, this year, HPS hired the first Latina principal in the history of HPS who is a Holyoke native and HPS graduate.  Additionally, 36 percent (4 in 11) of school committee members and 37 percent of district leaders (3 of 8) are people of color.


HPS has a variety of internal programs and external partnerships that recruit, develop and retain a workforce that reflects its student population.  The partnerships with local organizations are listed below.  To learn more, please contact HPS Recruiting Manager Kelly Curran




Partnerships with Local Organizations to Develop and Retain a Diverse Workforce


  • Teach Western Mass: TWM’s Residency, is a one-year, state-accredited, teacher-preparation program that gives aspiring teachers the chance to lead a classroom while getting significant support and earning their teaching certification in HPS’ most high-need licensure areas. TWM is also committed to supporting HPS as it builds stronger connections for local students to enter the teaching workforce through its Pathway programs. Convening with local colleges/universities, TWM is able to offer financial incentives, mentoring, and personalized job-search support to high-potential undergraduate and graduate students who are engaged in participating programs. TWM helps ensure that future teachers are gaining experience, connections, and support as they explore a rewarding career in HPS.
  • Generation Teach offers fellowships during the summer to undergraduate and high school students featuring 2 weeks of training and 4 – 5 weeks of teaching middle-school students while receiving daily coaching from professional teachers.  This program also develops Holyoke’s professional teachers as coaches and leaders to support teaching fellows during their fellowships.
  • The Center for Equity in Urban Education at Elms College provides paraprofessionals with the opportunity to earn their bachelor’s degrees so they can pursue a teaching license.  The Center for Equity in Urban Education (CEUE) seeks to increase the number and diversity of qualified teachers in Chicopee, Holyoke, and Springfield.  Additionally, the CEUE offers accompanying professional learning opportunities for experienced educators and current school leaders.
  • Paradigm Shift is a partnership-led collaborative effort to support black and Latino classroom paraprofessionals to become teachers. Paradigm Shift seeks to transform the teacher pipeline and create an educated workforce more representative of and responsive to students in the communities served by their schools.  Last summer, HPS leaders joined local school districts in a Day of Practice with Paradigm Shift, also known as the Diverse Teacher Workforce Coalition to share practices and create plans for cultural proficient and responsive environments for all schools and is working with TNTP, Inc. to better align human resources’ practices with the coalition’s goals and district priorities.
  • Influence 100 fellows participate in a two-year leadership development program about the nuances of being a superintendent in Massachusetts, with a focus on what it takes to lead a district to be more culturally responsive and intentional in diversifying the educator workforce to better serve all students. The MA DESE program includes two components: a fellowship program for qualified educators who desire to move into the superintendent role in the next five years and support for school districts to become more culturally responsive and to diversify their educator workforce.
  • Teach for America is a program for college graduates who are committed to educational equity and excellence.  Corps members receive alternative certification through coursework taken while completing the program. All corps members are required to attend an intensive summer training program that includes teaching summer school.
  • Future Educators Signing Day: Holyoke High School seniors sign letters of intent committing to attend the college or university of their choice to pursue a degree in the field of education. The ceremony serves as a means to celebrate and recognize the hard work and commitment of seniors who are on the path to become future educators, and encourage and inspire others in the community who may be interested in this career pathway.  These students are guaranteed a practicum at HPS with a commitment to advanced placement in the district’s compensation system.