High School Redesign Letter from Superintendent


Creating a Pathway for Every Student

High School Redesign Strategic Plan


To Holyoke Students, Families, Teachers, Staff, and Community Members –


In January, we released a draft strategic plan to redesign the high school experience in Holyoke.  I am excited to share the evolution of that plan – our strategy to transform high school in Holyoke.


Our strategic plan calls for creating a series of thematic academies that will provide opportunities for students to develop a personalized learning path toward college, career or both.  Built upon choice, and access to advanced educational opportunities, the plan deepens student engagement and provides families and business and civic leaders explicit opportunities to partner with educators to help guide students’ career and college plans, as well as strengthen our local economy.


Importantly, our academy structure will prepare our students for the global economy and a society that demands more critical thinking and higher levels of educational achievement. It is a structure that gives our students a competitive advantage, ensuring they graduate with stackable credentials sought after by employers and colleges and universities alike.


Our approach and progress would not have been possible without the input and direct feedback from national experts and our families, students, staff and community.


The plan calls for students to choose among four theme-based academies for their sophomore through senior year, the continuation of our Freshman Academy, the launch of a Newcomer Academy for students who have very recently entered the U.S. school system for the first time and have limited English proficiency, and Opportunity Academy – an alternative off campus approach for students needing a different path.  All academies will be designed based on five core tenets that are detailed in the plan, and are built around key factors that we heard prominently in feedback:

  • Ensure all students have access to Advanced Placement (AP) and dual enrollment (college and high school credit simultaneously) courses
  • Integrate state-approved Career Technical Education (CTE) programs into each academy
  • Ensure special education services are integrated into the academies


I am confident all students will see a pathway for themselves.


We have much work left to do.  Our high school teachers and leaders, with college level partners, are now engaged in a planning process to define each academy and the structures and systems that will enable them to flourish.  Our team will continue to engage with students, families, and the community throughout the design process.  Each academy design team will work with higher education partners and business partners to ensure the pathways lead into college and career opportunities.  We are currently forming focus groups of parents, community, and business leaders to receive periodic updates and provide ongoing feedback over the next 6-18 months.  If you are interested in participating in a focus group, please contact Project Coordinator Tammy Lawrence at tlawrence@hps.holyoke.ma.us.


During the design process, we will continue to evaluate many factors, including the location of the academies, which is undetermined at this time.  The unique facilities at each high school campus, access for students, transportation needs, and master schedule options all factor into academy locations.  Students and families will know the location of academies and courses before making a selection.


Our schools and community are amazing assets.  We have made substantial progress in our work together already, as evidenced by quadrupling the number of dual enrollment college courses taken by HPS students for two consecutive years, a 28 percent decline in our dropout rate for 2015-16 compared to the year before, and a further 24 percent drop so far this year.  This plan will continue to grow those positive trends.


Please read more about our plan in the pages that follow and continue to ask questions. After hearing the positive and thoughtful responses to our plan thus far, the team and I are even more confident that, together as a community, we will create a leading, sustainable and growth-oriented education model to prepare our students for the dynamic world before them.


This is an exciting time. Your enthusiasm and energy is both motivating and inspiring.  Thank you for your support and continued engagement.




Stephen Zrike, Jr.