Thank you for giving me the opportunity to learn about and alongside you over the past six months as part of my Entry Plan, “Our Journey Together.” During this time of classroom visits and deep listening sessions, I saw, heard, and learned so much about what makes Holyoke the strong community it is, and I am inspired to keep working alongside you to make us even stronger.
On every classroom visit, I saw our students jump right into learning: I saw it when Mr. Cruz’s Pre-K students sang “Quién le quita el hipo al hipopótamo?” I saw it again when I visited Mrs. Dorsey’s fifth-grade classroom, where her students tackled a volume problem.
From my focus group with Donahue staff where they shared how purposefully integrating all students in the classroom is leading to a more inclusive school to my conversation with Holyoke High students where they had ideas on how to better foster inclusion of multilingual students outside the classroom, I was proud of our students’ and staff members’ appreciation for our diverse, caring community.
From an in-person community session at Heritage State Park where parents expressed appreciation for strong communication to a virtual meeting with business leaders where they suggested ways for students to extend their learning in our community, I was thankful for their insight on how to work best together.
As I reflect on all these interactions and all of the data I reviewed, I want to name the most significant challenges that we need address over the next few years:
Ensuring students are grade level ready, especially by strengthening literacy instruction.
Strengthening support for special populations especially through in-classroom support for students with disabilities, students who are English Learners and any student who is struggling regardless of label.
Creating a positive learning environment for all, including providing greater support for student behavior issues and a more comprehensive approach to addressing students’ social emotional and mental health needs.
Other efforts we undertake will support our efforts to address these challenges.
Throughout this process, I felt a significant sense of Holyoke pride—a pride I know well from growing up and working in my hometown. Over the past six months, I witnessed countless bright spots. I saw many examples where my personal values are alive in our school system, where students are first and foremost, where every child can and will learn, where school is about more than academics, and where it takes a village to raise children. Unfortunately, I also saw examples where our school district fails to fully live up to its responsibility, but I know we can and will do better in the future.
As you read through this report, you will see I have compiled data and insights on our district’s strengths and areas for improvement. I have tried to draw out themes for this report, but know there are individual stories behind each theme that are a huge motivation for me as your leader.
During my many conversations, I heard very clearly what our community is seeking in a superintendent: You want someone from our community who knows our students and families and who wants to be in this role for a long time. You want a leader dedicated to our students who will continually ask for input and feedback and who will be visible in our schools. You also want a strategic planner who will develop a multi-year vision and then provide sufficient resources and support to achieve that vision. I strive to be this type of leader every day.
As we look forward to taking next steps, please know that I am more ready than ever to work diligently and tirelessly on behalf of our students, families, educators, staff and community. If you are interested in serving on the Advisory Committee to help develop our strategic plan, please complete this form by March 9.
With sincere appreciation,
Superintendent Soto’s Entry Plan Findings Report (PDF) | En Español (PDF) (February 2022)
Findings Report Executive Summary (PDF) | En Español (PDF) (February 2022)
Superintendent Soto’s Entry Plan (PDF) | En Español (PDF) (September 2021)