High School Redesign

Providing a high quality educational option for every student

The high school experience at Holyoke Public Schools is being redesigned, to ensure that every student in grades 6-12 has a high quality educational option, with a focus on college and careers for all students.  At the core of the district’s turnaround plan is the firm belief that all Holyoke students deserve a world‐class education.  The plan includes strategies for improving the instruction and services offered, and providing students with the skills and tools they need to be successful in school now, and later in college and their careers.

After months of research and discussion between educators, families and community members, we have developed a draft strategic plan | (En Español) to share our vision for Holyoke’s high school experience.  With more than 150 visits to schools in and outside of the district, our High School Redesign Team has emerged with recommendations intended to transform the high school experience, resulting in complementary, competitive and 21st Century learning pathways for our youth.  We have hosted several high school redesign public information sessions to discuss the plan.  The next steps include meetings with students, compiling and analyzing feedback.  We would like to hear from you throughout this process.  Please email your feedback to info@hps.holyoke.ma.us.

High School Redesign

Contact: Mickey Buhl
Executive Director of Secondary Education and Pathways

  • High School Redesign

    The high school redesign process started last year with a series of initial recommendations. This year, the district has launched a more extensive process to explore successful, innovative approaches to high school education with the goal of creating a strategic plan to transform high school education in Holyoke.

    The district’s turnaround plan serves as a tool that guides district strategy of designing a unique pathway for every student where they can access grade level standards, experience powerful teaching and be regularly monitored for progress.   A pathway is defined by the Holyoke Public Schools, as a student-informed learning trajectory that provides students with a competitive advantage resulting in college and/or career success.  The Holyoke Public Schools celebrates the individuality of every student and realizes that students do best when they pursue their passions and are trusted to select their pathway.


    Based upon feedback of community stakeholders, Holyoke Public Schools began early implementation of key initiatives in Fall 2016 –  10-19-16-High School Redesign Update | En Espanol.  These select initiatives fall within HPS strategic priorities, with a particular focus on personalized pathways and an effective and thriving workforce:


    This year, all ninth graders attend Holyoke High School, and Dean Technical High School became a school serving students in grades 10-12. More than half of the freshmen at Holyoke High are taking an exploratory course at Dean that introduces them to a variety of career pathways, including health sciences, manufacturing, culinary arts, cosmetology, technology, construction, and automotive. The goal is to ensure that every student has rigorous academic preparation, while also offering exposure to career and technical education for students interested in those pathways.  The two high schools are sharing department heads across both campuses, aligning schedules and standards, and creating crossover opportunities for students to participate at each high school through classes, sports and other extra-curricular programs.


    Students participating in dual college enrollment offerings have increased at Holyoke Public Schools.  This refers to a college course a student takes at a participating college for credit at the high school AND the college.  In Fall 2016, 70 students from Holyoke High and 12 students from Dean Technical are earning college credit through dual enrollment with University of Massachusetts Amherst and Holyoke Community College (HCC).  This is an increase from 2 students in Fall 2015 and 19 students in Spring 2016.


    The Barr Foundation has awarded a $300,000 grant to support Holyoke Public Schools’ efforts to engage stakeholders in identifying, piloting and building sustainable secondary school models to challenge current practice and transform the high school experience, resulting in complementary, competitive and 21st Century learning pathways for all students.


    As part of the second phase of our secondary redesign efforts, we are engaging stakeholders in identifying, piloting and building sustainable secondary school models to challenge current practice and transform the high school experience, resulting in complementary, competitive and 21st Century learning pathways.  Innovation and Design teams have been launched which includes parents, teachers, students, community members and school leaders.  This work is supported by a $300,000 grant from the Barr Foundation to explore (not replicate) ideas from high schools visited across Massachusetts and the country.  The Team, consisting of 12 members – educators, parents, community members, and two students from each high school – will steer the learning and systemic recommendations from research into practice throughout the term of this grant. The team has visited other institutions to observe new instructional approaches/models (such as the blended learning model that is used at Intrinsic Schools and Summit Public Schools), pathways, and content to create learning trajectories (for example STEM, ethnic studies, computer science, etc.).  Exploration of new secondary models is the key strategy for sparking change, improvement and new ways of teaching and learning.  Part of the Holyoke Public Schools secondary redesign work also includes early college expansion and the Gateway to College Program at Holyoke Community College.   This winter, these teams have presented proposals to the community that have the potential of transforming the high school experience for our youth.


    In December 2016, Holyoke Public Schools was awarded a School Redesign Grant on behalf of Dean Technical High School in the amount of $1,500,000.   Dean will focus the SRG grant on growing instruction in core academics and the Career Technical Education Program.  Dean will invest in developing teachers through instructional coaching and also in building teacher teams that “own” student success, keeping them “on track” and building individual school and career plans for each student.


    During Governor Baker’s recent visit to our district, Holyoke High and Dean Technical High School students participated in a round table discussion and shared their views on the high school experience, the dual enrollment program, and district progress….

    Jasmin Rodriguez, (Holyoke High School student who is participating in the dual enrollment program offered in partnership with Holyoke Community College (HCC)), stated that, “One of the benefits of dual enrollment is that I am getting better at time management and have become more responsible.”

    Jack Courchesne, (Holyoke High School student who is taking a writing class at UMass Amherst that includes poetry, writing speeches, and public speaking) stated, “There are a lot of opportunities at Holyoke High School.  As long as you work hard you will find success here.”

    Darian Gonzalez, (Holyoke High School student who is taking a course at HCC), stated that this opportunity helps build the character of students, and sees the benefits of having an experience in both environments – college and high school.  Regarding district progress, Darian stated, “There is an importance of student voice and it is encouraging to know that it is possible that student suggestions can be implemented.”

    Angel Martinez, (Dean Technical High School student), explained that people used to view Dean as a school where students aren’t going to college, but now Dean is a place where there is the opportunity to get a job after graduation and still go to college.

    Katelynn Cruz, (Holyoke High School student member of the high school redesign Innovation Team), stated that she is excited that the student voice is being heard and prioritized.  Katelyn also enjoys being a member of the district’s high school redesign Innovation Team, “I am being educated about 21century models so that when the team visits other schools, we can observe the models in action and determine if it would be a good fit for our school system.  It is amazing to learn with my teachers about how to make Holyoke a better place.  It makes me feel comfortable and my voice feel welcome in my community.”

    Rolando Colon (Dean Technical High School student member of the high school redesign Innovation Team), mentioned that he has had a rough time in school, but now feels like he has more opportunities and a voice.  He is happy that he is able to be a part of making changes that can impact the future of his two young siblings who will be attending the Holyoke Public Schools.