During an interview with a local news station this week, Catherine and I were asked about our position on the receivership of Holyoke Public Schools. It was recently announced that the state is putting the entire school system into receivership, which means that the schools are now under state—not local—control. The Commissioner of Education, Mitchell Chester, will appoint a “receiver” to manage the school system from this point forward, and that person will assume the responsibilities of both the Superintendent and the School Committee. Receivership could last for years, and has drawn both condemnation and support from the local community.
LightHouse came on the scene in Holyoke last September, as we began meeting with local residents, business and nonprofit leaders, and government officials. At that time, the possibility of receivership was not on the public radar. What we saw in Holyoke was an opportunity; an opportunity and desire for the teens in Holyoke to have access to great education.
As we met with folks across the city, we asked if they felt that a program like LightHouse would be a good fit for Holyoke. We also asked what specific programs or services people would want to see us build in our Holyoke program. LightHouse is an independent center so we have the ability to design our program specifically for the needs and interests of Hampden County.
Throughout the fall we received great input and guidance from many people in and around the city, helping us to shape the future of LightHouse. We also met with Holyoke Public Schools Superintendent Sergio Paez to talk about our program, the public schools, and possibilities for future collaboration. Our vision has always been that we are a part of community-wide efforts to enhance education for teens in the city—public, private, charter, or otherwise.
The receivership hasn’t changed anything for LightHouse; our mission and approach are the same. There were teens looking for a different, personalized approach to learning before, and those same teens are still looking now. What has changed, or rather evolved, is the local conversation about education in Holyoke. Whether people are for or against receivership, almost everyone is engaging in the conversation.
And LightHouse is a part of that conversation. As we are talking with young people in Holyoke and neighboring communities, we are encouraging them to consider what educational model is the best fit for them. Is it the public schools? Is it a personalized education at LightHouse? We believe strongly that passion and joy should be seen as critical foundations for learning and lifelong success. We believe that you shouldn’t have to wait until you’re out of school to explore your passions and be in the driver’s seat of your own education. And we believe that teens and families in and around Holyoke deserve to have great educational options. In that, I suspect, we are all agreed.
LightHouse is excited to be one of these educational options for teens this fall. We, like everyone, are interested to see how receivership takes shape, and we look forward to continuing the conversation about how education for teens in Holyoke will continue to improve and evolve.