Silver Hill: Taking the Bull by the Horns

Apparently all of Lisa Begley’s smug and gloating quotes in the local newspaper are not easing the fears of parents in Haverhill who are still reeling from the union’s decision to block the renewal of their level one in-district charter … JUST BECAUSE.

EduMom has your back. And we have a message for our friends in Haverhill: EduMom and the parents are NOT going away.

I have already put this call out on the EduMom Facebook page, but I want to make it clear here as well: if you are a parent who wants to be heard, contact me, write a blog and we’ll post it. And promote it. Heavily.
There are a lot of rumors and a ton of fear now that the future of the school has been thrown into chaos. And as usual, parents are the last ones being kept in the loop:

(We asked Laura if she wants to write a blog to report on what happens firsthand. )
Rumor has it one of the options being explored is turning the school into an innovation school. So what’s an innovation school?
The Innovation Schools initiative, a signature component of An Act Relative to the Achievement Gap signed into law by Governor Patrick in January 2010, provides educators and other stakeholders across the state with the opportunity to create new in-district and autonomous schools that can implement creative and inventive strategies, increase student achievement, and reduce achievement gaps while keeping school funding within districts. These unique schools operate with increased autonomy and flexibility in six key areas with the goal of establishing the school conditions that lead to improved teaching and learning. The six key areas are as follows: 
Curriculum;Budget;School schedule and calendar;Staffing (including waivers from or exemptions to collective bargaining agreements);Professional development; andSchool district policies
Innovation schools can operate as new schools, conversion schools, or academies (school- within-a-school) models. Innovation schools be established by (i) parents; (ii) teachers; (iii) parent-teacher organizations; (iv) principals; (v) superintendents; (vi) school committees; (vii) teacher unions; (viii) colleges and universities; (ix) non-profit community-based organizations; (x) non-profit business or corporate entities; (xi) non-profit charter school operators; (xii) non-profit management organizations; (xiii) educational collaboratives; (xiv) consortia of these groups; and (xv) non-profit entities authorized by the Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education.
If this is the only option here, it’s better than nothing. But Silver Hill parents and concerned Haverhill residents, you’re going to need to get your politicians to find their backbones and start acting like LEADERS instead of LEMMINGS.

And that means you’re going to have to get organized and start hammering your elected officials to make this happen. 

One of the major problems in this situation is Mayor Jim Fiorentini — who is also chair of the school committee — who has been a Profile in Cowardice throughout this situation. 
Oh, no kidding, Jim.

The reason the community and PARENTS love Silver Hill is because of the amazing rigor of the curriculum currently offered at the school. The ability and autonomy to select a curriculum that works for the school community but may differ from that offered from other schools is one of the reasons why charter schools work. Instead of picking one reading, one math, one science curriculum to blanket across the district, Silver Hill gets to choose it’s own. And it’s pretty bad ass. 
Districts buying curriculum is like buying a supersize box of chocolate chip granola bars at BJ’s. Some kids will love it and eat it up every day. Some just don’t like chocolate and will refuse to eat it. Some will be allergic and not be able to eat it. But chocolate chip granola bars is what we bought for everyone — so eat it or starve. Cinnamon raisin granola bars might work better at Silver Hill, after learning that chocolate chip was absolute poison for years for the kids who attended, but now we’ll be forced to go back to chocolate chip because the union KNOWS BETTER THAN YOU.

So knowing that elected officials only do things when people get SUPER PISSED OFF and not only PISSED OFF but ready to TAKE ACTION, here is what I would do if I were a Silver Hill parent.
First, attend the meeting on Tuesday night. Figure out if your school officials have a plan about what’s going to happen next. Ask the tough questions like, "are you going to allow Silver Hill to become an innovation school? Will we be able to keep our curriculum? Who is going to be empowered to make these decisions? Will there be public input?"
Then, it’s time to organize.
You’ll need to get every elected official in the district on the record about where they stand on Silver Hill and let them know how you feel about it.
First, call Mayor Jim Fioretini. His number is 978-374-2300. Ask him:
Did you support the union vote not to renew the Silver Hill Horace Mann charter?
Do you support turning Silver Hill into an innovation school?
Politicians will try to make these questions seem like they are IMPOSSIBLE to answer and squirm in every direction to avoid answering you. It’s just SO HARD and their jobs are SO DIFFICULT. (NOT.) Don’t let them get away with it. Yes or no. Do you stand with parents who want to fight for this school? Or do you stand with the union and support their decision to take this school away from the children of Haverhill? YES OR NO.

The trick is, it can’t just be one parent. Or five. Organize a group of 20, 30 or 40 parents to hammer the phones and write emails. (If you invite me, I’ll buy the pizza and help out.) 
After calling Jim, it’s time to get after the school committee and the city council. Every single person, calling every single member. 
Haverhill School Committee:
Ms. Gail Sullivan, President 18 Hawthorne Street – Haverhill MA 01835 or 978-241-9373
Mr. Scott Wood, Jr., Vice President 93 Lawrence Street – Haverhill MA 01830 or 978-994-6211
Mr. Sven Amirian 45 Talmuth Avenue – Haverhill MA 01830 or 978-912-0521
Mr. Paul Magliocchetti 15 Kimball Hill Drive – Haverhill MA 01830 or 978-373-3331
Ms. Maura Ryan-Ciardiello 75 Hamilton Avenue – Haverhill MA 01830 or 978-420-5803
Mr. Shaun Toohey 696 Crystal Street – Haverhill MA 01832 or 978-360-0247
Haverhill City Council:
Council President John A Michitson 119 Kenoza St, Haverhill MA 01830 Cell: 339-221-2276 Email: Office Hours – By appointment 
Council Vice President Melinda Barrett 12 Salem St, Bradford MA 01835 Work: 978-374-4370 Email:   Office Hours – By appointment
Councillor Andres X. Vargas 70 Washington St #405, Haverhill MA 01832 Cell: 978-476-3576 Email: Office Hours – By appointment 
Councillor Michael S. McGonagle 39 Newton Ave, Haverhill MA 01830 Work: 978-372-4440  Email: Office Hours – By appointment
Councillor Joseph J. Bevilacqua 46 Lambert Ave, Haverhill MA 01832 Home: 978-373-4807 Email: Office Hours – By appointment 
Councillor Colin F. LePage 5 Sunrise Dr, Bradford MA 01835 Home: 978-372-8727 Email: Office Hours – By appointment
Councillor Mary Ellen Daly O’Brien 66 Webster St, Haverhill MA 01830 Home: 978-374-7496 Email: Office Hours – By appointment 
Councillor William J. Macek 227 Concord St, Haverhill MA 01830 Home: 978-373-5677 Email: Office Hours – By appointment
Councillor Thomas J. Sullivan 77 Longview St, Haverhill MA 01830 Home: 978-521-1728 Email: Office Hours – By appointment 
Will they talk to you? Yes. They have to. Unlike a good chunk of the Haverhill Educators Association, you are actually their constituents and they work for YOU. If you get mad and start making calls, they are going to LISTEN. But it only happens if you stand up and FIGHT.
I tried with one member and they were pretty responsive. Here is the statement City Councilor Andy Vargas gave me:
On whether he would have supported the vote to revoke the charter:
"I haven’t had time to review all the options that were on the table for renewal – i.e. if they could have changed the definition of "neighborhood" — right now the neighborhood is all of Haverhill. I would prefer the neighborhood be solely Mt. Washington in Haverhill. But, with the information I have to-date, I would have voted to keep it open and continue to work towards diversifying the demographics."
On the overall debate:
"The real underlying issue veiled in this debate is that we are massively underfunding Haverhill Public Schools. The teachers union is right to point out that Silver Hill enjoys smaller classroom sizes and greater professional development for their teachers. We can and must provide these for all of our schools. However, there’s no sense in pinning parents against parents and teachers against teachers. The real problem that needs to be addressed is that Haverhill has not made an adequate and fiscally prudent investment in our public schools during the past several years. In fact, 87% of cities and towns in MA invest more in their public schools than Haverhill. Throwing money at a problem is not the answer, but we have researched based evidence that can help us make the right investments in public education. Doing so would have a positive impact on all Haverhill residents, including property owners that would see their property values increase as our schools improve."
So Silver Hill parents, step up and lead the charge. Let us know what you need from us, and we’ll be there.
What do you think?

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