Last night the parents from Silver Hill were back at it again, and the members of Massachusetts Parents United came to Haverhill with a simple message: We’ve got your back.
For a complete blow-by-blow — check the newspaper report here.
The entire meeting can be viewed right here. (You should watch the whole thing, but EduMom speaks at around [47:40].)
Unfortunately, these parents got little more than lip-service from most. Watching the scene play out in the city council chamber was inspiring and at the same time incredibly frustrating. But even while being belittled, patronized and talked down to by the head of the Haverhill Educators Association — her voice dripping with condescension and disdain for the little nothings who had dare to question her authority as the all powerful leader of the union — yet parents persevered.
(I really loved this Mom of a special needs kid who forced the committee to look at a picture of her child, who has blossomed under the support of Silver Hill teachers and curriculum and wanted the school committee to see the real faces of those impacted.)
The parents at Silver Hill came out to voice their anger and frustration with city leadership loud and clear asking some pretty tough questions of their school committee and even challenging the all-powerful HEA President Lisa Begley to STATE HER ADDRESS for the record — revealing that not only does the woman responsible for killing their school not live in Haverhill — she doesn’t even live in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.
It was an absolute honor to stand with them in their fight to save their beloved school and finally get the respect they deserve as parents, community leaders and taxpayers. They even let me say a few words of support.
(EduMom loves a good school committee throw down.)
My remarks? Just a reminder about who the school committee is supposed to represent — and that the Silver Hill parents have a posse of nearly 6,000 parents across Massachusetts who take exception to elected officials who refuse to listen to the voices of those who put them in those seats. I may have also thrown in something about how allowing the children of Haverhill to be allowed to be used as pawns in a statewide political fight was unconscionable and how this entire situation is a horrific miscarriage of justice.
When challenged on how they felt abut the vote, several members voiced their frustration with the Haverhill Educators Association.
Sven Amirian seemed to get it. Sven is a charter dad and talked about how consistency is key for kids.
Shaun Toobey was good and angry at the plight of the parents. My favorite quotes from Shaun included:
"It’s all about parent choice for me."
"How many of the teachers who voted actually live in Haverhill? I’m in it for the long haul."
"You should have THE RIGHT to choose the school where your son or daughter are educated. This is a school that has done it right. I don’t understand why we are going backwards."
Paul Magliocchetti started off slow, but eventually voiced support for the parents and said he would have voted to renew the charter. I’m taking points off of Paul’s remarks for his weird introduction about how Begley was handed a "difficult situation." Let’s be clear: Begley was not handed a difficult situation. She made a situation difficult. On purpose.
He also talked about the great teachers of Haverhill, which was wonderful and heart warming. Speaking of which, it was also revealed that while 360 Haverhill teachers voted on whether to keep the charter — more than 800 were eligible to vote. Not a vote of confidence for Begley as the membership doesn’t seem to stand behind her. We also hear that she’s lacking support from the Haverhill High teachers who are pretty angry about their health care coverage and the deal with the city.
Speaking of Haverhill High: Mayor Fiorentini’s constant need to gaze back to Begley for reaction — following his own remarks as well as after remarks from his fellow officials — was pretty disconcerting during the course of the proceedings. It seemed for this observer that he was checking in for approval from her. One of the parents noted during her remarks that Fiorentini refused to weigh in on the Silver Hill issue during individual meetings with parents and when asked why he remained quiet on the issue. When pushed he revealed that his son is a Haverhill High teachers so he didn’t feel right making a comment either way on the situation. Parents rightfully challenged whether he could be an unbiased vote on ANYTHING before the body if he felt his relationship with an educator was too close. He needs to be challenged further on this. We see you, Jim.
Many parents said they questioned their decision to buy homes in Haverhill and were actually considering moving OUT. That seemed to get the electeds good and freaked out — especially when a couple of Dads took the mic and said the were long time volunteers and donors to the Haverhill Public Schools and were ready to take their ball and go home after all this crap.
Sven seemed to get it. "You represent an engaged group of citizens that the city of Haverhill desperately needs."
And represent they did. The entire room was FILLED with parent power. Only Her Highness the Queen of Smug, NH spoke in support of the union decision.
Of course, during the course of the evening there were many a platitude given to parents for coming together, fighting for their kids, being engaged, but without real action it’s another group of politicians blowing rainbows up our butts. But here’s the thing: Parents aren’t stupid. Last night Mayor Fiorentini promised parents would be a part of the transition team developing the next steps for Silver Hill.
WE WANT FIVE PARENT SEATS on that team. Not one. Not three. FIVE. PARENT. SEATS.
My advice to parents: STAY FOCUSED. Don’t go to sleep. The loss of charter status isn’t about increasing diversity and you shouldn’t let the crumbs they will throw at you in the form of "sibling preference" deter you from your mission. The most important thing at Silver Hill and the thing that makes it different is the rigorous curriculum and the individualized supports. That is what they will strip from the school first. You must DEMAND that it stays in place. Instead of dragging Silver Hill back down into a mediocre curriculum that is failing so many students and a school culture led to disaster in years past — we should be working to bring the rest of the Haverhill Schools up to the Silver Hill level — with a curriculum that challenges all students and gives them the supports they need to succeed.
Luckily, the parents of Silver Hill aren’t easily fooled and won’t be going down without a fight.
These parents are ROCK STARS. And they are NOT going down without a fight.
What do you think?