For Immediate Release
June 19, 2014
HOLYOKE TEACHERS, PARENTS, AND COMMUNITY MEMBERS PROTEST TARGETING OF UNION PRESIDENT-ELECT AND PRO-STUDENT ACTIVIST
Holyoke, MA – Holyoke teachers, parents, and community members are protesting the School Department’s decision to not renew the teaching contract of Gus Morales, president-elect of the teacher’s union and a leading activist speaking out for students and the schools they deserve. Teachers and parents will make their views known at the School Committee meeting at 5:00 p.m. on Monday, June 23 at Dean High School, 1045 Main Street, Holyoke, MA.
For two years, Gus Morales was a highly rated teacher. Then on February 3 he spoke out to the School Committee about data walls, many of which listed students by name along with their scores on standardized tests and many of which were posted in areas accessible to the public (illegal under FERPA). Since then, and especially since he was overwhelmingly elected president of the union local, Gus has been targeted. He was given highly dubious negative evaluations and has now been told his contract will not be renewed.
Teachers are outraged by the non-renewal of Gus’s contract, as are many parents. Gus grew up in Holyoke and graduated from Holyoke High. He is a veteran, bilingual, and a teacher who has the support of students and parents. He is one of the few Puerto Rican teachers in Holyoke even though the student body is over 75 percent Hispanic. Gus is a male role model for many students. In May, Gus was elected president of the Holyoke Teachers Association with overwhelming support from his fellow teachers.
Chris Butler, President of I.A.F.F. Local #1693, says, “The Holyoke Firefighters Local #1693 stand in solidarity with the Holyoke teachers and we fully support Mr. Morales in this travesty against organized labor.”
A meeting was held Thursday, June 19th, with Gus Morales and MTA’s General Counsel at the request of the Holyoke Teachers Association to prepare for legal action should the district stand firm in its decision to non-renew Gus Morales. Barbara Madeloni, the president-elect of the Massachusetts Teachers Association, said, “Of course the union will fight this, and fight it hard. A union can’t allow someone to be targeted for his leadership in the union and the community.”
“Teachers know that Gus builds warm relationships with his students and has their respect,” said Nick Zyla, a teacher at the Donahue School. Jose Bou was concerned that the School Department would get rid of one of the few Puerto Rican teachers in town: “This is the wrong way to go. The School Department should be making every effort to keep strong and effective Puerto Rican teachers.”
As of the time of this press release there are over 1,100 signatures on the petition to have Mr. Morales reinstated.
Cheri Cluff 413.335.7568, firstname.lastname@example.org
Jose Bou email@example.com
Erin DuFresne firstname.lastname@example.org
Angela Thatcher email@example.com 413-519-4238
Kiely Rigali firstname.lastname@example.org 413-575-9263