HPS Turnaround: A Student’s Perspective


Isaac Aponte, Herald Staff

As this school year comes to an end, I reflected back on my four years here at HHS North Campus. It was during this time that I remembered a change to the school system that happened right before my freshman year, and during the final years at my middle school. Back in April 2015, the Massachusetts Board of Elementary and Secondary Education designated Holyoke Public Schools as underperforming, and thus, the 2015 Turnaround plan was born. It was at this time that the state took receivership of HPS, as they enacted the Turnaround plan to improve our school system. As a student, I didn’t truly understand the changes until my 8th grade year during 2016. 

During my last year at my middle school, several new changes were implemented. Breakfast was now served in classrooms instead of the cafeteria, the schedule was changed to 7:30AM-4PM, and a new dress code with school uniforms was enacted. All of this was done as part of the 2015 Turnaround plan, as we began to learn how it would affect our first year at HHS North Campus. During my Freshman year, my class, the class of 2021, were the first to test out the HHS Freshman Academies, (PMA, TED, MLS, and CGS). This was done to help students focus on classes that align with their career interests, as well as provide special meetings that catered to your academy. 

Since then however, some changes were made to the academies, many that I never got to see as I became a Sophomore. There were other changes that happened besides the Freshman Academies of course, the schedule for example always seemed to change every year, as well as the teachers we had for our classes. But to me, the biggest change I’ve heard and noticed during my 4 years here at Holyoke High North Campus, has to be the way decisions are made for our school. As I’ve said earlier, since 2015, the state of Massachusetts has taken receivership of HPS. What that means, is that when it comes to decision making for Holyoke Public Schools, the state has the final say. 

Now if I’m being honest, some of these decisions for HHS North Campus have been pretty questionable. I have seen teachers being forced to teach subjects they aren’t familiar with. I have seen teachers struggle to change their lessons for shortened days, because they weren’t informed about the school’s schedule change until the last minute. I have seen school funding go towards things like drinking fountains and new TVs, when it feels like that could have been better used for certain classes with low budgets. I can see why these decisions were made, because most of the time, these are decisions made for several Holyoke schools, not just HHS. 

But at least to me, there’s still this strong feeling of disconnect between the staff of HHS North Campus, and the higher ups who make the decisions. It doesn’t feel like the staff and students have much input when it comes to the important decisions made here. In my personal opinion, I don’t think these blanket decisions work very well. I understand why they’re made, but there are certain decisions for our school that require more local input. After all, the staff and students are the ones that are in our school the most. They would know more than anyone what areas of the school need more support, and which ones don’t. 

I don’t know for certain if this kind of change can happen, or how much of it has already been done. Looking at this from a different perspective, it would take a lot to both manage all public schools in Holyoke, while also looking into their specific needs and desires. But maybe that’s exactly what our school needs. Maybe that kind of time and dedication for each Holyoke public school is worth it. Or maybe I’m just some naive kid who’s looking too deep into this. At the end of the day, you get to form your own opinion on this topic. Whether you think this plan has done nothing but good, or you think that it should be revised in some way, the HPS Turnaround plan is something I feel like is still worth talking about.