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Zrike updates School Committee on progress, challenges

Date: 8/14/2015

HOLYOKE – Holyoke School receiver Dr. Stephen Zrike updated the School Committee on the status of several aspects of the district with the new school year looming at its meeting on Aug. 10.

Zrike also set a meeting schedule for him and the School Committee – monthly – and established a series of monthly meetings in each ward to meet directly with families.

Zrike and the School Committee were told by Katie Silva Moran, director of Talent and Professional Development, there are still 16 unfilled teaching positions in the district.

Zrike noted the turnover in the teaching staff has been “pretty consistent over the past few years.”

He added, “We have some work to do as a system in recruiting teachers.”

Zrike wants to see the recruitment campaign begin in November for hires for the next school year rather than wait to end of the school year. He also wants a develop a strategy to retain “the highest quality of educators.”

Moran said that new systems and approaches have been introduced including advertising positions on a variety of platforms, staging a career fair and sending out a newsletter.

She also said the human resources system requires “streamlining.”

The greatest needs for the district are teachers in math, science and English Language Learners, which Zrike said, “Where we have needs is where most districts have needs. It’s not an excuse, though.”

He also called on an effort to diversify the city’s teaching staff by recruiting more teachers of color.

“That’s hasn’t been part of our strategy [in the past],” he said.

The other staff needing is “a cadre of substitutes,” Zrike said.

The city’s pre-school program is expanding from four schools to 10, Zrike said. There are still openings for four-year-old children and classes begin Sept. 8.

Zrike said pre-school enrollments must be made “cleaner and easier for families.

He added, "I want as many four-year-olds in quality programs as possible.”

Speaking about his entry plan, Zrike said he has met with every staff member in the district.

“It was really powerful to hear what the staff had to say,” he said.

He said the plan would be introduced in Late September or early October.

Zrike also said he would like to increase the number of family visits as “its very clear many families feel disconnected.”

He added, “We have a lot of work to do.”

He expressed concerned about the physical condition of the schools, and while maintenance gains have been made, there is more work to be done. He added the district should have a capital improvement plan.

Zrike is also looking at how to re-open the libraries in the schools.

“We’re still working out the details,” he added.