Silver Hill Parents Beseech School Committee: Save Our Charter

Parents, students and staff from Silver Hill School filled council chambers and spilled into the second-floor hallway at City Hall in a show of support for renewal of the Horace Mann school’s charter.

The School Committee invited supporters and opponents of the charter renewal to speak at their meeting Thursday.

Silver Hill is seeking the second renewal of its Horace Mann Charter since 2007.

Facing state takeover as an under-performing school in 2006, Silver Hill became a Horace Mann charter school, accepting stringent requirements for professional development and data-driven development of curriculum.

Within three years, Silver Hill was rated by the state as a Level 1 school, with notable progress in standardized state testing in English Language Arts and Math, said Principal Margaret Shepherd.

The school’s subsequent charter renewals were approved by the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education with the support of both the School Committee and Haverhill Education Association, as required by the school’s charter.

“This is a huge opportunity for Silver Hill and the HEA to show that a public charter (school) could work harmoniously with a public bargaining unit,” Shepherd said.

In a steady stream to the council chamber’s microphone, parents asked for support of the school’s charter, saying Silver Hill provides a special environment where their children thrive.

The charter gives Silver Hill an independence not afforded the other Haverhill public schools, the parents argued.

Silver Hill staff are employees of the Haverhill district and most are members of the HEA, but the school operates as a district unto itself, Shepherd said, and is free to apply for its own grants and other sources of funding.

The school’s charter puts a large emphasis on staff development and teacher training, Shepherd said.

Students are accepted through a lottery system, and the school gives admissions priority to siblings of students who have already been accepted.

Unlike the other Haverhill schools, Silver Hill caps its class sizes at 18 for kindergarten and 25 for first through fifth grades. It operates the city’s only free public full-day kindergarten program, which parents said would be a huge loss if the school were to lose its charter.

Parent Jeffrey Martineau said access to resources is the only reason HEA members would vote against Silver Hill’s charter renewal. If the city adequately funded its other schools, there would be no reason to seek to strip the charter school of its ability to fund programs that can’t be provided in the other schools.

But Consentino School teacher Anthony Parolisi argued that the loss of its charter would do little to change the culture or curriculum at Silver Hill. The only changes would be loss of the hard cap on the number of students per classroom and the lottery for admissions.

Parolisi, a member of the Haverhill teachers union, said the HEA’s board has not taken a position on the charter. The full membership will vote next month.

School Committee members Sven A. Amirian, Paul A. Magliocchetti and Shaun P. Toohey voiced support for renewing Silver Hill’s charter.

“Silver Hill is a unique entity,” Amirian said, praising the parents for their passionate support of their school.

“If Silver Hill school goes away as it is now and doesn’t receive charter renewal, where does this passion go? Silver Hill offers an alternative that you have invested your heart and soul into, and if that’s taken away, I wonder where you will be,” he said.

Amirian said he doesn’t want to see the community divided over the issue.

“If we are failing in one area, we should not tear down those who are successful. We should look to raise up those who need help.”

Magliocchetti took exception to Parolisi’s statements that Silver Hill would lose little if its charter was not renewed.

“If Silver Hill loses their charter, they’re going to be weakened. It’s their autonomy that allows them to invest in things like professional development,” he said.

Magliocchetti pointed to a reading program that Silver Hill implemented after extensive on-site teacher training.

The same program was introduced in some of the other Haverhill schools, but without the same training.

“Teachers were asked to teach something they didn’t fully understand and didn’t receive the proper training for,” Magliocchetti said.

Toohey said he supports charter schools in general and Silver Hill in particular.

“This school works. We shouldn’t penalize these parents and children for doing what’s right and getting it done.”

Rather than losing its charter, Silver Hill should be a model for other schools in the district, Toohey said.

“I hope the HEA will think about what Silver Hill has been able to accomplish. It should be duplicated throughout the district.”


7 thoughts on “Silver Hill Parents Beseech School Committee: Save Our Charter

    • Believing that your child is not “just another student” isn’t segregation, it’s being involved and wanting what is best for your child as they grow.

      Get off the liberal talking points and have a well thought out and explainable foundation for your comment.

  1. I have to applaud the parents who attended this meeting and voice approval of SH Charter. Here is the bottom line – the parents and students are right – and those who choose to change it (HEA & others) are WRONG.

    When parents start to step up and see that education should not be dispensed at the will or whim of a teachers union – the educational process will be begin to improve again.

    I’m personally tired of this crap that the teachers “only care about the students” – the unions couldn’t give a damn about these kids, – I’ll listen to those parents at the meeting long before I’d even consider what the HEA tells me.

    The teacher unions campaign in our last elections spent MILLIONS of dollars to protect TEACHERS – not students – imagine if that money spent to defeat charter schools was actually put into programs and school supplies for kids how much better off the children would be.

  2. Who would you suggest make the decision Jack? Town Vote at a meeting? Maybe the best idea. Small board of administrators, to use your analogy the Bosses of those employees? I suppose the Town Members would just be customers, so since when do customers get to vote on the company they use? Either way. IF someone would to argue about a process about anything, in the middle of that process. It will not change. The current movement going through that process will continue and finish. THEN the argument of the process may or may not convince others to change it. Can’t change a rule in the middle of a decision based on that same rule. In your arguments case I would stick to bringing up that you believe “The teachers don’t want aggressive demands” and that expanding and being compared to SH in such a way will is aggressive demands.” So the question then comes How do you suggest that we bring up an argument that convinces teachers not to feel that SH represents aggressive demands. Do that and you will have more success then going after the process. For further reference look at the current elections and note the arguments about the process of voting. Has any of that arguing about that process actually do anything?

    • Kevin, the people who should make the decision about the fate of Silver Hill are the people directly affected by it…parents and taxpayers. Every time a customer buys something from a company they are, in fact, voting. Their purchase is the confirmation of which company is providing the best value for their investment. Parents at Silver Hill should have this same option given “they” are the ones affected and are footing the bill. Teachers with no personal direct connection to what is happening at Silver Hill should not be involved with the decision making regarding its charter. As I’ve stated…this is exactly what the HEA is afraid of. The charter school option offers a tremendous alternative for parents. For teachers it is competition and a direct threat to the status quo of teacher unions across the state, not just in Haverhill. That is why they fought so hard to defeat the ballot initiative.

      Your analogy between a public school system and a corporation is a good one. The fact that Silver Hill is a public entity confirms that it is being paid for and run for the benefit of the public. Its very existence isn’t there for the benefit of teachers, so why should they control its fate? Again, teachers are employees…not shareholders. Silver Hill is a public entity which means its charter should be controlled and decided by “the public”.

      I agree that trying to change the charter to exclude teachers from voting to decide this issue isn’t going to happen. But parents focusing on that issue reveals the politics of the HEA. It’s very well known that Silver Hill is a great success. Selling the success of Silver Hill isn’t needed at this point. What needs to be done is for parents to expose the HEA for the self-serving organization that they are. Promoting taking the vote away from teachers forces them to state publicly why they think they should have that power to begin with. Given its success, there is no logical reason at this point why Silver Hill shouldn’t continue as a charter school. If parents reveal the politics of the HEA the public will learn their vote will not be in the best interest of students, it will be about defending the mediocre system they now work in. Logic dictates that teachers, of all people, are always going to vote in favor of what is in the best interest of students, right? Well, in revealing their self-serving interests it confirms that they shouldn’t have the vote to decide the issue in the first place.

  3. Silver Hill parents are going about lobbying the school committee all wrong. Sure, voicing support for Silver Hill is a positive confirmation that the charter school system is working in Haverhill, but they need to address why the HEA, and teachers all across the city, have the power to control its fate. Teachers should have no decision making authority whatsoever when it comes to administrative functions. Teachers are employees…nothing more.

    Teacher unions breed mediocrity. That is why the HEA and teach unions across the state aggressively fought the expansion of charter schools in the state wide ballot initiative last fall. While Silver Hill demands continued professional development of teachers, that is the very last thing Haverhill teachers want to be forced to do. The HEA hates the idea of competition, and the disruption of its mediocre standards that charter schools pose. The fact that parents are praising the charter school process, and the success of its methods, adds fuel to the HEA to do whatever it can to deny its continuation at Silver Hill.

    Shaun Toohey…when you state publicly that charter schools should be duplicated you’re pretty guaranteeing teachers across the city are going to vote against continuation of the Silver Hill charter. The very last thing teachers want is a system that puts aggressive demands on them.

    Parents need to fight the politics of this issue relating to the HEA, and not the success of Silver Hill itself. They need to get the charter changed to deny teachers across the city from being able to vote on this issue. Parents need to have Lisa Begley and other HEA members answer in a public forum why their opinions about the fate of Silver Hill is more important than their own. Parents need to expose the HEA for what it is…a self-serving organization more concerned about themselves than students.