Haverhill Education Association President Lisa R. Begley.
Haverhill Education Association members voted 114 to 246 Thursday to not renew Silver Hill’s status as a Horace Mann charter school nine years after its initial charter was granted in 2008.
Thursday’s vote marks the first time the entire teacher’s union was allowed to cast a vote since the charter was issued. Silver Hill educators were the only ones to vote during the previous two charter renewals, and this year, HEA President Lisa R. Begley called for a new policy allowing all city educators to make their voice heard.
“As we understand the law, this means that the school will revert to being under the control of the Haverhill School Committee rather than under a separate board,” Begley said in a statement. “School Committee members will have to decide what, if any, parts of the Silver Hill program they want to keep and what they want to change, presumably with input from parents, teachers and other staff both at the school and throughout the district.”
With the charter renewal shot down, Silver Hill’s 580 students in grades K-5—chosen to attend the school via lottery—will now be forced to attend their neighborhood schools. Approximately 100 of those students are fifth graders, which will put an added strain on the city’s elementary and middle schools. Adding to the ripple effect, Silver Hill was also the only school in the district to offer free, all-day kindergarten. Other schools offer kindergarten on a sliding scale, based on family income.
The principal of Silver Hill, Margaret Shepherd, broke the news to families by email just after 6 p.m., Thursday.
“I know how hard everyone tried to get the Charter Application sent forward, and I will never forget the dedication of our school community. As much as this is an extremely discouraging outcome, I also know that the Silver Hill staff are the best at what they do, we will continue to have unbeatable family engagement, we open our doors to ALL children, and HEA can NEVER take that away. Give us the children, and we will always provide the best educational program in Haverhill!”
As a charter school, Silver Hill, the largest of nine Horace Mann charter schools in Massachusetts, provided independent public schooling open to everyone, and had the autonomy to establish its own school calendar, curriculum and educational culture.
Initially named a Horace Mann charter school because it struggled with low student achievement, Silver Hill currently carries a Level I performance rating, the highest accountability rating statewide.
Now that the renewal is tabled, the school could convert to what the state calls an “innovation school,” Silver Hill’s Euthemia Gilman, who founded the charter school in 2008, previously told WHAV.
Innovation Schools are a hybrid between district-owned charter schools and standard public schools and retain the right to supplement finances with grants and nonprofit foundation money. Gilman views this potential shift as a positive option. “You become a flagship elementary school,” she said. “I would say that does more good, especially for the quadrant and for the district, as opposed to stirring up and getting people upset.”
This is a developing story. Stay tuned to 97.9 WHAV FM for updates.