Two months after the Haverhill Education Association voted to reject the charter renewal of Silver Hill Horace Mann Charter School, school principal Margaret Shepherd assured parents nothing will change for their children – yet.
In a meeting Monday, Shepherd promised parents that Silver Hill and Superintendent James F. Scully pledge to keep things as they are for the time being. “You’re in good hands,” Principal Shepherd told attendees, including School Committee member Paul A. Magliocchetti, City Councilors Andy Vargas, Melinda E. Barrett and William J. Macek; and Alison Bagg and Claire Smithney from the state Department of Education.
“Any kid who comes through our door [is] going to get the best education we can provide. I have a feeling that would be the same in other Haverhill public schools,” she said, speaking on behalf of Superintendent Scully and Silver Hill’s new Assistant Principal Dr. Sandy Green. “Hopefully you know me well enough to know that your kids are my kids.”
As Silver Hill reintegrates into the Haverhill Public School system, Shepherd said Scully backs her vision for a “six-year plan” where currently enrolled students will remain at Silver Hill through the fifth grade.
“I know it’s frightening, but what’s frightening to me is the unknown, and for this year, you have no unknown,” Shepherd said, adding that she’ll make the effort to continue to admit siblings of current students. “The transition is not going to be something where we fall apart. If anything, this opens up a lot of the barriers that were put in place because we are a charter school. We have great teachers, great community support and great kids. There are some unknowns but we’ve dealt with those before.”
Haverhill School Committee member Magliocchetti was encouraged by Monday’s status update. “I hope it’s a smooth transition and I am optimistic,” he said. “I’m very grateful the state is here showing an interest and that should speak to you. Everyone is looking out for you.”
Department of Education representative Bagg confirmed that her team would be readily available to assist with closing procedures and also anticipates a smooth transition.
In the wake of early municipal support, Silver Hill parent Devan Ferreira urged parents to keep voicing concerns.
“As parents and community members in Haverhill, I don’t think it’s too much or inappropriate for you to keep asking for future plans,” said Ferreira, who has two children at the school and is a member of its charitable foundation. “Having the answer that nothing changes here for this year is good and that’s comforting to know, but for me . . . I can’t take the answer ‘we’ll get back to you’ easily. Keep being the squeaky wheel and let them know this is important to you. As we advocate for education and our school, we don’t have to settle. You don’t have to take those answers and be comfortable with it.”