Silver Hill Innovation Vote Set for Feb. 26 Amid Allegations of Teacher Intimidation

Silver Hill’s charter status remains intact through June and, although initial plans to convert to an innovation school were voted down, parents are hopeful a Feb. 26 vote of union teachers will restart conversations.

Silver Hill parent Devan Ferreira, a mom of two students at the school, tells WHAV she is among the parents who support the innovation school concept, a hybrid between district-owned charter schools and standard public schools. Through the model, the Haverhill Education Association loses some of its power, but such schools retain the right to supplement finances with grants and its own nonprofit foundation money.

In an effort to make Silver Hill faculty aware of her position, Ferreira submitted two flyers to Superintendent James F. Scully’s office before distributing them in teachers’ mailboxes, she told WHAV. The flyer followed an “Innovation Conversation” meeting held in October during which Principal Margaret Shepherd said Silver Hill did not need to convert to an innovation school to achieve the same success it had as a charter school.

Lisa R. Begley, the president of the Haverhill Education Association, invited Ferreira to attend the vote, which will ask Silver Hill faculty for a “yes” or “no” vote by secret ballot as to whether or not they support continued conversations about the possible conversion to an innovation school.

The meeting comes in the wake of strife among the Silver Hill community. WHAV obtained two letters, sent to Scully and the Haverhill School Committee, that express concern over the ethics of Shepherd and Silver Hill’s Board of Trustees as the school transitions away from its charter status to be reabsorbed into the Haverhill Public Schools system.

One letter written by a teacher implores Scully to address the “’us against them’ attitude within the school.” The same letter also alleges “intimidation” by parents in support of the innovation school concept. “This school is becoming an unpleasant place to work and borders on a hostile work environment,” the letter read.

At the urging of her HEA members, Begley chose not to escalate her concerns about Silver Hill’s Board of Trustees to the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education. She declined to elaborate on her decision when contacted by WHAV.

For her part, Ferreira denied pressuring teachers to vote a certain way.

“I don’t know where that pressure would come from. The parents I’ve been working with, a group of 10 of us, we hosted that “Innovation Conversation” and distributed flyers and that was it,” she said. “I read there was a female parent polling teachers in December and I don’t know who that would be or how you get to do that at schools. I know as a mom there, I have to sign in, say why I’m there and I leave when I’m supposed to be done.”

Scully tells WHAV he intends to address the Silver Hill strife as soon as possible.

“I will meet with the responsible parties, including the principal, Margaret Shepherd, to review the issues,” he told WHAV.