Condition of Education in Western MA: Opening Opportunity in the COVID Era


This virtual discussion focuses on the state of education in Western Massachusetts, bringing together members of the business and education communities around supporting students during this challenging time. Listen in to hear about how schools and community organizations are working together to address students’ learning loss and social-emotional well-being in Western Massachusetts.



Chrissy Howard leads the community-wide early literacy initiative Reading Success by 4th Grade (RS4G) in Springfield, Massachusetts. RS4G is a broad coalition of leaders in education, child development, nonprofit, business, philanthropy, and government working toward the goal of all of Springfield’s children reading proficiently by the end of third grade. The initiative brings people together to learn, share, and advocate for the early literacy skills necessary for success in school and in life. Chrissy has worked in charter and public urban elementary schools as a teacher, instructional coach, and principal. She earned her Bachelor of Science degree from Wheelock College; her Master’s in Education from Harvard University; and her Certificate of Advanced Graduate Study (CAGS) from Simmons University, focused on urban elementary education. She is currently pursuing her PhD at UMass Amherst focusing on how communities build literacy together. Her previous work has been in teacher leadership, teacher preparation and professional learning, ESL and language learning, literacy and instruction, family partnerships, and early childhood purposeful play.

Dexter Johnson is the CEO and President of the YMCA of Greater Springfield.  Dexter has been with the YMCA movement for more than 27 years and with the YMCA of Greater Springfield for the last 7 years.  He served as the Chief Operating Officer before taking over as CEO in 2017.  Prior to coming to Springfield, Dexter served in leadership development with YMCA of the USA.  He spent the first 16 years of his YMCA career serving in a variety of roles with the Tampa Metropolitan Area YMCA.   Dexter has spent his entire career committed to the YMCA’s Areas of Focus; Youth Development, Healthy Living and Social Responsibility.  From volunteering as a tutor to spending four years as a Pre-K teacher to his current role, he has been devoted to the development of young people. Dexter has a Bachelor of Science in Human Services and a Master of Science Degree in Organizational Management and Leadership, both from Springfield College.  He is also an adjunct faculty for the School of Professional and Continuing Studies of Springfield College.  He is married with 3 kids and now lives in Wilbraham. 

Dr. Alberto Vázquez Matos, Superintendent / Receiver of the Holyoke Public Schools was born in Puerto Rico, relocated at a young age to New York, where he grew up and was educated. He began his career in education immediately after graduating from college and has served as a teacher, academic dean, assistant principal, principal,  adjunct professor, associate superintendent, superintendent, chief of staff, and deputy superintendent in various communities in New York, Connecticut, and Florida. In those roles, he developed district-wide strategic plans, led transformation work, and developed school and district policies and systems. Most recently, Dr. Vázquez Matos has served as the deputy superintendent of the Hartford Public Schools in Connecticut. He was recently appointed as the Superintendent/Receiver of Holyoke Public Schools.  He has led efforts to develop the district’s strategic operating plan, managed budget challenges, developed a budget formula for equitable school funding within the district, led the construction and renovation of four school buildings, and led efforts to improve outcomes for students in reading and math. Dr. Vázquez Matos holds a bachelor of arts degree in Spanish and secondary education from St. Thomas Aquinas College, a master's degree in school administration and supervision from Manhattan College, a professional diploma in advanced leadership studies from Manhattan College, and a doctorate in school administration from Walden University. In addition, he is in the process of completing a doctorate in second language research from the Inter-American University of Puerto Rico.