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Sunday, February 14, 2010 2:18 AM

Central Falls Rhode Island Fires Every High School Teacher

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Here is an interesting email from "Jason" regarding high schools in Central Falls Rhode Island. Jason writes:

Hi Mish,

As I'm sure you're aware, Rhode Island has one of the highest unemployment rates in the nation.

Central Falls is one of the poorest towns in the state. It looks like the pictures everyone's seen of Detroit or Flint. There are lots of boarded up windows, abandoned buildings, decrepit factories with broken windows, etc. It's an absolutely depressed community. According to Wikipedia, the median income in the town is $22k.

Teacher salaries at the high school average $72-78k. Apparently 50% of the students at the school are failing all of their classes, and the graduation rate is also under 50%. In an effort to turn the school around, the superintendent requested some changes be made whereby the school day would be slightly extended, teachers would perform some extra tutoring, etc.

The union balked and refused the terms, so now she is firing the entire teaching staff of the high school and replacing them. This is yet another example of unions digging their own graves by refusing to negotiate or accept reasonable terms. Sentiment is on the side of the superintendent, at least among the folks I have discussed the issue with.

With that backdrop, please consider Central Falls to fire every high school teacher.
The teachers didn’t blink.

Under threat of losing their jobs if they didn’t go along with extra work for not a lot of extra pay, the Central Falls Teachers’ Union refused Friday morning to accept a reform plan for one of the worst-performing high schools in the state.

The superintendent didn’t blink either.

After learning of the union’s position, School Supt. Frances Gallo notified the state that she was switching to an alternative she was hoping to avoid: firing the entire staff at Central Falls High School. In total, about 100 teachers, administrators and assistants will lose their jobs.

Gallo blamed the union’s “callous disregard” for the situation, saying union leaders “knew full well what would happen” if they rejected the six conditions Gallo said were crucial to improving the school. The conditions are adding 25 minutes to the school day, providing tutoring on a rotating schedule before and after school, eating lunch with students once a week, submitting to more rigorous evaluations, attending weekly after-school planning sessions with other teachers and participating in two weeks of training in the summer.
Tale Of The Missed Deadline

Here are some more pieces from Supt. sets Friday deadline for Central Falls teachers
Gallo decided to give the teachers one more chance to embrace her ambitious reform plan after listening to the comments of several teachers and students at a packed School Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.

But, the superintendent said in a phone interview Wednesday, she is determined to fix the high school’s deep-rooted problems and she is not going to waver from doing everything that must be done to meet the needs of the 800 students there. For the first time, Gallo knows she can get it done because state Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist has mandated the overhaul, giving Gallo federal and state authority to transform the school.

“We have a graduation rate of 48 percent. I have 19-year-olds in classes with 14-year-olds. It’s the middle of the school year and 50 percent of the students at the high school are failing all of their classes,” Gallo said.

Gallo said she offered to pay teachers $30 an hour for two additional weeks of training in the summer. Gallo also said she would try to find grant money to pay teachers for 90 minutes a week of after-school planning time, also at $30 an hour.

But she says she has no extra money to pay for other changes she is pushing for, including lengthening the instructional day by 25 minutes, so teachers work 8 a.m. to 3 p.m. instead of 7:50 a.m. to 2:25 p.m. She wants teachers to formalize a rotating tutoring schedule, so a teacher is available to help students for an hour before or after school, and she wants teachers to have lunch with students one day a week.

The average teacher’s salary at the high school ranges between $72,000 and $78,000 a year, because most are at the district’s top step, Gallo said.

Union officials have been pushing for $90 per hour and want the district to pay for more of the additional responsibilities.
Matter of Principle

I commend the teachers' union for standing up for their principles. Indeed, I hope all public unions do the same.

Those teachers now have time to reflect on whether $30 an hour for extra time on top of $90 an hour for regular time was such a bad deal.

They also get to look for another job that pays $72,000 a year plus benefits. I suggest they look in the private sector so they obtain a much needed education on matters of principle.

Mike "Mish" Shedlock
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