Mar 2, 2010

Fire ‘em all, Rhode Island school board says

by Jenna Shoffner

Rhode Island has made history by terminating the employment of the entire faculty at Central Falls High School.

As of Monday, Central Falls Board of Trustees approved a reform plan for the public education system that fires every teacher from the school. This is the first occurrence of its kind in the United States, according to ABC News.

Central Falls High School has been labeled “chronically underperforming” by Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, according to ABC News.

“We lose 52 percent of our students between 9th grade and the 12th grade … They don’t graduate,” School Superintendent Frances Gallo said, according to ABC News.

Reading aptitude at the school ranks at 55 percent and math at only 7 percent, according to the Providence Journal.

One-fifth of students at Central Falls High School come from severely underprivileged homes and many do not have sufficient English abilities.

The en masse termination plan may seem harsh, but it did not come as a first option for the school’s improvement. Gallo made previous efforts to ensure the success of students without threatening any faculty positions, according to CBS News.

The initial plan for academic turnaround included an increase in teacher workload. Teachers would spend 90 minutes per week in an education-focused discussion, participate in a two-week paid professional development session during the summer, and eat lunch with students on occasion. The plan also included an increase in the school day to seven hours and a third-party evaluation, according to the Providence Journal.

The Central Fall’s teacher’s union, however, highly opposed the changes Superintendent Gallo wanted to make. The original plan failed to become reality when the Teachers Union and school board disagreed about extra pay the teachers would receive as a result of further time put in on the job, according to CBS News.
When faculty refused to comply with the first reform offered, Central Falls School Board enacted another plan — fire all teachers.

Following termination of 74 teachers, the school district is allowing for up to 50 percent of teachers to be rehired, according to ABC News.

The school plans to rehire teachers who are willing to put forth the extra effort the challenging environment requires, according to CBS News.

The Teachers’ Union of Central Falls was very displeased with this decision. Yet, do they truly have the right to take such an attitude?

The Teachers’ Union said they needed more pay for the extra work than what the original plan was suggesting. While it is reasonable to expect more pay for more work, a boundary line must be drawn at some point. A job, especially one such as teaching, where the main objective is the enrichment of the student’s life, is not always about squeezing the most money possible out of the employer.

Teachers, as a whole, are generally understood to be overworked and underpaid. I am not denying this in the slightest. However in this situation, one must consider the individual demographics, such as the current pay for the teachers in question. The average base salary for a Central Falls teacher is $72,000 to $78,000. This statistic comes from a state where the median income for a male full-time, year-round worker is $48,492, according to the Washington Post.

It seems, since they are already well-compensated, the teachers would not be as adamant about receiving more money in order for their students to succeed academically. I am not sure, however, that the students’ academic ability is number one on the Teachers Union priority list.

“We have teachers at the high school that have grown up in this community … That’s what education at Central Falls is about,” said Jane Sessums, President of Central Falls Teachers Union.

Central Falls has failed miserably if its academic standards consist only of employing teachers who are from the area. The school system is meant for the education of the students. If the faculty fails to provide the best quality of education for Central Falls students, it would not be unjust to fire the teachers, but to keep them.

Contact Jenna Shoffner at
jlshoffner@liberty.edu.


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