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Every Central Falls teacher fired, labor outraged

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  • Charles Rachlis
    The fight is on to destroy the unions from scab herder Harder in West Contra Costa to Rhode Island. From sea to shining sea the ruling class is trying to
    Message 1 of 1 , Feb 25, 2010
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      The fight is on to destroy the unions from scab herder Harder in West Contra Costa to Rhode Island. From sea to shining sea the ruling class is trying to destroy unions and public education.

      Every Central Falls teacher fired, labor outraged
      By Jennifer D. Jordan
      Feb. 24, 2010
      Providence Journal
      Projo.com
      http://www.projo.com/news/content/
      central_falls_trustees_vote_02-24-10_EOHI83C_v59.
      3c21342.html#

      CENTRAL FALLS, R.I. -- The full force of
      organized labor showed up in Central Falls Tuesday,
      with several hundred union members rallying in support
      of the city's teachers and bringing plenty of harsh
      words for the education officials who were about to
      fire the entire teaching staff at Central Falls High
      School.

      "This is immoral, illegal, unjust, irresponsible,
      disgraceful and disrespectful," said George Nee,
      president of the Rhode Island AFL-CIO, to shouts and
      cheers from a crowd of more than 500 at Jenks Park.
      "What is happening here tonight is the wrong thing ...
      and we're not going to put up with it."

      Signaling the national significance of the situation in
      Central Falls, the American Federation of Teachers sent
      representative Mark Bostic with a message of support
      from the union's 1.4 million members.

      "We are behind Central Falls teachers, and we will be
      here as long as it takes to get justice," said Bostic.

      Meanwhile, state and local education officials received
      some high-powered support of their own, when U.S.
      Education Secretary Arne Duncan weighed in, saying he
      "applauded" them for "showing courage and doing the
      right thing for kids."

      Busloads of teachers from across the state turned out.

      "I think the real goal is to bust the unions," said
      Julie Boyle, an English teacher at Coventry High
      School. "Sometimes a teacher is the only touchstone in
      a student's life. I'm sad for the students who will
      lose their touchstones."

      Just an hour after the rally, the Central Falls school
      Board of Trustees, in a brief but intense meeting,
      voted 5-2 to fire every teacher at the school. In all,
      93 names were read aloud in the high school auditorium
      -- 74 classroom teachers, plus reading specialists,
      guidance counselors, physical education teachers, the
      school psychologist, the principal and three assistant
      principals.

      Each educator stood as their name was called, many
      wearing red, one of the school's colors. Some cried.

      "Shame on you," a few of the teachers shouted at the
      trustees and Supt. Frances Gallo.


      The state's tiniest, poorest city has become the center
      of a national battle over dramatic school reform. On
      the one side, federal and state education officials say
      they must take painful and dramatic steps to transform
      the nation's lowest-performing schools. On the other
      side, teachers unions say such efforts undermine
      hard-won protections in their contracts.

      "This is hard work and these are tough decisions, but
      students only have one chance for an education,"
      Education Secretary Duncan said, "and when schools
      continue to struggle we have a collective obligation to
      take action."

      Duncan is requiring states, for the first time, to
      identify their lowest 5 percent of schools -- those that
      have chronically poor performance and low graduation
      rates -- and fix them using one of four methods: school
      closure; takeover by a charter or school-management
      organization; transformation which requires a longer
      school day, among other changes; and "turnaround" which
      requires the entire teaching staff be fired and no more
      than 50 percent rehired in the fall.

      State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist moved
      swiftly on this new requirement, identifying on Jan. 11
      six of the "persistently lowest-performing" schools:
      Central Falls High School, which has very low test
      scores and a graduation rate of 48 percent, and five
      schools in Providence. Gist also started the clock on
      the changes, telling the districts they had until March
      17 to decide which of the models they wanted to use.
      Her actions make Rhode Island one of the first states
      to publicly release a list of affected schools and put
      into motion the new federal mandate.

      Gallo and the teachers initially agreed they wanted the
      transformation model, which would protect the teachers'
      jobs.

      But talks broke down when the two sides could not agree
      on what transformation entailed.

      Gallo wanted teachers to agree to a set of six
      conditions she said were crucial to improving the
      school. Teachers would have to spend more time with
      students in and out of the classroom and commit to
      training sessions after school with other teachers.

      But Gallo said she could pay teachers for only some of
      the extra duties. Union leaders said they wanted
      teachers to be paid for more of the additional work and
      at a higher pay rate -- $90 per hour rather than the $30
      per hour offered by Gallo.

      After negotiations broke down, Gallo said she no longer
      had confidence the high school could be transformed and
      instead recommended the turnaround model. Gist approved
      Gallo's proposal Tuesday morning and gave the district
      120 days to develop a detailed plan.


      Supt. Frances Gallo sought to have teachers agree to
      six conditions she said were crucial to improving the
      school.

      Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers'
      Union, said she is reviewing several legal options but
      has not decided what course of action she will take.

      B.K. Nordan, one of two trustees who voted against
      firing all the teachers, nevertheless delivered some of
      the harshest words of the evening to the high school's
      teaching staff. Nordan, a graduate of Central Falls
      High School, now works as a teacher in Providence.

      The Providence Journal / Connie Grosch

      "I don't believe this is a worker's rights issue. I
      believe it's a children's rights issue," Nordan said.
      "...By every statistical measure I've seen, we are not
      doing a good enough job for our students ... The rhetoric
      that these are poor students, ESL students, you can
      imagine the home lives ... this is exactly why we need
      you to step up, regardless of the pay, regardless of
      the time involved. This city needs it more than
      anybody. I demand of you that you demand more of
      yourself and those around you."


      A national dilemma

      Even in a school system known for its academic
      troubles, the numbers at Philadelphia's Vaux High
      School are jaw-dropping: More than 90 percent of
      11th-graders tested last year could not read or do math
      at grade level.

      But next fall, at least half the teachers at Vaux and
      13 more of Philadelphia's worst schools could be gone.
      And the school day, school week and school year could
      be longer.

      While federal law has long allowed the overhaul of
      chronically failing schools, such extreme makeovers are
      likely to become more common because of more money from
      Washington, a growing consensus on education reform,
      and newfound willingness on the part of teacher unions
      to collaborate, experts say.

      Minnesota expects to remake 34 schools by the time
      students return next fall. Philadelphia plans on
      transforming dozens in the coming years, and New Haven,
      Conn., has targeted some of its schools as well.

      Associated Press

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