Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Rhode Island school district follows through – fires every high school teacher!

– Central Falls wasn’t fooling

We reported a few days ago that the Central Falls School District’s superintendent was unable to get teachers to agree to an improvement plan and was planning to fire all the teachers in the district’s Central Falls High School.

Now, the Central Falls Board of Education has voted to do precisely that – firing every teacher in their dismally performing high school – apparently reading out every one of the school staff members’ names individually during the process to leave no doubt what so ever about the action.

This dramatic vote actually came shortly after union folks from across the state, and even outside Rhode Island, descended on Central Falls in a noisy, rancorous rally.

Apparently, the Central Falls Board just had enough of horrendous dropout rates and lousy test scores, so even teacher-attempted intimidation didn’t work.

The board was also unimpressed when teachers refused salary increases of $3,400 to do the extra things needed to try to turn the failing school around. Teachers demanded three times as much as the district could afford.

While teachers are screaming, the Central Falls Board has some pretty impressive backup in its corner.

One of those backers is Rhode Island’s Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist.

Gist moved swiftly on new federal guidelines which tagged Central Falls High as one of her state’s very lowest performers. Gist told the impacted districts and schools that they had until March 17 to decide which federal reform model they wanted to use. When the Central Falls teachers turned down a reform model that would have preserved their jobs, the local board and superintendent were forced to take more drastic action.

More support for the board’s action comes from a really high-powered source.

The Rhode Island News says U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan applauded the local board for “showing courage and doing the right thing for kids.”

I don’t know if Rhode Island applied for Race to the Top funding, but if they did, I would suspect the action in Central Falls will give the state a huge boost in the competition.

Meanwhile, some Kentucky schools founder along pretty much on a par with Central Falls High, but despite all the noise about reform, Kentucky hasn’t displayed anything like the determination in Rhode Island to have teachers either get on board with real reforms – or get out.

That lack of commitment might come back to bite us when Secretary Duncan starts to hand out those Race to the Top funds in the next few weeks.


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