Teachers balk at reforms and longer hours. They’re fired.

You are a reform-minded superintendent under state edict to improve a chronically low-performing high school. The teachers refuse all six conditions that you deem essential to change the school. Next option? Fire them all.

That was the dramatic response last week of a Rhode Island superintendent. Frances Gallo of the Central Falls district was under state mandate to improve Central Falls High, where only 3 percent of 11th graders scored proficient in math in 2008 and 7 percent in 2009. Half the students are failing every subject.

According to the Providence Journal:

Gallo wanted the union to sign off on six conditions that required teachers to spend more time helping students and with colleagues in professional training sessions. Gallo said she could only afford to pay teachers $30 per hour for some of the extra responsibilities — $1,800 for two weeks of training in the summer, and potentially $1,620 for weekly 90-minute afterschool sessions, if she could secure grant money. Teachers, Gallo said, would not be compensated for the other changes: lengthening the school day by 25 minutes; formalizing a tutoring schedule; eating lunch with students once a week; and submitting to more rigorous evaluations starting March 1.

Union officials said they wanted to be paid for more of the duties and wanted to receive a higher pay rate –– $90 per hour.

So, Gallo moved to Plan B, the total restructuring of the school. About 100 teachers, administrators and assistants will lose their jobs. (The Providence paper reports that the average base salary of the teachers is $72,000 to $78,000, not counting benefits. The median income for a household in the town of Central Falls is $22,628.)

Gallo fired the teachers under the turn-around plan developed by the U.S. Department of Education to improve the nation’s worst schools. The plan allows the staff to be fired to revitalize the school. “Adults will leave and children will stay, ” said U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan, explaining the plan to reporters last year. During his tenure as CEO of Chicago public schools, Duncan credited such staff shifts for changing the culture and achievement levels at failing schools.

“We replaced leaders, we replaced teachers, ” he says. “And we saw some extraordinary results.”

The Rhode Island saga will be interesting to watch. The teachers’ union vows to fight the action, but the superintendent and the state education commissioner say they have the legal authority to act under the law because the school was so clearly failing and had been failing for so long.

137 comments Add your comment

the prof

February 22nd, 2010
1:05 pm

Awesome! Maybe they will start to produce some college ready students! Fire the parents too!

Sarah H

February 22nd, 2010
1:23 pm

It isn’t about the teachers, it is about the students. I am glad that I have a job and even though I don’t like my furlough days, I have accepted them. Some compromise is needed.

JacketFan

February 22nd, 2010
1:27 pm

It’s teachers like that who give educators a bad name. Smart move by the Superintendent. She showed she was willing to come to some kind of compromise – as much as was within her power to do – and the teachers (or the union) got greedy and didn’t consider the children at all. They got what they deserved.

catlady

February 22nd, 2010
1:31 pm

Too bad we don’t have a union here in Georgia

on point

February 22nd, 2010
1:49 pm

I don’t think the point is that the teachers didn’t consider the students. I think they considered the time they had available to them to grade, make parent contacts, and plan for upcoming lessons and decided that the extra money was not going to compensate. Few people realize that working with children 8 hours a day can be mentally exhausting.

However, as with any job, if you don’t like the terms, you can always leave. But teachers are getting more and more paperwork and extra responsibilities placed on them every day – I think this is more of a moment to say enough is enough.

Keep in mind that we are supposed to be increasing class sizes next year – that means more time spent grading, more time getting materials together to be prepared for class, and more time doing paperwork. Somewhere, there has to be a balance. A teacher can spend time focusing on quality teaching and preparation for their students or he/she can spend time focusing on items not directly related to class instruction.

I have no problem with the rigorous evaluations, but seriously – sometimes extra money does not automatically make the extra time worthwhile. Ask team coaches (not football ones) – you have to really like your sport to accept the supplement.

justbrowsing

February 22nd, 2010
1:57 pm

Shows also that teachers in Georgia are taken advantage of a great deal. We are on the opposite end of the spectrum where these and other perks are often provided for free or because we are good hearted and understand the recession. At least the superintendent tried to negotiate with the teachers and at least meet them halfway. I wish we could be extended the same rights- at least to provide more balance to Georgia’s “antiquated” ways of doing things.

bell curve

February 22nd, 2010
2:15 pm

I really don’t see the point of printing this article in the paper. We don’t have, and will probably never have a Union. A superintendent can pretty much just make teachers do as he or she pleases. It would not be necessary to fire us because we would just follow orders.

Ole Guy

February 22nd, 2010
2:28 pm

We can go back and forth all day about good union vs bad union, good teacher vs bad teacher, good leadership vs bad leadership, etc, etc, etc…ad nauseum. At day’s end, after the dust settles (and, I believe I’ve blown this tocsin before), we’re talking about an “audience” which, for roughly 90% of the student body, simply refuses to accept any responsibility. And why should they? Just like electricity, which takes the path of least resistance, this roughly 90% has no reason to exert themselves, to at least try to achieve that for which all property tax payers (voluntarily or not) support…GET AN EDUCATION. And why not…BECAUSE PARENTS, TEACHERS, ADMINISTRATORS ARE AFRAID OF KIDS, they’re afraid of each other, and of the political and financial harm each can inflict upon the other. And it all dovetails back to the kids who, realizing that they have the “upper hand” as it were, learn early-on just how to play one dysfunctional group against the other dysfunctional group. Parents are afraid of kids, administrators are afraid of parents, teachers are afraid of administrators…and the kids, well, they fear nothing and they fear no one. And this dysfunctionalism knows absolutely no geographic boundries…from Rhode Island to Georgia and radiating to the remaining 48. WHEN IS SOMEONE GOING TO MUSTER UP THE GUTS TO DEMAND RESULTS DIRECTLY FROM KIDS?

David S

February 22nd, 2010
2:41 pm

Its about the government run monopoly. Firing teachers or administrators or janitors won’t fix a system that is inherently disfunctional. Only the free market can deliver a product that meets the wide variety of consumer needs. Its high time the government of every state and most importantly the federal government get out of the business of pretending to educate children.

Music Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
2:44 pm

You mean to tell me that teachers there get paid 70K a year, get paid up to $30 dollars an hour for extra training sessions after school and in the summer, and complain? This blows my mind. I’m at school at 7pm every morning getting ready, teach my classes, stay after school, work with student music ensembles, go home about 5pm or later, and love every minute of it. I get paid a second year salary of 35K (hit or miss), don’t get paid for extra training sessions (have to pay for it sometimes), and yet I can do my job without complaining. These “teachers” have forgotten what they are overly paid to do.

Missing Point

February 22nd, 2010
2:45 pm

They are government schools….not public schools.

van

February 22nd, 2010
2:48 pm

Give that Super a golden apple……you get paid for results….half the student failed every subject….watch the union get a judge to issue an injunction….

great job

February 22nd, 2010
2:49 pm

A union or not, if teachers aren’t willing to do what the administrators believe necessary to improve, then they should be removed by all means – not to transfer to another school, but simply to be terminated. Go find jobs somewhere else.

Joy in Teaching

February 22nd, 2010
2:51 pm

Kudos to the superintendent. The teacher union should have attempted to meet some sort of compromise in the middle instead of going for the money. Yes, that school is clearly failing and something seriously drastic needed to occur in order to shake up things.

The problem is, the superintendent is not going far enough with his shaking up of things.

You can’t just blame these sort of problems on the teachers of that one high school. Those students clearly are not able to handle the content because they did not get a good basic foundation in math in elementary school. You cannot build a good structure on a shakey foundation and you cannot expect students to do 11th grade math when they are struggling with concepts they should have learned in elementary school.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
2:56 pm

It is amazing that the teachers wanted to get paid without accomplishing what they were being paid. Something for nothing. All I can say is goodbye teacher and UNIONS.

LA

February 22nd, 2010
2:57 pm

I always find it interesting that the government schools always have the big problems. I rarely hear of private schools getting into any kinds of problems.

Used to be Disgusted

February 22nd, 2010
2:58 pm

David S, Missing Point, great job, etc.

I’m not sure which is worse: republican stupidity or stupid republicans.

tired of whining teachers

February 22nd, 2010
3:04 pm

Schools need to be privatized. Government run schools cater to whining teachers. Teachers need to perform for raises. And yes, if privatized, parents would have to be responsible.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
3:05 pm

good point LA!

twinkie1cat

February 22nd, 2010
3:06 pm

Here is the problem. “Gallo wanted the union to SIGN OFF on six conditions that required teachers to spend more time helping students and with colleagues in professional training sessions” . She did not go to the teachers and the union and ask THE PROFESSIONALS, THE TEACHERS WHO KNOW WHAT TO DO HOW TO IMPROVE ACHIEVEMENT AT THE SCHOOL. She told them it was her way or the highway. Just another degrading case of blaming the victims for the problems in the schools instead of looking in the mirror She wanted them to “submit” to what she wanted. It does not work. Not with professionals.

I tell you what would have happened at APS if the superintendent had tried to pull crap like that, union or not: Demonstration complete with media, posters, and a march from the Board office to the Capitol within 24 hours. Crowd of 1000 flowing out the door of the Board Room. Headline with picture on the front page of the AJC. Superintendent ridden out of town on a rail like JJ Harris was. Problem solved. The teachers take over the school, spend the time needed to bring up the achievement, skip the punitive evaluations (a favorite trick of racist and incompentent administrators) and the test scores get better. Local control and employing only fully certified career teachers, preferably with Masters and higher degrees is the way to fix the schools. This lady is going to end up with a bunch of Teach For America not-teachers if she does not back off. Enthusiasm cannot stand in for professionalism and knowledge. NO real teacher will accept the disgrace of being treated as casual labor so she is going to have major problems even getting a faculty. Remember a few years back when 150 walked in Clayton because a Superintendent tried to force them to sign their contracts early. A lot of other systems got great teachers. And Clayton continued its downward spiral from which it has still not recovered.

Garry Owen

February 22nd, 2010
3:06 pm

One big problen: Teacher Unions!

Danteach

February 22nd, 2010
3:07 pm

I agree. Privatize education, and watch how things change. Mammon has always abused something when it is deemed “free”.

And the reason that private schools don’t have these problems is: A) parents are paying for their child’s education, and thus, have a vested interest. B) Private schools get to pick and choose what students come to their schools.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
3:08 pm

Is 72K to 78K a lot of money for teaching kids. That sounds more like University professors salaries. At least in the South where the everone living elsewhere think we should live off sunshine.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
3:09 pm

“at least in the south where everyone that does not live in the south”
that is what I should have written.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
3:10 pm

sorry writting to fast for my brain.

Ezra

February 22nd, 2010
3:11 pm

I am from the south and I need to take it slow

Maureen Downey

February 22nd, 2010
3:11 pm

Missing, Are they public libraries or government libraries? Ditto for parks and roads. Why are schools any less “public” than our public parks, public libraries, public buildings or public highways? The vast majority of students in this state – I think it is 88 percent — attend public schools.
Maureen

tired of whining teachers

February 22nd, 2010
3:14 pm

Libraries are outdated and public parks? don’t care about them either

Teacher in Lithonia

February 22nd, 2010
3:15 pm

Only $30 per hour? That’s an insult for all the education that teachers have. The county needs to come up with a lot more money than that for working extra hours, something closer to $100 per hour.

tired of whining teachers

February 22nd, 2010
3:17 pm

You teachers need to get a grip on reality

Skeptic

February 22nd, 2010
3:18 pm

LA

February 22nd, 2010
2:57 pm
I always find it interesting that the government schools always have the big problems. I rarely hear of private schools getting into any kinds of problems.

Maybe that’s because (1) private schools get to select their students, (2)teachers at private schools don’t have to meet the same standards set for teachers at public schools, and (3) private schools are not subject to the mandatory testing required of public schools. You’ll never hear of private schools failing NCLB tests.

Don’t ‘ya think that might have a little to do with it?

Nature Dude

February 22nd, 2010
3:20 pm

There’s more to the story if you start digging a little. I’m not saying the teachers aren’t being a little silly, but up there they are used to negotiations, there were none. The Supt. just came in, with a deal and told the teachers to accept it. She thought it was fair, and compared to Ga it is. However, there were no negotiations. If you read some articles from up there, many students and parents blame the kids lack off effort, and not the teachers who many in the community already say the teachers bend over backwards to try and help the students. The $72K salary figure says that most of the teachers are older and have reached the top step in the salary structure. I wouldn’t put it past the district to be angling to get rid of older, higher paid teachers in an effort to bring in cheaper teachers. You could hire two new teachers for what one older teacher makes.

Wounded Warrior

February 22nd, 2010
3:20 pm

Why not replace the Super?!! Unions do not work.

UGA Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:21 pm

To “tired of whining teachers”- we’re tired of whining parents and whining children.

Nature Dude

February 22nd, 2010
3:21 pm

By the way $72K is lower than the top steps in Fulton and Cobb.

HAj

February 22nd, 2010
3:21 pm

Its ashame that good teacher are painted with the same brush as bad teachers. I am sure that there some good teachers being replace because of their partnership with the union. Frances Gallo should weed-out the poor teacher and keep the good teacher and move the school forward.
first year teacher

teachSS

February 22nd, 2010
3:22 pm

Aren’t Rhode Island teachers the highest paid teachers in the nation anyway? Sounds like they were spoiled all the way around; no way should they get top pay for low performance…
And, $30 per hour is about what Gwinnett Co pays for extras like PLU classes, Saturday School, summer school….so that is basic…
And “government” schools; aren’t all Public School government schools? What is your point, Missing? Private schools can accept only high acheiving students if they want, unlike public schools….no comparision

Art Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:22 pm

David S. is right- it’s a bigger problem. Firing those teachers who make $70K, which they deserve because they’ve been teaching for 20+ years isn’t going to make those kids score any higher on their math tests. Teachers do work over the summer to prepare for the coming school year. Without that time, teaching during the school year would not be possible. Planning time is essential. And this year, we don’t have any thanks to Sonny and the furloughs, lay offs, pay cuts, etc…

tired of whining

February 22nd, 2010
3:24 pm

You are missing the point. Do away with public schools and have charter schools that accept everyone. Better for the taxpayer

Bone

February 22nd, 2010
3:28 pm

Maureen,
Where does the money to run “public” schools come from? Check your property taxes and see that 85% of it goes to running the school system. The money is collected by the “government”, and if you don’t pay, they take your house and land from you. Simple as that. Same for parks, libraries, and any other building that you and I pay taxes on. Remember, the government doesn’t make money, they just collect and spend it.

As to the others who say to fire the teachers, go ahead…teach your kids at home and see how well they will do. You really get off lucky and cheap in GA on government education. These same people that dislike teachers couldn’t hold a teaching job for 1/2 day, much less 180 days in the year. Your baby-sitting group (teachers) thank you for your support!!

Just A Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:29 pm

Those salaries sound exhorbitant to me. The median income of the town is $22k, but the teachers make $72k or more. When you read figures like this, it makes you wonder why we even put up with teaching in Georgia. I started teaching 17 years ago for less than $20k and haven’t come close to that $72k even after earning an advanced degree and putting in all these years in a classroom. The state might try and say that Georgia’s teachers are not allowed to unionize, but the courts (anf the U.S. Constitution) would definitely disagree. We should organize and try to get comparable wages to our brothers and sisters in other states.

Rich

February 22nd, 2010
3:29 pm

The union does it again. Unions always want more, but refuse to give more until there are no jobs. The teachers got what they had the union ask for.

Real Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:35 pm

Funny how people who criticize our PUBLIC schools love to make the Boortzian reference “Government Schools” but when they talk about public roads they never mention “Government Roads.” Or how about those “Government Parks” we all like to visit? Get over yourselves, please.

Jess

February 22nd, 2010
3:35 pm

Teacher in Lithonia,

You claim $30 per hour is an insult based on all the education teachers have. There are people all over the country with much better educations who have no job at all.

And you say $100 would be fair. This calculates to over $180,000 annualy.

tired of whining

February 22nd, 2010
3:39 pm

Jess, this one is not a math teacher apparently

Real Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:39 pm

Like it or not folks, our public education system is one of the things that has made this a great country. That isn’t to say that they are perfect, but it’s still a fact. Sorry, but privatizing schools is not an option. Those of us who have worked in schools (public and private in my case) know this to be true.

And it’s also strange to see how EVERYBODY has an opinion how people should teach and run school, especially those who have no experience in doing either.

RI Native

February 22nd, 2010
3:39 pm

I am a native of RI and am very familiar with Central Falls. It has always been a troubled community and the schools have always been a problem. Firing the teachers will make no difference. You cannot wait until 11th grade to decide to educate children. Most of these children are from portuguese, puerto rican, and spanish backgrounds. There is a huge language barrier that is contributing to the problem. Even more so, the community itself is delipidated. The kids have no pride in themselves and no hope for the future.

I guess the superintendent figures she can find teachers who will suck it up and take the job since RIs unemployment rate is higher than the national average, but RI teachers, unlike GA, have a union and they will strike if necessary. Happened when I was in high school.

If you want kids to graduate high school, start teaching them in pre-school. Train them to have respect for learning and those who teach them. Stop passing kids who are known to have problems – take the time to teach them to read. Penalize the parents who will not make sure their children come to school everyday and do their homework. Teachers are not miracle workers. They cannot fix the ills of the world and should not be expected to.

DAVID: AJC truth Detector

February 22nd, 2010
3:43 pm

PARAPHRASE…the late Georgia governor Lester MADDOX…FIRE ALL THE PARENTs…Bring in a whole new group of active parents.

DAVID: AJC truth Detector

February 22nd, 2010
3:44 pm

TEACHERS……MORE HOURS……less pay………IT IS THE FUTURE in teaching

Real Teacher

February 22nd, 2010
3:46 pm

Now, regarding the situation in the article, the issue that teachers’ unions have is if they give concessions on one little thing, the districts just assume that they will give concessions on anything. I’ve been a part of a union in another state, and you knew to never give an inch because the other side would take that as a sign of weakness. It’s easy to laugh at the union here and say “serves you right” but I can assure you that the whole story isn’t being told. It rarely is when it comes to education these days. The AJC has gotten much better about telling the “real story” when it comes to education in Georgia, but there is still a lot that isn’t getting told.