Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Rhode Island's Mass Teacher Firings Drive Cost Obama Union Support

The Providence Journal reports on the crisis at Central Falls High School:
The wildfire of national debate over the mass firings at Central Falls High School spread further Tuesday, when the executive council of the AFL-CIO unanimously condemned the removal of all 93 teachers, support staff and administrators at the city’s only high school.

The executive council said its members were “appalled” that President Obama and U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan had endorsed the terminations in recent comments, and said the firings will not help the 800 students at the high school, which is one of the poorest and lowest-performing schools in Rhode Island.

“We stand in support of the Central Falls Teachers Union in its fight to improve teaching and learning … preserve the rights of its members and keep the teachers where they belong,” the council said in a statement. “We call on the Central Falls administration to return to negotiations … and seek, in good faith, a collaborative path to proven reforms that provide students with the opportunity to succeed.”

A few hours later, Central Falls Teachers Union president Jane Sessums offered an alternative reform plan for the troubled school, which closely resembled a set of conditions proposed by Supt. Frances Gallo that the two sides failed to agree on during negotiations last month. Money was the main sticking point.

Tuesday, Sessums said the high school teachers would agree to a longer school day for students; providing more support for students; and submitting to rigorous evaluations — three conditions in Gallo’s proposal. She also said the teachers want a “research-based high school reform program” they believe will achieve good results.

“This proposal is a start, and we know that more can and should be done,” Sessums said. “We are ready to collaborate with the district and work toward changes that will ultimately give our students the education they deserve.”

Gallo said she had not been contacted by the union and was learning of the proposal for the first time Tuesday evening. “I have no comment at this time,” she said.

On Monday, the union filed three unfair labor practice charges against the school district, the union’s first move to appeal the mass firings.

Marcia Reback, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers, which represents the Central Falls teachers, said the local union filed three charges against the district: failure to negotiate; refusal to provide information to the union and terminations in retaliation for the teachers’ union activities.

“The primary reason [for the filings] is that we want to secure the jobs of the Central Falls teachers themselves,” Reback said. “But we also know this situation is a national situation. If what happened in Central Falls is upheld, it will set a precedent across the United States.”
According to the Central Falls High School website, the school has at least one celebrity alumna. The school is Alma Mater to actress Oscar Nominee Viola Davis (Best Supporting Actress, Doubt).
More here.