Firing an Entire Faculty in Central Falls, Rhode Island

Map of Rhode Island, from The New York Times

In education, there’s often no such thing as “starting from scratch.”

When it comes to improving education, school districts often utilize well-worn methods to get progress going.  Grants are obtained.  Funding is allocated.  Time for afterschool programs and remedial support is blocked out.  Additional personnel and “experts” are added to the mix–often doing more harm than good.

Yet in Central Falls, Rhode Island, the high school plans to start from ground zero.   Things must’ve gotten downright disastrous to come to this.

On Tuesday night, citing low achievement scores and a low graduation rate of 48 percent, School Superintendant Frances Gallo got approval from the school board to fire all 100 faculty from Central Falls High School.  It was one of four options presented to Gallo from state education commissioner Deborah Gist, which included school closure.  Gallo went with the less-than-Doomsday option, and it passed 5 to 2. 

There was another earlier option on the table to increase teacher hours without monetary increases.  The teachers’ union rejected it, citing that Gallo was not negotiating in good faith. 

Thus, Gallo fired them all.   All of them.

A physical education teacher said of the vote, “They sat up there, looked us in the eye, told us we were not good enough. That’s an embarrassment.”

I wish it was someone else other than the gym teacher, but that can’t be helped.

This situation is problematic for a number of reasons. 

First of all, how bad must a school have been to fire the entire faculty?  According to the NY Times article, Central Falls was one of the six worst performing schools in Rhode Island.  Yet I know of a number of underperforming high schools in New York City that would step over their dead mother for a 48 percent graduation rate.  In terms of test scores, well, most regular readers know my opinion on that matter.

Second, is the faculty truly at fault here?  Was every teacher failing at the same rate?  If so, not only was there underperforming students academically, but also a knock-kneed, skittish football team, a drama program where kids can’t memorize their lines, an AV squad that still uses Betamax, and a band that can’t even play “Happy Birthday” without emptying spit valves and busting reeds on their clarinets.

Lastly, I really hope other school districts, such as my own, are not watching this and getting glassy eyed.  In the city, at least, the union would (I hope) prevent such drastic actions from occurring.  Yet its difficult to fight an idea, especially an idea that can rally parents and disgruntled politicians.

If any out there is from Central Falls, or knows more about this situation, please leave your comments on the Neighborhood.  It would be great to get a complete picture of the situation.

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