Yesterday’s Providence Journal posted the latest information on the ongoing battle to save Central Falls High School.
The article points out:
“The board of trustees overseeing the school system in Central Falls, one of the poorest communities in the state, voted Tuesday to fire 88 high school teachers and other support staff by the end of the year. Other administrators will also lose their jobs.”
Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers’ Union, has stated that the teachers will appeal to the school district’s board of trustees. She is planning to meet with union leaders and labor representatives before deciding to take additional legal action.
The Superintendent of the school, Frances Gallo, said that initially she hoped that teachers would agree to a series of changes that would help the school improve academically. These changes included additional training for the teachers, a longer school day, requiring teachers to offer more tutoring, and requiring teachers to eat lunch with the students once a week. When the teachers union said that they would not agree to these changes without receiving additional pay, the school district offered to pay the teachers for the additional training they would receive over the summer, but not for the longer day or eating lunch with the students once a week.
When the negotiations broke down, Ms. Gallo made the decision to fire all the teachers, with the understanding that many of them would be rehired.
I really believe that this is a case of a union getting in the way of something good being accomplished. The school district offered to pay for the additional training in the summer. I think that was appropriate. With that concession, I don’t understand why the teachers didn’t agree to the suggested changes. Although it would be my worst nightmare, it seems to me that a dedicated teacher might enjoy lunch with his or her students once a week. (I might even enjoy it if the cafeteria food was good!) I also wonder how long the day was going to be extended. I realize that teachers put in a lot of time after school, but I wonder if a little flexibility on the part of the teachers would have made a big difference here. Again, I wonder if the union got in the way of progress.
Hopefully this will be resolved in a way that is best for the students at the High School. I wonder, though, if it is time to reevaluate the role of unions in the public sector.