February 23rd, 2010
09:51 PM ET

Evening Buzz: Toyota Troubles & Teachers' Fate Decided

[cnn-photo-caption image=http://i.cdn.turner.com/cnn/2010/US/02/23/toyota.dealers/story.dealers.jpg caption="Toyota dealership owners rallied in Washington Tuesday as Congress opened hearings into recent vehicle recalls." width=300 height=169]

Maureen Miller
AC360° Writer

Tonight on 360°, a Lexus driver's near death experience. That's what she calls the six miles of terror, at up to  100-miles per-hour, when she couldn't control her car.

Rhonda Smith's testimony came at the first of three Congressional hearings on Toyota's recall problems.

Will the repairs underway at dealers across America fix the problem? Drew Griffin is keeping them honest.

We also have an update on the fate of the entire teaching staff at a Rhode Island high school. Tonight the Board of Trustees for Central Falls School District voted on whether to fire all 88 teachers. We'll have the decision on the program.

As we reported last night, the superintendent wants to fire the teachers for poor performance. Less than half the students graduate and only seven percent are proficient in math. Almost all the students live in poverty.

School leaders came up with a proposal to have the teachers spend more time with students to improve test scores. They wanted more money.

Tonight you'll hear from the superintendent and a teacher.

Join us for these stories and much more tonight on 360°.

Filed under: Maureen Miller • The Buzz
soundoff (68 Responses)
  1. rae

    The administration is the problem in Central Fall. They have had so many administrators who don't fight the fight with these teachers. They bail as soon as they arrive and that is what Gallo will do to. She is there to take apart the union nothing more nothing less. Here is a little more info about STARTING salaries in RHODE ISLAND-
    * Average Teacher Salary (Bachelor’s Degree): $35,563
    * Average Teacher Salary (Master’s Degree): $37,918
    * Average Teacher Salary (PhD): $38,720
    This 70k number that keeps getting thrown out there are teachers who have advanced degrees and who have been there for these children for years unlike these "administrative leaders" who come in making OVER 100K and are gone within a couple of years.

    February 24, 2010 at 8:43 am |
  2. dave o

    Fire the teachers. Only in labor unions is lack of performance acceptable. In any other business they would be held accountable and let go. There are no successful businesses or organizations (government) that have union labor. Look at the list of failied union endeavors: airlines, automotive, manufacturing, education, government.

    February 24, 2010 at 7:51 am |
  3. Joel J

    Good for Dr. Gallo, finally a public servant who has the professionalism to be honest and do what needs to be done to move towards results. Our nation has been hurt by the political elite who role over to what has become excessive behavior and demands of public service unions while their members fail to perform effectively or efficiently. I am so tired of "more money needed" being the excuse of our indulged government bureaucrats’ failure to perform.

    February 24, 2010 at 7:36 am |
  4. Dawn H

    It's interesting that everyone wants to complain about the teacher salaries and test scores. When are parents ever going to be held accountable for THEIR role in how kids perform in schools, or how much school their kid misses, or moving their kid in and out of schools and causing huge gaps in their learning? Hmm? How is that the teachers' faults? Thanks to NCLB the graduation statistic is something that will always be looked at instead of other statistics, like post high school college acceptance rates. I realize the graduation rate at CF is extremely low, but HOW IS THAT NOT ALSO A PARENT ISSUE? Instead we always blame the teachers. If this were a private sector issue, pay would not be an issue. I know there are bad teachers out there who ARE overpaid for what they do/don't do; but I also know there are parents out there who only view schools and teachers, even really great ones, as babysitters. School is the place they take their kid while they're at work and the only thing they might have to pay for are the lunches. And when the kids come home, it's off to video gaming or to friends. There is no follow up on, "What did you learn today? Do you have your homework done? SHOW ME?" There are ALWAYS two sides to every story.

    February 24, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  5. higsp

    Only time will tell if this mass firing will work. But who will be around to see? Not the people who actually care. They all have to relocate and get new jobs. I would move! But on the other hand, I'm white and a teacher so I would basically be kicked out of this town. Teachers are highly qualified, usually having master degrees. (that are not free) If you make 70k you probably owe 40k in student loans, at least. If we can't understand this situation then why are we telling high school students to go to collage and get jobs. Teach them to get pregnant and live off the state, actually their parents will show them that. If my boss forced me to stay longer and give up my lunch, I would say pay me more. But teachers do this stuff without being asked.... Please don't tell anyone, you might give teachers a good name. ITS NOT THE TEACHERS!

    February 24, 2010 at 7:22 am |
  6. Ted

    Oh Please. When will this country learn the key to education is not the teacher but the student. Teachers can't make students attend class, or do homework, and they can't make parents show up at PTA meetings and get involved in their children's education.

    Children living in poverty anywhere in this country average lower educational achievement it's not because the "bad teachers" are only in the financially weak districts. It's because kids living in poverty don't have the influences such as role models and parents that motivate kids to learn. It's not the teachers' fault. In fact, the attendance rate, and this school's overall performance – bad as it is – has improved substantially over the past few years. So, the the school is making headway in a tough situation.

    So, the superintendant's "solution" is to fire the experienced teachers? Who are you going to replace them with? Inexperienced teachers that don't know what they are up against?

    Which brings us to the issue of salary. By what twisted logic should we conclude that teachers in poor districts should make less than teachers in wealthy districts? Is the price of food or gas lower in poor communities? Of course not. Should nurses, police, business people in poor communities make less than there colleagues in wealthy communities. If people are good at their jobs and they can make more under better conditions in other communities on average they will go elsewhere leaving only the less skilled workers behind in the poorer communities.

    There is a national shortage of math and science teachers. What good teachers will want to take a position in this shcool district under these circumstances when they can go somewhere else with better working conditions, better facilities, more supportive administrations that work with teachers rather than against them, more rewarding and less stressful careers? Do you really expect to replace the fired teachers with better teachers willing to accept less compensation? Get real. You might find a rare good teacher willing to work in the community for less, but for the most part you are going to have to pay the replacements just as much as the fired teachers – perhaps more and there is no guarentee they will be any better.

    Most importantly, firing teachers is not going to change the per capita income of the community or alter studend attitudes.

    You want to fix education in this country stop focusing on the teachers and start focusing on the students. As adults we know the way out of poverty is education, but children often do not realize that unless they have parents and role models to reinforce the imporance of education. We need to spend education dollars on innovative ways to motivate students. That's what will fix education.

    Firing all the teachers at a school the good and the bad together will accomplish nothing except probably making the problem worse. It will make it difficult to recruit good teachers to the community, and lower morale throughout the entire district. Organizations – schools and others work best when administration works together with staff. Dr. Gallo has created a confrontational situation. Under the circumstances that may not mean she is a bad administrator but it doesn't make her a good one either.

    The unions too share some of the blame. Why should two similarly qualified teachers one specializing in secondary math receive the same compensation as another teaching secondary english? There is a shortage of math teachers there is not a shortage of english teachers. There is a place for unions but they too need to be partners with administration not opponents.

    Yes, the administration is wrong, the teachers as represented by their union are wrong. However, the biggest thing that wrong is the notion that low educational achievement is the system's fault. Whether we like it or not the inescapable reality is that every student is responsible for there own education. The sooner we realize that the sooner we will "fix" education. Everything else is just a wasteful distraction.

    February 24, 2010 at 7:21 am |
  7. worried and only parent

    i own a 2010 toyota. to my surprise i have the exelleration issue with my car plus other problems that is a BIG PROBLEM cause it wont stop my toyota vehicle no matter what if it malfunctions on me. the good thing is they will fix the recall only but the mat doesnt get in the way. they will look into the other problems. they will look into my vehicle in a week. now, if should something happens, at least i have witnesses and it recorded on videos (just in case), for i am the only thing my children have.

    February 24, 2010 at 6:21 am |
  8. Rich Fitzpatrick

    Teachers are overpaid now. They have to much control over things,It's time someone stands up for the Tax payers. If thet strike,FIRE THEM ALL, no matter the place.

    February 24, 2010 at 5:37 am |
  9. Karen Quintana

    I absolutely Agree with the decision to fire those "teachers". It is appalling to learn of their dismal graduation rate and their absolute greed. Unions are a major problem as they protect those that should be ousted. I can't tell you how sickening it is to hear of their incomes, while the rest of America strugges, they make well over 70+k a year? I can imagine that one good thing to see at the RI school this fall will be a lot less luxury cars that belong to the teachers in the Lot!~ Glad to see the Superintendent had the GUTS to clean house! Hooray!

    February 24, 2010 at 5:36 am |
  10. leona

    Dr Gallo has everyones attention NOW! I believe she has tried to work it out. Teachers and staff R concerned about money 1st.I'm an administrator and teachers act like the expectation 4 them 2 create successful environments 4 students is impossiable and the students fault because of where they come from 3percent growth in math in a year says little effort I could go on and on but bottom line teaching is not just a job it must Be A Passion! All students can achieve given a caring qualified teacher!(Not just a teacher with paper qualifications but able 2 implement strategies that result in learning)

    February 24, 2010 at 2:51 am |
  11. Todd-Atl

    Its very sad that we are firing teachers and hiring corrections officers. I thought teachers salary was suppose to represent the area they educate in. 70-80k is out of control, for failing grades. I dont agree with the total clean sweep but I understand. Way to go Dr Gallo

    February 24, 2010 at 2:42 am |
  12. Bill

    II was sorry to see the Teacher Layoff Story. GOD Bless those Teachers. They are the Scape Goats once again. I have been there . Anyone who thinks Teaching in a Ghetto School should try it. You can blame Teachers all you want, thats not the problem it is Poverty and what it does to people. They are no doubt dedicated as I was as a Teacher in Brooklyn, N.y and it is sad the Administration doesn't back the Teachers. New Administrators just cover themselves so same old same old.

    Bill, New York

    February 24, 2010 at 2:09 am |
  13. Carl

    From what I'm hearing about the graduation numbers and salaries of these teachers, I think there needs to be change in this school. How can the teachers sit there and ask for more money on top of what they already have when the students and community they serve are poor? It just doesn't make sense. I also noticed that most of those teachers appear to be retirement age or at least near it. The school district will save A LOT of money getting rid of these "veteran" teachers and hiring college graduates that are looking for teaching jobs. Younger teachers can come in with a new perspective and get things turned around for the school. And the ones that got fired shouldn't be allowed to come back and reapply. That's nonsense. Why welcome back the ones you just fired? Clearly the education system is a mess like a lot of other things.

    February 24, 2010 at 2:08 am |
  14. Terry Finn

    The unions pretty much run everything in public agencies.

    Goal of unions is:
    1) Least amount of work for their members
    2) Maximum amount of money.
    3) Prevent any member from getting fired.
    4) Ensure rules require more members.

    February 24, 2010 at 2:05 am |
  15. Lisa

    About time teachers get fired for not doing their jobs.

    February 24, 2010 at 2:04 am |
  16. Jan

    Kudos to the administration for using their option to fire those teachers. It's shameful that they would hold out for mediation for extra compensation – with a salary average of 70K for 9 months. So much for their concern for kids. Unbelieveable that they now try to paint the superintendant as unreasonable, with an 'agenda'. Best of luck to the school and students with a new, enthusiastic (more affordable?) staff. A skunk bouquet to the greedy teachers and their union.

    February 24, 2010 at 2:01 am |
  17. Taryn Poole

    I'm so glad that all the above comments about Rhode Island's education system reflect what really is the truth. Rhode Island's education system has been some stage of horrible for many decades now. I know. I went to a typical country grade and high school and ONLY succeeded because I wouldn't accept the weak trajectory that the apathetic teachers and (especially) guidance counselors had for the students. Dr. Fran Gallo has the courage of her convictions.

    February 24, 2010 at 1:56 am |
  18. Dennis DeMille

    Sure, let's fire 88 teachers. How about firing the parents of the students that gave little support to the education of their childrens. I have seen the difference between students with and without the support of their parents. My parents did the best they could when I was in school, but were little support because of their problems. When I was on my own and went back to school as an adult, I went from a 2.5 GPA to a 4.0 GPA. Maybe a decent home environment and support has something to do with it. Teachers are not babysitters!

    February 24, 2010 at 1:51 am |
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