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March 5th, 2010
11:06 AM ET

Firing all the teachers was justified

Ruben Navarrette Jr.
Special to CNN

In most high schools in America, they teach Shakespeare. But at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, they're acting out a Shakespearean drama.

Only instead of the famous line from Henry VI - let's kill all the lawyers - what we have is: "Let's fire all the teachers."

That's exactly what Central Falls School District Superintendent Frances Gallo did in February. In a move that was bold but also justified, Gallo fired 77 teachers at Central Falls High School in Rhode Island, along with the school's principal, three assistant principals and other administrators. In all, the district said, 93 people were let go in the purge. The school board later stood by Gallo and approved the action.

The mass firings, which take effect at the end of this school year, came after the district failed to reach an agreement with the local teachers' union on a plan that would have required teachers to spend more time with students to improve test scores - with only a small increase in pay.

Consistent with federal guidelines designed to improve the educational system, Gallo asked teachers to work a longer school day of seven hours and tutor students weekly for one hour outside school time. She proposed teachers have lunch with students often, meet for 90 minutes every week to discuss education and set aside two weeks during summer break for paid professional development.

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Filed under: Education
soundoff (6 Responses)
  1. Molly Louise

    As a college sophomore currently in the teacher education program and serving 40 hours a semester in a local, rural high school in the great state of New York – where there are high standards and standardized tests to help see that they're met – there is only so much, as an educator, that you can do. I have had the privilege of spending my first placement in a Regents chemistry class, and now in an eighth grade general science classroom, and really, there is only so much that you can do. Sure you can be obliged to put in the extra ninety minutes a week, but if the student doesn't want to learn what you've got to teach, you're not going to make them. The same way with turning in homework and tutoring – they might be failing a ridiculous amount of classes, but unless they find something inside them that that says "I want to learn this" they aren't going to put forth the effort.

    Fixing education in our country is not going to come from one faction or another, it's going to come by working together with more open lines of communication from the top down. But most importantly, it has to come from the students. They have to want to be there.

    And with so few wanting to go into the teaching field – especially in math and science – can we really afford to be firing a substantial amount of teachers in one go?

    March 5, 2010 at 2:55 pm |
  2. Gigi

    @betty – should all teachers be treated and paid like those in Texas? Really? Is Texas the best example of best practices of the teaching profession?

    I don't feel like I have the whole story yet. It doesn't seem right to fire everyone because one does not get everything they want in contract negotiations. It sounds more like intimidation than having the best interests of the students in mind.

    I also think everyone is forgetting how much time teachers spend outside class time preparing, marking, evaluating, etc.. for their classes. As an elementary teacher I get 35 mins. almost every day (But not every day) as prep time. I spend at least 2 hours of my own time on top of that. I also spend my own time on parent meetings, concerts, family night, sporting practices and games.

    March 5, 2010 at 2:54 pm |
  3. tasha

    90mins a week after school? Teachers should not have to do parents job. That's why its called home work. Your parents should be spending that 90mins a week helping you not teachers!

    March 5, 2010 at 11:57 am |
  4. Kasandra L. Stuart-Banks

    I agree with the choise Superintendent Gallo made of demanding the teachers follow his guidelines and new requirement. I do not believe it was much extra for him to require, and in fact, I think the Superintendent was gracious in offering them pay to attend the Professional Trainning in the summer months. I am aware that plenty of otgher school districts have that requirement and do not pay the salaried teachers for their time. Seems they had a good contract and got greedy. They needed a wake-up call! Thanks for letting me vent.

    March 5, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  5. Rubén Sánchez Jr

    Thank you for bringing up the point that there is no such thing as the ideal student, so that complaint is just whining!
    Another thing...Gallo for Education Secretary!!!

    March 5, 2010 at 11:55 am |
  6. betty

    Good riddance. They didn't want to work 7 hour work days? In Texas, where I teach, we are EXPECTED to be at the school at 7:45am and cannot leave until 4:00pm. We are required to be available for tutoring in the mornings AND afternoons. So WAAH WAAH to those teachers in Rhode Island...come work in Texas for one year and get paid nothing compared to what you get paid. You wouldn't survive.

    March 5, 2010 at 11:47 am |