Central Falls School Superintendent Frances Gallo fired a total of 94 teachers, administrators and assistants on Feb. 22 because of poor student performance.
With a graduation rate of less than 50 percent and abysmal standardized testing scores, Gallo implemented the “turnaround” model of reform or, the removal of all staff.
The firings come after the teachers’ union rejected six conditions Gallo presented to improve the school. Those conditions were: extending the school day by 25 minutes, requiring teachers to tutor students weekly for one hour before or after school, eating lunch with students once a week, undergoing more rigorous evaluations, meeting once a week for 90 minutes to discuss education and planning, and attending two weeks of paid professional development in the summer.
Other than the professional development, extra compensation did not accompany the proposed conditions.
“I am saddened and shaken at the core by the enormous ramifications of my responsibilities,” Gallo said. “The only solace I have is that I know I provided every opportunity possible, in fully public and transparent ways, the means to avoid this.”
Has she? Is there no other way to remedy the situation? The superintendent was asking for about five more hours of the teachers’ week without offering any additional pay. An agreement could have been reached had she been willing to compromise on reasonable compensation.
Teacher Shelia Lawless-Burke said it is not necessarily about the pay but about the rigid stance of the superintendent on cooperation. “It’s all about the politics,” she said, “about making Fran Gallo look good. The issue is having the right to negotiate. Once we allow the superintendent to get her foot in the door, where will it stop?”
Of the approximated 1000 students, only 55 percent are skilled at reading and seven percent are proficient at math. When student performance is this awful, something should be done. But is it solely the fault of teachers, as Gallo believes?
“Where are the parents?” Beatriz Rosa, parent of a 14-year-old Central Falls freshman said. “I think the parents are half responsible for what’s going on.”
Rosa said parents are just as accountable for student performance as teachers. She also said that she frequently sees high school students wandering around downtown during the day.
It is a common misconception that teachers are solely responsible for the accomplishments, or lack thereof, of students. A closer look at parents and the students themselves is required. “It’s not fair,” said mother, Angela Perez. “They shouldn’t be punished because the students are lazy.” Sometimes kids just don’t want to learn.
Blame is incredibly easy to place on someone else. Gallo demonstrates this to the highest extreme. She has been superintendent of the district for only three years and is already making ridiculous changes. She needs to take a good look at the consequences of her actions. While improvement of the struggling school is important, it is likely the students will suffer.
“It’s sad,” said Jessica Lemur, a senior. “They stay when we need help. They love us. I was shocked when I heard the rumors.”