May 16, 2010 — -- A Rhode Island school district that voted to clean house at a failing high school has reached a deal with the teachers union to hire back the entire staff, who had all been fired in February.
The agreement between the district and the union will require a longer school day, more after-school tutoring and other changes, according to The Associated Press.
"Both the school district and the union agree that while this has been a difficult process for everyone involved, the negotiations resulted in a newfound appreciation for shared responsibility, and a solid commitment to bring lasting solutions that will improve teaching and learning at Central Falls High School," said a joint statement from the union and the district.
The agreement, which will have to be ratified by the teachers union, means the staff will not have to reapply for their jobs, but they will be required to recommit to their jobs and go through an interview with the school's new principal.
Details of the agreement were to be released following a ratification vote by Central Falls teachers at a meeting Monday.
The Central Falls school district's board of trustees voted Feb. 23 to fire all 74 teachers as well as guidance counselors, librarians and other staff at Central Falls Senior High School.
The vote came after weeks of debate on how school Superintendent Frances Gallo believed the school, one of the poorest performing in the state, could be improved.
Gallo announced in early February that she would have no choice but to propose firing all the teachers after the Central Falls Teachers Union refused to accept her improvement plan.
The plan called for longer school days and after-school tutoring by the teachers, among other things.
The plan was spurred by Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist's mandate last month that the high school, as well as six other schools in the state, revamp their institutions.
Teachers Wanted $90 an Hour
Central Falls high school has about 800 students, but only about 48 percent of them graduate in four years, according to state statistics.
A state survey found that 96 percent of its students are eligible for free or reduced-cost lunches. Sixty-five percent of the students are Hispanic, 13 percent are white and 14 percent are black, according to the state survey. Twenty-five percent of students receive English as a second language instruction.
Gallo had a choice among four federally guided models to propose for the Central Falls. Her first choice, and the one the teachers rejected, was the "transformation plan," which included such changes as lengthening the school day by 25 minutes, as well as required training for faculty members during the summer.
The plan also asked teachers to eat lunch with students once a week and to submit to more rigorous evaluations.
When the teachers rejected the plan, upset that they would not be getting paid for working longer hours, Gallo said she had no choice but to shift from the "improvement" plan to a "turnaround" model.
The turnaround model, one of four developed by federal education guidelines, requires the superintendent to fire all of a school's teachers and rehire no more than 50 percent of them.
"My reaction was, shaken to the core," Gallo told ABC News' Providence affiliate ABC6, when the union's decision was made public.
"This is much more than I would have expected, that any union would play with the lives of 50 percent of its population."
Messages left for the Central Falls Teachers Union were not immediately returned.
Teachers rejected the improvement plan because it only offered them an extra $30 per hour for the extra work required by the plan, according to the Providence Journal.
The teachers had requested $90 per hour.
The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimated that secondary school teachers in Rhode Island earn upward of $60,000, higher than the country's average salary of about $50,000 for teachers.