Rhode Island District Threatens to Fire All 74 of High School's Teachers

Central Falls High SchoolABC News
Central Falls High School

One of the poorest performing high schools in Rhode Island is planning to fire all of its teachers after they refused to adapt to longer school days and tutoring to help the struggling students.

Central Falls High School Superintendent Frances Gallo announced late last week that she would have no choice but to fire all 74 of the school's teachers after the Central Falls Teachers' Union refused to accept her improvement plan for the school.

In an interview with the Providence Journal, Gallo blamed the union's "callous disregard" of the situation for the firings, adding that the teachers "knew full well what would happen" if they didn't agree to her proposal.

The plan was spurred by the Education Commissioner Deborah Gist's mandate last month for the high school, as well six other schools in the state, to revamp their institutions.

Central Falls High School has just over 800 students and fewer than 50 percent of them graduate in four years, according to state statistics.

A state survey of the school's demographic identified that 96 percent of students are eligible for free or reduce lunch and that 65 percent of the student body is of Hispanic origin, 13 percent is white and 14 percent is black. Twenty-five percent of students receive English as a Second Language services.

Gallo had a choice of four federally guided models to propose for Central Falls High School, and her first choice, and the one the teachers rejected, was the "transformation plan," which included changes such 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 said no to the plan, upset that they would not be getting paid for working longer hours, Gallo said she had no choice but to shift from her "improvement" plan to the "turnaround" model.

"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 their population," she said.

All Teachers to Be Fired, No More Than 50 Percent Can Be Hired Back

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.

Messages left for the Central Falls Teachers' Union were not immediately returned, but union President Jane Sessums told ABC6 that she hopes Gallo "reconsiders" and doesn't "hand out all those pink slips."

In a separate interview with the Providence Journal, Sessums said that the union plans to "fight the firings" and that while they too want the school to improve, they would not agree to Gallo's original plan without additional pay.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics estimates that secondary school teachers in Rhode Island earn upwards of $60,000, higher than the country's average salary of around $50,000 for teachers.

The school's teachers will get their pink slips at a school meeting on Feb. 22, according to Gallo.

Gist has eight days to decide whether to accept or deny Gallo's proposal, according to Eliot Krieger, the spokesman for the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.

Meanwhile, students at the school held a rally yesterday in support of Gallo, according to the Associated Press.