Feb. 23, 2010 — -- All 74 teachers at Rhode Island's failing Central Falls Senior High School will be fired, the school district's Board of Trustees decided tonight.
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 earlier this month 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.
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.
Teachers Wanted $90 an Hour
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.