RI school superintendent fires entire staff at failing school

posted at 11:36 am on February 16, 2010 by Ed Morrissey

The situation already looked explosive.  A Rhode Island high school had a 50% failure rate in a depressed town with high unemployment and a median wage of $22,000 per family.  The union representing the teachers, who averaged over $70,000 per year in income, refused the superintendent’s plans to improve the school by extending the work day by 25 minutes and requiring teachers to provide tutoring on a rotating basis.  The superintendent summoned her inner Reagan and fired them all, from the administrators to the last instructor (via Instapundit):

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring.  The teachers’ union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000.  This exemplifies a nationwide trend in which public sector workers make far more than their private-sector counterparts (with better benefits).

The school superintendent has responded to the union’s stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

Let’s agree on a few things first.  The 50% failure rate is certainly abysmal, but considering the poverty in the town, perhaps not completely related to academics.  That kind of poverty creates pressure on employment-age teens to find work, although in this economy, the work would be hard to find.  There may also be families escaping from the area to find work elsewhere; that may or may not have an impact on graduation rates.  As for the salaries of the teachers, one has to view that in terms of competitive labor, as getting good teachers will necessarily cost more than getting cheap teachers, and probably would have an impact on those graduation rates, with all other things being equal.

However, it’s hard not to draw the conclusion that the teachers and administration at this school are a big part of the problem.  Asking teachers making three times the average of the town’s median income to contribute an extra 25 minutes a day to rescue students in obvious failure does not seem like an outrageous request.  The two-week summer training period may have infringed on their vacation plans, but their school faced an existential crisis, and their students were being doomed to a lifetime of competitive handicaps.  One may have thought that teachers and administrators would have a sense of mission, rather than a sense of entitlement, especially considering the failure to which they had all contributed at least in part.

This is a good argument for getting unions out of the public-employee business altogether.  Not only does the marriage of unions and the public sector create too much of an impulse to expand bureaucracies, it twists the priorities away from public service and towards entitlement thinking.   To their credit, most educators, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel successfully resist that impulse, but this jaw-dropping standoff in Rhode Island shows that it does exist.

Update: Rhode Island is abbreviated RI, not RH, of course. I’ve corrected the title.


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it makes a big difference in how your teachers see themselves partners with parents in educating their children.

oakland on February 16, 2010 at 9:29 PM

Yes, I get e-mails from my kids teachers. It helps me to reinforce their lessons when the kids are home.

dedalus on February 16, 2010 at 10:34 PM

EXCELLENT.

Ed’s useless apologetics aside, EVERY school system should start doing this, especially in Detroit. The public school system is guilty of dereliction of duty, and have the AUDACITY to criticize parents that see how incompetent and untrustworthy they are and opt for homeschooling.

This superintendant deserves the Presidential Medal of Freedom.

Virus-X on February 16, 2010 at 11:40 PM

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000.

And a retirement plan that would make a Senator blush.

Jaibones on February 16, 2010 at 11:49 PM

It shouldn’t have pushed me away from liberalism? The relationship between poverty and performance is not direct. It’s got more to do with attitudes and expectations. I don’t like liberal attitudes; they encourage failure.

VerbumSap on February 16, 2010 at 1:17 PM

Sort’a hard to study when you’ve got rats in your belly, or your parents want you to do the housework or work a job to help the family so both parents can hold down a couple of jobs — each.

I did the interesting study of checking out the real estate market in Central Falls to see how the teacher salaries did relative to the housing market. A teacher earning $70K can afford approximately 0.6 three unit apartment buildings per year. That says that the salary of the teachers is quite high relative to the neighborhood, and the people are quite poor — if 3-unit apartment buildings are that low, the rents are quite low, which means the per capita income is quite low.

These kids probably need a better home environment and better nutrition to function well in school. That’s only part of the take — the culture needs to change, and the only way that change is going to happen is if the teachers take the bull by the horns and try to turn it.

I suspect that the Union is run by the typical small clique of ultra-left weenies, and they decided to try to stare down the district and lost. Now at least 50% of the members at that high school are about to lose their jobs, and I’m sure they aren’t blaming the district. I’m betting most of the teachers would have been quite happy to take the $30/hour for the summer stuff.

Holding out for $90/hour was the height of incompetence in this economic environment. I’m betting every union official is turned out of office next election.

unclesmrgol on February 17, 2010 at 1:44 AM

I saw this headlined at Fox this morning. And I absolutely had to laugh…..

Obama To Appoint a Debt Panel

http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2010/02/16/obama-appoint-deficit-commission/

This is like bunga practitioners studying the effects of bunga.

ted c on February 17, 2010 at 6:37 AM

Not only does the marriage of unions and the public sector create too much of an impulse to expand bureaucracies, it twists the priorities away from public service and towards entitlement thinking. To their credit, most educators, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel successfully resist that impulse, but this jaw-dropping standoff in Rhode Island shows that it does exist

What makes you think that most public sector employees resist that impulse? What evidence supports that conclusion? I believe that most embrace and live that attitude and only a select few resist.

Dollayo on February 17, 2010 at 6:54 AM

Sweet. We need people like this with some real kahunas.

redfoxbluestate on February 17, 2010 at 8:41 AM

School Supt. Frances Gallo did the right thing since the Union refused to cooperate and members accept reality. In Central Texas, the Austin ISD Superintendent closes failing schools, as if that is going to help since the failing students still exist and must attend school. I wrote previously that teachers are paid an annual salary to teach children the required curriculum, and if it takes more weeks/months to accomplish that goal, then so be it; no salary increase.

But the point of learning is the student’s responsibility to STUDY AND PRACTICE USING THE LESSON until the lessons become the student’s knowledge.

Ed Morrissey projects the progressive liberal mindset that a person’s intelligence is measured by wealth, and that it is UNFAIR to expect non-wealthy students to learn.

Let’s agree on a few things first. The 50% failure rate is certainly abysmal, but considering the poverty in the town, perhaps not completely related to academics.

No, let’s agree on this instead: at the elementary level, federal programs provide free meals for indigent students and the school hosts inexpensive YMCA before/after school programs for children of working parents where supervised study time occurs daily. And the PTA provides the opportunity for parents to support their child’s teacher’s efforts by keeping the communication channels open, and ample opportunity for laid-off or unemployed parents to volunteer as teacher aides to support the children’s literacy and absorption of lessons. These high school students who plan to drop out and fail in life have been coasting through their schooling already for years. This illiteracy situation didn’t happen overnight, so to date this superintendent and this school district has been using all efforts imaginable to address the illiteracy problem. Demanding more from the teachers is part of the solution; demanding more from the students is a larger part of the solution.

Never predict the level of talent that a person has by their wealth. Rather, if prediction is to be made, predict society’s animosity for that talent as it threatens the privileged class elitist status as the exceptional.

Trimesters with 2-week intermittent breaks are truly effective means of aggressively teaching and learning in proportioned periods of concentration and relaxation.

Society has become permissive. The traditional schedule and lifestyle of remaining in one’s home town no longer exists as society has become transient, following corporate job locations. Those left behind in old boom towns certainly have the native ability to excel, and this superintendent is making certain that her school faculty/staff and facilities are providing all the concerted effort to engage the student to learn.

I argue that those students who refuse to apply themselves or simply don’t believe in their ability to figure things out in academics must be taught vocational skills in high school rather than promote the perpetuation of poverty that invariably costs society more than providing vocational schooling would have. Now that teenage pregnancy no longer disqualifies a student from attending, people who choose to drop out of vocational high school should be disqualified from any future application for welfare. Work (as in apply your dedicated efforts in study) to earn your high school diploma and learn to make your way in life.

maverick muse on February 17, 2010 at 10:26 AM

Not only does the marriage of unions and the public sector create too much of an impulse to expand bureaucracies, it twists the priorities away from public service and towards entitlement thinking. To their credit, most educators, law enforcement, and emergency response personnel successfully resist that impulse, but this jaw-dropping standoff in Rhode Island shows that it does exist

What makes you think that most public sector employees resist that impulse? What evidence supports that conclusion? I believe that most embrace and live that attitude and only a select few resist.

Dollayo on February 17, 2010 at 6:54 AM

Would You resist? Offer me the job at the going rate they were receiving and watch me move faster than the wind. I’d leave Kansas and be on the job Monday morning, ready to teach. I’m no teacher, but I bet I could do better job than they were doing.

BruceB on February 17, 2010 at 11:24 AM

I’m no teacher, but I bet I could do better job than they were doing.

BruceB on February 17, 2010 at 11:24 AM

If all I had to do was teach, I could do a pretty decent job on subjects like culinary arts and electronics. All I ask is an audience that sits down, shuts their noise holes and pays attention at least half the time.

Dark-Star on February 17, 2010 at 11:28 AM

although in this economy, the work would be hard to find.

Thanks minimum wage! Because of you, those jobless teens know that if they ever get a job, they’ll make a $1.50 more an hour than the market would support! Oh, those lucky lucky few.

mankai on February 17, 2010 at 12:17 PM

If only we provided these kids with a no-cost-to-them breakfast, lunch, education and arranged for them to be picked-up and dropped-off at the expense of the taxpayer.

If that Utopia ever came to pass… no way those kids would drop out.

/s

mankai on February 17, 2010 at 12:20 PM

Ahh … the illusion of control. As much as you might want to; no matter how right you may be; you simply cannot control people. Reality comes with too many variables that systems cannot handle. The parents, students, teachers and administrators are all responsible for their actions. Trying to hold one group accountable for the action or inaction of another group is insane. But, alas, liberal progressives always think they can make ‘it’ happen.

j_galt on February 17, 2010 at 12:47 PM

You are comparing the best to the average. Average athlete makes a teachers wage as a college athlete. Best teachers make millions through book sales.

You

PrezHussein on February 16, 2010 at 7:12 PM

You are comparing completely different jobs. One need not be a writer in order to be a teacher. They’re two completely different jobs.

That’s like comparing an athlete’s pay for doing a commercial to a teacher’s salary.

Esthier on February 17, 2010 at 12:56 PM

Trying to hold one group accountable for the action or inaction of another group is insane. But, alas, liberal progressives always think they can make ‘it’ happen.

j_galt on February 17, 2010 at 12:47 PM

There’s a difference between saying you can’t pass all students and saying that it’s not at all the fault of teachers when 50% of the students are failing.

You can’t control people, but if we didn’t think teachers had any impact, we wouldn’t be paying them in the first place and would just let kids teach themselves.

Esthier on February 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM

Esthier on February 17, 2010 at 12:59 PM

I didn’t say teachers don’t have an impact, but how do you decide who is or isn’t doing their part?

If 50% of a class fails, did the teacher only do half his job or did only half of the students try to learn?

j_galt on February 17, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Most people who belong to the teachers unions are socialist scumbags who should be shown to the back of the unemployment line where they belong. Why do you think our education system is about the worst in the world among industrialized nations.

TrickyDick on February 17, 2010 at 1:52 PM

I didn’t say teachers don’t have an impact, but how do you decide who is or isn’t doing their part?

If 50% of a class fails, did the teacher only do half his job or did only half of the students try to learn?

j_galt on February 17, 2010 at 1:44 PM

Does it matter? Either way, the teacher isn’t teaching half the class. If the teacher can’t learn to adapt and refuses to change, that’s a problem.

Esthier on February 17, 2010 at 4:18 PM

How to fix the school system in three steps.
1. Eliminate the DOE
2. Eliminate the NEA
3. Eliminate 75% of school administration.

daesleeper on February 16, 2010 at 10:16 PM

4. Kick out the hoods with juvenile records.
5. Have students apply to high school including a passing score on an entrance exam coming out of junior high school.
6. Parents who habitually complain that their brilliant little darlin’s are being unfairly treated/not getting their way, should be handed a voucher or given a website address on how to set up a home school.
7. Folks who have no idea what they’re talking about should be offered the golden opportunity to volunteer 25 hours a year at their local school so they can directly tell teachers what they’re doing wrong and help them fix everything!

Dr. ZhivBlago on February 17, 2010 at 7:19 PM

Fall River is a small compact city (less than 1.3 sq. miles) in a small compact state. Along with that goes intrenched and systemic corruption. RI raises it to an art form that puts NJ to shame. The story of the Newport bridge and having a mob layer as Chief Justice of the State Supreme Court are perhaps the most egregious.

LCT688 on February 17, 2010 at 7:41 PM

At the beginning of his 32-year career as a math teacher in Queens, Francisco Olivares allegedly im pregnated and married a 16-year-old girl he had met when she was a 13-year-old student at his Corona junior high, IS 61, the Post learned.

He sexually molested two 12-year-old pupils a decade later and another student four years after that, the city Department of Education charged. But none of it kept Olivares, 60, from collecting his $94,154 salary.
http://bigjournalism.com/jhudnall/2010/02/09/teachers-unions-the-child-molesters-best-friend/

Thanks to their deals with the unions, teachers accused of sexually molesting or harassing kids, among other things, are paid to sit by and do nothing. To the tune of $65 million a year in New York alone.
http://bigjournalism.com/jhudnall/2010/02/13/the-child-molester-scandal-that-wasnt/

What the hell is wrong with these people?

davidk on February 17, 2010 at 8:12 PM

To be honest, I don’t care if you make it an extra hour per day, those kids that are doing bad are as a whole not going to do much better & it has more to do with what goes on at home vs school.
That said, I don’t think an extra 25 min/day is a big deal.
But my experience at least in our rural area is that no matter how much you make yourself available to students, very few, if any, ever take advantage of these offers unless of course you force kids to stay for tutoring.
I only have the few kids that really want help come & ask for it & the ones that really need help are never seen & I never see their parents at conferences.
The school system has become responsible for raising people’s kids & now they want to raise them even more.
When are parents actually going to be held responsible for their children’s learning?

Badger40 on February 18, 2010 at 10:18 AM

What the hell is wrong with these people?

davidk on February 17, 2010 at 8:12 PM

That is insane. BTW-I am really curious why us public school teachers don’t have to take drug tests & almost everyone else has to?
I think we should be taking drug tests, at random.

Badger40 on February 18, 2010 at 1:23 PM

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