A district superintendent who fired all the teachers from one of Rhode Island's most troubled schools under federal guidelines said Wednesday that she is willing to negotiate with its teachers union after it publicly pledged to support reforms.
Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo said an offer made late Tuesday by the Central Falls Teachers' Union gives her hope the issue could be resolved without mass firings. The offer includes support for a longer school day and providing before- and after-school tutoring for students, she said.
The Central Falls school board voted last week to fire 93 teachers and staff from the city's high school after the end of the school year. No more than half the staff could be hired back under federal rules.
"That gave me enough hope that I could say, 'What are we waiting for? Get back to the table,'" Gallo said.
Union appealed firings
Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers' Union, did not immediately return a call seeking comment but earlier said she supported a return to negotiations. Her union has appealed the firings to the school district's board of trustees and filed a complaint with the state Labor Relations Board, saying the firings are unfair.
The state's education commissioner earlier ordered Gallo to choose from one of four reform options, including mass firings, to improve the high school. Only 7 percent of 11th-graders tested this fall were proficient in math, while 33 percent of the high school students tested proficient this fall in writing and just 55 percent were proficient in reading.
Less than half of students graduate from Central Falls in four years, according to state statistics.
President Barack Obama on Monday mentioned the firings in a national address on education and said they are an example of the need for accountability over student performance.
"So if a school is struggling, we have to work with the principal and the teachers to find a solution," Obama said. "We've got to give them a chance to make meaningful improvements. But if a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show any sign of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."