For the first time since the superintendent fired more than 90 teachers and other staff at Central Falls (R.I.) High School in February, the two sides met in a closed session on March 11 to discuss the situation that has attracted national media attention. The meeting resulted in an agreement to begin negotiations immediately, using a mediator, over how proposed reforms for the high school will affect teachers.
Superintendent Frances Gallo had agreed to resume negotiations over a comprehensive reform plan for the school, but delayed those discussions for more than a week. The delay, local president Jane Sessums said, comes "at a cost to the students of Central Falls High."
On March 9, a crowd of more than 100 people—including many alumni of the school—held a candlelight vigil in support of the teachers. "We feel like the superintendent, the school committee and the media are taking every graduate's diploma and stomping on it with dirty shoes," said Theresa Agonia, a 2009 graduate and honors student at Roger Williams University. "This is to show how personally affected we are by the possibility of dozens of teachers being fired, even though a lot of us aren't here anymore."
The union has continued to attract support from all over the country. More than 15,000 people have signed a petition in support of the teachers, students and community.
One factor that prompted the superintendent to resume discussions with the teachers was the union's release of its own proposal to transform the school. While the union agrees with some of what the district had proposed, it says a well-designed plan must "connect to a comprehensive reform agenda that includes research-based education reforms, genuine supports for teachers, and structural adjustments that focus on increasing the academic achievement of all students."
The AFT Web site includes a page with more information on the situation at Central Falls High School. [Dan Gursky, Central Falls Teachers Union, Pawtucket Times]
March 12, 2010