Cynthia Leonor Garza
WASHINGTON—The tentative agreement reached Saturday by the Central Falls School District and the Central Falls Teachers Union marks a significant turning point in the effort to transform Central Falls High School. We believed from the beginning that the CFTU and the district, working together through the collective bargaining process, could create the conditions for both teacher and student success. This was no small feat, and we commend CFTU President Jane Sessums, Superintendent Frances Gallo, Rhode Island Commissioner of Education Deborah Gist, and Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals President Marcia Reback on their work.
The events of the past few months have shown the need for a collaborative approach to school improvement, especially when the stakes are high and real transformation is needed, as is the case at Central Falls High School. In the end, the union and the district’s shared goal of helping students realize their full potential rose above the differences between them.
Every child in America should have equal access to a great education that provides them with the skills they will need to succeed. This is a principle that we deeply believe in, and one CFTU sought to advance in the negotiations. Teachers know the realities in our schools today, and—if they are given the right tools and conditions, are backed by a sense of shared responsibility and have a real voice in the process—they can deliver on this promise. We have never believed that mass firing is a vehicle to school improvement.
We would like to thank U.S. Sens. Jack Reed and Sheldon Whitehouse, the AFL-CIO and other labor and education allies, and communities across the country for their unwavering support throughout this process. We also thank U.S. District Court Judge Ernest Torres and the Federal Mediation and Conciliation Service, represented by Jack Buettner, for their guidance. And most importantly, thank you to the Central Falls teachers, parents, students and community, who kept focused on teaching and learning during this difficult time.
The teachers at Central Falls High School care deeply about their students and the work they do every day, and the American Federation of Teachers will continue to support them as they begin the real work of truly transforming their school.