Yorke Airs Both Sides of Central Falls Debate
Dan Yorke spoke with both Central Falls Superintendent Francis Gallo (podcast link) and Central Falls High School Guidance Counselor George McLaughlin (podcast link) on his show yesterday. Supt. Gallo explained that she was stymied by the union in trying to work out a solution based on the “transformation model.” But first she wanted assurances on as first step on transformation model:
1) increase length of school day by around 20 minutes
2) formalize committment by teachers to tutor 1 hr a week to ascertain its impact / effectiveness
3) have lunch with students once a week as an informal way to get-to-know each other, not as a lunch duty
4) two weeks of curriculum work in the summer at $30/hr
5) 90 minutes a week for teacher team meetings (common planning) @ $30/hr
6) 3rd party evaluation that could lead to teacher firings as necessary
As Yorke later elaborated, the only difference between these assurances and the “turnaround model” is that #6 is a termination of all teachers and a maximum re-hiring of 50% of the current teaching staff. Related to the evaluation/firings (#6), Gallo explained that she had started discussions thinking that 80% of the teachers would be retained but eventually told the union that she would not fire any teachers if they would go along with the rest of her plan. According to Gallo, the union leadership was unresponsive. (And she took the extra step of detailing this final proposal in a letter to CF Teacher union leadership).
During his time, McLaughlin explained that all he wanted was for the parties to go to the table and work something out. He gave his perspective as someone in the school and reiterated that the problem wasn’t about money but about job security. When Yorke explained that Gallo had taken teacher firings off the table (as just described) and had a letter to prove it, McLaughlin said it was incumbent upon Gallo to show the letter. To this, Yorke made the counter-point that McLaughlin could just as easily go to Gallo (or union leadership) and check it himself.
McLaughlin also tried to score debate points by saying Gallo was inconsistent regarding the lunch period (item #3) because she had removed the teachers from lunch duty in the first place. (Here, it’s worth contrasting this with what Gallo said: it seems she was addressing this potential contention by emphasizing that the new lunch hour request was explicitly to spend time with kids, not as a “duty”–I wonder if she’s heard this “talking point” before?). But, as Yorke pointed out, the only reason she had removed the teachers from lunch duty was because the union wanted a time concession somewhere to make up for previous requests (from prior years) that Gallo had made concerning common planning time and the like. In short, McLaughlin accused Gallo of telling only half the story….while only telling half the story. (McLaughlin is obviously a guy who genuinely cares for his school, the kids and his colleagues…he’s just got a lot of years in the education industrial cocoon, which informs his perspective).
UPDATE: Today, Yorke has posted the letter from Gallo to the union. The key excerpt:
I need to re-emphasize that the Transformation Model is the only model in which it is possible for the majority of teachers and administrators at the school to retain their jobs.
Unfortunately, to date we have been unable to reach agreement with you regarding the implementation of key elements of the Transformation Model, specifically including the following:
1. Increase the length of the high school day so that the student day is 8AM – 3 PM
2. Formalize the high school teacher commitment of weekly tutoring for one hour outside of school time
3. Each teacher will partake of a communal lunch with students one day each week
4. Agree to continue paid professional development for two weeks outside of the typical school calendar
5. Agree to meet for 90 minutes each week in order to look at student work, assess data, plan units of study and seek continuous improvement in professional practice
6. Acknowledge that third party evaluators will begin evaluation of all high school teachers on March 1, 2010.
Please note that these six elements listed above are what I view as the core elements of my being able to inform the Commissioner that Transformation is a viable option for our high school. For your convenience, I have attached (Attachment 1) all elements of both the Transformation and Turnaround models directly from the Protocol.
With your agreement to move forward, I will notify the Commissioner that Central Falls has selected the Transformation School Reform Model. Without your agreement, since the Closure and Restart models are not viable options at this time, it will be incumbent upon me to either choose the Turnaround School Reform Model for Central Falls or inform Commissioner Gist that we have collectively failed to select an intervention model for the high school and cannot begin planning for implementation. Pursuant to the Protocol, that latter option “shall be cause to trigger the reconstitution authorities granted” to the Board of Regents to Reconstitute Central Falls High School. In the case of either Turnaround or Reconstitution, I cannot provide any assurances to any faculty member or administrator at the high school that they will remain employed at the start of the next school year.
It is my sincere desire that we find a way to work together to implement Transformation, which I firmly believe is in the best interests of the students of the high school, as well as the members of the Central Falls Teachers Union.
As Gallo stated, though the letter doesn’t explicitly state that there will be no job loss, point #6 mentions an evaluation process and does not mention any teacher firings, such as an 80/20 (retention/let go) formula. The clear implication is that the transformational model, which Gallo was trying to get the teachers to go with, was the best chance for the most teachers to have security in the future.