Setting Up the Failure
Although the majority of the teachers probably just wanted to keep their jobs, observers with a cynical (I would say “realistic”) opinion of labor unions likely foresaw the Central Falls teacher absences issue back when Superintendent Fran Gallo unfired the high school faculty back in May. There is no way union organizers want the transformation model of reforming the school (or any model, really) to work, particularly as it’s been initiated from the education commissioner down, and I’d suggest that the employee attendance record at the school proves that enough teachers are willing to pull the union rope to cause problems:
The high rate of teacher absenteeism has sparked a new wave of outrage and fed the ongoing debate about how to improve the nation’s worst-performing schools.
Bitterness remains over the mass firing of all the school’s teachers in February, jobs that were eventually won back through a compromise agreement in May. In exchange for their jobs, the teachers agreed to a list of changes administrators said were necessary to turn around the school, which has among the lowest test scores and graduation rates in the state.
Some teachers resent the new requirements, which include tutoring and eating lunch with students each week, attending after-school training sessions and being observed by third-party evaluators. In all, about 15 teachers resigned between June and November; two others retired. One position remains unfilled, according to school officials.
As you may recall, the other alternative was the “turnaround model,” by which the entire teaching staff would have been fired, and no more than 50% could have been rehired. One suspects substantial overlap among three groups:
- The retirements and absentees
- Teachers who look to the union playbook for ensuring the failure of reform
- Central Falls High employees who would not have been rehired under the turnaround model
The lesson for Rhode Island administrators and commissioners is clear: Making those who oppose reform integral to it is not likely part of a formula for success.
And let’s not allow the issue to slip into the background without marveling at this deal:
According to the contract, teachers receive 15 sick days a year at full pay and are allowed to accumulate up to 185 sick days — which takes slightly more than 12 years of service to accrue. They also receive two personal days each year.
Veteran teachers with at least six years of service are also entitled to 40 days of extended sick leave at full pay; teachers with 15 or more years are entitled to 50 days, also at full pay.
If I’m reading that right, in a (give or take) 180-day school year, a Central Falls teacher can theoretically have 237 available paid days off. Presumably, there are procedures in place to review extended sick leave, but by the numbers, a teacher could work just six weeks a year for two years.