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News 12

January 7, 2011 by USA Post 

News 12, (AP) – Teachers at Central Falls High School signed an agreement to return to their jobs last year after the entire staff was fired in a radical, last attempt to raise student achievement. But if the directors thought teachers would be grateful for a second chance, they were wrong.

Many teachers are not showing up for work, often shouting sick. Several abruptly quit during the first weeks of the school year. Administrators had to scramble to find qualified replacements and identified hundreds of student grades for absences of teachers.

The progress of school boards across the city – and the Obama administration – had hoped seems increasingly, and alarmingly elusive.

The problems come despite a labor contract that union leaders and administrators in this heavily immigrant city poor trumpeted as a breakthrough in Central Falls High, a wrestling school of nearly 840 students, where only 7 percent of the 11th-graders were competent in mathematics in 2009.

“I expected when everyone came to school there would not be a shared priority to ensure that everything was a success,” said state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist. “At this stage, we are concerned whether or not people will be able to let go of the past and work together to move forward.”

Exactly what causes all the problems is unclear, but both sides acknowledge persistent dissatisfaction with the firings and changes that followed.

Richard Kinslow, an English teacher who was not sick, crying, said a new management team that was established was inexperienced and did not provide support for teachers or take action against rampant discipline problems, including what he said was physical and verbal abuse to staff by students.

“We do not have a sense of clarity in our leadership. We do not have a clear idea of their mission or vision. Communication was, again, terrible,” said Kinslow. “If I’m going to be thrown into the bus by my supposed leaders every day, where is my hope? Where is my team? Why should I work?”

But he said he was hopeful that a team of mediators to come to school might encourage cooperation.

Central High Falls became Exhibit A in a national debate on education reform at the school board last February has authorized the firing of all teachers. The school has been identified as one of the worst condition, and after discussions with the union broke down, the superintendent used a new option created by the Obama administration, allowing the firing of teachers challenged schools stage.

President Barack Obama seemed to endorse the shooting; saying drastic measures may be justified when schools show no sign of improvement.

The White House declined comment this week.

After months of negotiations, the teachers have been rehired after agreeing to work another day in school, subject to more rigorous assessments and provide more academic support. At the time, Gist said that the changes would result in “dramatic realization.”

That did not happen.

More than a dozen teachers – and sometimes over 20 – about 90 staff persons were absent during an average day this fall, including six long-term leave, “said Central Falls School Superintendent Frances Gallo. Fifteen teachers have left since August, including six who quit after the return, if the directors said they had one vacancy to be filled.

“It’s extremely frustrating, but more than that, I think it is extremely unprofessional,” said Gallo. “Teaching is to get a black eye, and why? Because teachers are not all equal to their vocation. ”

The directors held more than 450 classes in the first quarter after having decided on the participation of teachers was too unequal to measure student performance.

A clutch of students disrupted classes last month, and the president of the American Federation of Teachers held a news conference to support teachers.

Some students said they were tired of negative attention, arguing that teachers are the scapegoats for problems beyond their control. But some also said there are teachers and administrators who are not equipped to deal with disciplinary and academic problems.

“If we do not work, they redirect us. They come to us out of the classroom. How do we learn to take a shot every day?” Frankie asked Dehoyos, 14, a freshman. But he added, “We should all be ashamed -. Not only teachers, students’

Some parents are angry – some of them teachers, some administrators at both sides.

“Teachers have used their sick days. Almost every day they are absent, so that students do not receive much education, “said Jose Ortiz, as his daughter, Kyara, a student Central Falls, translated from Spanish. “Students do not pay attention in class because teachers do not help them.”

Gallo said teachers’ absences have affected the positive developments in Central Falls, including new school on Saturday, a new math program – and the fact that nearly 20 teachers have not missed a day of work.

Very Hispanic Central Falls is the smallest city in the poorest and Rhode Island with a population of nearly 19,000. A quarter of families live in poverty and 65 percent speak a language other than English at home. The city is under the control of a receiver appointed by the state, which says its problems are so severe that Central Falls should consider merging with neighboring Pawtucket.

“It was not easy to be fired for failure to test results in English and math when they already know that children are not at that level when we give them tests,” said JoAnn Boss a Spanish teacher who was on long-term sick leave for this fall.

Gist said that the school could improve if it continues to monitor its reform plan, which sets targets to increase the academic competence, increasing the graduation rate and improving student discipline.

But she and other officials have acknowledged that other drastic measures such as school closure or the replacement of teachers may be considered if things do not improve quickly.

“There are good reasons to hope he can get better,” said Robert Flanders, president of the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education. “Because it can not be worse.”

Copyright © 2011 The Associated Press. All rights reserved.

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