Educators in Massachusetts are shocked and saddened by the irresponsible decision of the Central Falls School Committee in Rhode Island to fire all of the teachers and other professional staff members at that city’s high school. We are also deeply disturbed that this irrational, destructive action apparently has the approval of the Rhode Island Department of Education and United States Secretary of Education Arne Duncan.
Without being privy to all of the details of the negotiations, it appears to us that firing all the staff at any place of employment because of disagreements over wages and hours is a form of union-busting that is a threat not only to all teachers, but also to all working men and women in this country. Further, we believe that education reform initiatives that rely on such punitive, strong-arm tactics are unlikely to foster a climate of collaboration in the future or improve a district’s ability to attract and retain highly qualified staff, both of which are key to improving student performance.
In our own state, we recognize that some students, schools and districts – particularly those serving low-income children – need additional time, resources and support to meet state academic goals. Improving achievement in such schools requires excellent leadership abilities as well as staff. Resorting to firing 100 percent of one’s staff does not speak well for the leadership of a school or district. Secretary Duncan’s support for such an irresponsible, disrespectful and probably illegal method for school “improvement” does not bode well for future federal involvement in local school reform efforts.
We offer our heartfelt support to Central Falls educators, whose reputations have been damaged and livelihoods threatened. We urge the political and school leaders in Rhode Island to reconsider their drastic action and make proposals that are fair to teachers and beneficial to students.