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You're Fired, You're Hired: RI School Rehires Teachers

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By Jason Beahm on May 19, 2010 10:45 AM

A Rhode Island school has reportedly gained concessions from teachers and reversed course after firing its entire staff in February. The teachers union and the school district have reached a tentative agreement that would rehire the fired teachers. 

School Superintendent Frances Gallo fired 74 teachers after the school received the worst performance metrics in the state, with a graduation rate of under 50%. Originally, Gallo tried to negotiate a plan where the teachers would increase their hours and offer tutoring. However, negotiations broke down and the teachers walked away from the deal. Gallo said at the time that she was left without a choice except to terminate the fired teachers.  
 
According to the Christian Science Monitor, the district convinced the previously fired teachers to agree to all of the conditions it had originally outlined, including a longer school day, after-school tutoring and a new evaluation system. In addition, the new agreement contains additional concessions by the teachers.  
 
President Obama weighed in on the dispute shortly after the teachers were fired. "If a school continues to fail its students year after year after year, if it doesn't show signs of improvement, then there's got to be a sense of accountability."  
 
The teachers union and the school district offered a joint statement. "Both the school district and the union agree that while this has been a difficult process for everyone involved, the negotiations resulted in a newfound appreciation for shared responsibility, and a solid commitment to bring lasting solutions that will improve teaching and learning at Central Falls High School."
 
The question remains as to how the school rehires will impact the educational culture at Central Falls High School. Will the old teachers buy into the new system, or will they become frustrated? According to Justin Cohen, president of the School Turnaround Group at Mass Insight Education in Boston, it is common to need to get rid of the least effective teachers in order to make positive changes at struggling schools. 
 
This controversy over the fired teachers has demonstrated that while mass firings are a viable option, they are considered extreme and should be used only in rare situations. At Central Falls High School, the district and the teachers were able to come to an agreement to undo the nuclear option. We will keep you posted as to the progress of the school under the new system.  
 
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