BREAKING NEWS: Gist Speaks Out on Central Falls School District
Friday, May 27, 2011
“At present, we are reviewing with the leadership of the district the questions and allegations that the media have raised. Our goal is to ensure that the district and school leaders in Central Falls have followed proper procedures and to offer support and technical assistance to the district, as needed. I am satisfied with the information I have received from the district leadership, and we will continue to keep these matters under review,” Gist said.
She said she has offered to meet with Senator John Tassoni, D-Smithfield, who has said the district is being mismanaged, called for the resignation of Superintendent Frances Gallo, and urged the state to conduct a forensic audit.
Gist also said she sakes “matters concerning the safety of teachers and students very seriously.” She said the Rhode Island Department of Education has followed up on all matters of student and teacher safety and made sure the district is taking the appropriate steps.
'News reports ... create an unnecessary climate of fear'
Overall, she said there have been marked decreases in disciplinary referrals at Central Falls High, even though GoLocalProv has reported that the incidents of violence against teachers is on the rise.
Gist concluded: “It is not surprising that, during a time of transformation when people face major changes in practices that had been ongoing for many years, there will be some discontent, disruption, and even pushback aimed at slowing the pace of reform.”
THE FULL STATEMENT
A recent series of news stories have raised questions about the management of the Central Falls School Department and the safety of the students and staff members at Central Falls High School. In response to these stories, State Senator John Tassoni has called for an audit of the finances of the Central Falls School District and for the resignation of Superintendent Frances Gallo and of the members of the Board of Trustees.
At present, we are reviewing with the leadership of the district the questions and allegations that the media have raised. Our goal is to ensure that the district and school leaders in Central Falls have followed proper procedures and to offer support and technical assistance to the district, as needed. I am satisfied with the information I have received from the district leadership, and we will continue to keep these matters under review. I have written to Senator Tassoni and offered to meet with him to discuss his concerns, which I take very seriously.
As I noted in a statement last week, the R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) works closely with the Central Falls School District to provide oversight and support regarding district finances and program management.
As part of this ongoing financial oversight, RIDE has worked with the Auditor General on an audit of the Central Falls school budget for the most recent full fiscal year (FY 2010). The audit, completed in February, raised only very minor concerns, which Central Falls is addressing. We also provide support to the high school in the areas of improving performance management, examining working conditions, strengthening strategic community partnerships, and providing coaching on leadership and team development.
Based on information I receive regularly from RIDE staff members, I have confidence that the appropriate structures are in place to support the transformation process in Central Falls. Faced with significant obstacles, district leaders have developed a school-reform plan for Central Falls High School. I am confident that the plan has been moving forward and that there will be good news to share with the state about progress at the school. We take all matters concerning the safety of teachers and students very seriously. When issues arise regarding safety in the Central Falls schools, our team has followed up with the district and the district has taken appropriate steps. We will continue to follow up on all matters of teacher and student safety. As in any school, there may be occasional behavior incidents. Every adult in the school is responsible for ensuring that the school has a safe climate and culture. This year, there have been marked decreases in disciplinary referrals at Central Falls High, and I believe that consistent attention to clear expectations for behavior will ensure that the school remains a safe place for teaching and learning. News reports about isolated disturbances can create a very distorted picture of daily life in a school. I am concerned that these news reports from anonymous sources may create an unnecessary climate of fear, jeopardizing the health of the school in ways that are damaging to students and teachers.
There is no question that Central Falls is a struggling district, with a long history of low academic achievement. The process of transforming education in this district will require all of us – educators, families, students – to change behavior in ways that will be challenging and that may cause initial concerns. It is not surprising that, during a time of transformation when people face major changes in practices that had been ongoing for many years, there will be some discontent, disruption, and even pushback aimed at slowing the pace of reform. I urge all parties to put aside differences, avoid the blaming, and work together in the best interest of those who need their help most urgently: the students of Central Falls.
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- A LIVELY EXPERIMENT May 19, 2011 Central Falls Schools
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