Central Falls Teachers: Don’t Blame Us
Wednesday, December 22, 2010
“Stop the blame game. Stop the finger pointing and listen to teachers,” said Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers.
Weingarten told reporters that the number of daily absences at the school had been exaggerated by district administrators. She said the reported number included long-term leave and vacancies.
15 percent of teachers absent
The district estimates that on any given day about 15 percent of the 91 teaching staff are absent— which it says is unusually high. But Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teacher’s Union, said the number of teachers who are taking sick days is much lower. Yesterday, for example, she said there were five teachers who were absent from the high school due to sickness.
The district did not back down. “The fact is 19 teachers are not in Central Falls High School today teaching our students,” said Deputy Supt. Victor Capellan yesterday. “Some teachers called in sick today, some are on long term leave, and some positions are unfilled because of resignations. But that still leaves 19 teachers not here educating the students of Central Falls High School.”
The district has said the absences are hampering efforts to turn around the school—where less than half the students graduate and half were reported to be failing their classes last year.
Sessums also said that the decision not to issue grades to 453 students at the high school was made by school administrators.
Call on Chafee to intervene
Union officials yesterday called on Governor-elect Lincoln Chafee to intervene in the situation. They urged him to convene a task force of teachers, administrators, and union reps that would make recommendations on how the school can make a “midcourse correction."
Frank Flynn, president of the state chapter of the union, said the Governor-elect told him he was open to the idea in a conversation the two had earlier Tuesday. However, Mike Trainor, a spokesman for Chafee, could not confirm the details of the conversation. But earlier this year, Chafee made a similar suggestion, proposing a third-party mediator between teachers and administrators and volunteering to serve in that role himself if necessary.
Education Commissioner Deborah Gist told GoLocalProv she is open to the idea. “Any time that we’re bringing people together, to collaborate to make the improvements we need to see at the school, it’s a good thing,” Gist said. “I’m happy to be a part of that.”
Like union officials, Gist called for an end to “finger-pointing” and “blaming” others. “For example, I say I’m concerned about teacher absences and I’m accused of blaming teachers,” Gist said. “I’m not blaming anyone. I’m saying this is a problem and it needs to be addressed.”
Just what is the underlying source of the problems at the school was not clear by the end of the day and Gist said there was no one easy solution to it all. “Teacher attendance is not the solution. Student attendance is not the solution. Student behavior is not the solution. Leadership and communication is not the solution. None of these things in isolation is the solution,” Gist said. Instead, she said the solution is a combination of all of them.
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