Dispute Arises in Providence Schools Over Staffing Report
Sunday, May 17, 2015
According to the City of Providence, the report, Providence Public Schools: An Assessment of the Need for District Transformation to Accelerate Student Achievement, paints a "sobering picture of a central office unable to meet the goals of the school district and lacking key capacities in project management, talent management, data analysis and policy analysis."
"They called us paper pushers," said Local 1339 Clerical Union President JoAnne Micheletti, of the coverage of the audit (the report itself refers to some classifications of clerical staff as paper processors). "Just that alone I found highly disrespectful."
"We weren't contacted before the audit took place, or while the audit took place. I only found out about it when I saw it reported. There are a lot of inaccuracies about how we were depicted," said Micheletti.
The report, conducted by Mass Insight, is currently being reviewed by Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza's administration and the school board to devise a strategy in the coming months to "better align central administration with the needs of students and families."
“These findings are a call to action,” said Elorza, who called for the audit as one of his first acts in office. “Providence Schools must have a central administration designed to support our schools and engage our community, so we can raise academic achievement across the district. Our children and families deserve a school department that just works, and frankly, our future depends on it.”
Disputing Report, Recommendations
Based on their findings, Mass Insight concluded that Providence Schools "cannot fulfill its obligations to students, families, and citizens without pursuing a transformational approach to its central office."
Micheletti, however, took issue with a number of data points in the report that led to the pronouncement.
"They said the clerk staff ratio is 3 to 1," said Micheletti. "Take payroll. Of course there's going to be 8 clerks, you're running payroll for over 4000 people. Then you have special [education] that might have 10-11 clerks. These are departments that are huge and understaffed."
"The report said there were 230 clerks, there's 192," continued Micheletti. "There were 40 open positions [the city] has refused to hire for, and there are 20 clear vacancies right now. The schools are understaffed."
Micheletti said she is questioning moving clerical staff from central administration to the schools as supported by the report.
"Downtown they are [levels] 4 and 5," said Micheletti, referring to the step classifications of the the unions' employees. "The clerks at the schools are 1 to 3. It's already too lean downtown to begin with, and you're going to take a [clerk] who's a 5 and put them out at a school that's slotted for 1 through 3? That clerk is still going to get their pay at the 5 step even if you slot them for a 3, which doesn't make sense."
“The School Board has been committed to giving decision making to those who work closest with our children," said school board President Keith Oliveria. "To do this successfully, we need a central administration that will help navigate schools with this newfound control and flexibility while maintaining a high level of accountability and transparency."
Micheletti said she was taking up the report -- and its findings -- at the next school board meeting.
"I intend to bring a lot of my clerks with me," said Micheletti.
Related Slideshow: 10 RI State Education Rankings
4th Grade Test Scores
Rank: 26 out of 50
State Average Score: 241
National Average Score: 241
Rank: 18 out of 50
State Average Score: 223
National Average Score: 221
8th Grade Test Scores
Rank: 27 out of 50
State Average Score: 284
National Average Score: 284
Rank: 25 out of 50
State Average Score: 267
National Average Score: 266
Chance for Success
Rank: 21 out of 50
National Average: C+
Source: Education Week Research Center
Note: Index that grades the nation and states on 13 indicators capturing the role that education plays as a person moves from childhood, through the K-12 system, and into college and the workforce.
Average Daily Attendance
Rank: 49 out of 50
State Average: 80.9%
National Average: 96.7%
Note: Figure reflects the aggregate attendance of a school during a reporting period divided by the number of days school is in session during this period.
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