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Central Falls—Blame the Teachers

Saturday, June 11, 2011


The City of Central Falls represents a key battleground in the current effort to reform Rhode Island’s fundamental government structure. With all of the confusing hullabaloo surrounding the city these days, it’s important for Rhode Islanders to keep an accurate overview of these tumultuous times, because there are devious forces working overtime to mislead them.

With seven percent of students at Central Falls High School (CFHS) being proficient at math, and under half of them making it to graduation day, School Superintendent Frances Gallo asked the teachers in the spring of 2010 to adopt a “transformation model” – a measure that required some extra effort on the teachers’ part in order to turn the school around.

Whether the educational breakdown at CFHS was the teachers’ fault or not, CFHS represented a failed government program. So for the sake of students and taxpayers, CFHS either needed to be shut down, or drastically reformed.

But this is Rhode Island, where Rhode Islanders live in Rhode Island, and government employees live in La-La Land.

Aghast at the idea of a boss requiring a higher quality of output, the teachers union lashed back with monetary demands, buttressing their extortion by injecting emotional pleas into the issue. The union insisted that Gallo was injuring their “morale” by “scapegoating” the teachers.

Nobody plays the drama queen better than a unionized teacher. We Are Central Falls!

But since the union raised the issue of blame, let’s take a look back. During the controversy, ABC News reported that CFHS had an “87% teacher absentee rate.” This meant that “on average teachers miss 23 days of school a year. Which is a lot,” commented one ABC reporter.

I’m a Proud Teacher at Central Falls! We Are Central Falls!

Thuggish Tactics

The teachers wanted more money. The only problem was that Central Falls had been under control of unions and Democrats for decades. So, naturally, there wasn’t any money left. The city was on the verge of bankruptcy, even with the Statehouse picking up its education tab for the past twenty years.

Seventy-five obstinate teachers were soon fired. And the union created a media frenzy that backfired in their face, culminating with President Obama supporting the layoffs, saying, “Our kids get only one chance at an education, and we need to get it right.”

A week later an effigy hanging of President Obama was found inside a Central Falls classroom. And among a score of threats, Gallo received a letter that said, “I wish cancer on your children and their children, and that you live long enough to see them die.”

The message was clear: Don’t mess with the teachers union. They Are Central Falls!

Teachers 'Work to Rule'

Even though hundreds of people immediately applied for the 75 open teacher slots (an occurrence that shattered the unions’ longstanding insistence that high salaries are necessary to attain quality workers), a conciliatory tone was struck. And all 75 teachers were rehired under Gallo’s transformation model.

But the teachers would be damned to see it actually work.

Ever since the skirmish last spring, the union has attempted to make Gallo’s life a living hell, undermining the transformation model with “a high rate of teacher absences that has persisted all year…On any given day, an average of 14 teachers…are absent.” (Click here to read the GoLocalProv story.)

Don’t worry. The students weren’t learning anything anyway. Besides, this is how the teachers demonstrate that, for them, “it’s all about the kids.”

Despite the union’s assertion that the absences were being exaggerated, GoLocalProv discovered that “sick days appear to still account for most of the absences.” Union president Jane Sessums then shifted the union position, claiming that the “teachers find themselves in a high-stress work environment, which she said explains why teachers might be taking the number of sick days that they are.”

Just more dramatics. We have children teaching children in Central Falls.

Frances Gallo vs. the Establishment

With Gallo refusing to back down, the teachers union recently decided to go public with their thuggery, passing votes of “no confidence” regarding Gallo’s leadership, and bothering the public with reports of petty workplace disputes.

Senator John Tassoni (D-Smithfield), a consistent labor ally, pounced on the propaganda campaign as well, actually calling for Gallo’s resignation and saying, “What is needed is a complete overhaul of how the schools are operating in that city.”

Yeah, welcome to the club, Senator. That’s what Gallo tried to accomplish last year. But the union thought, instead, it would be more fun to celebrate an effigy hanging of the country’s first black president (yes, these are the fluffy-hearted liberals that you always hear about).

Gallo’s fight is with a powerful and entrenched political establishment. They are clawing viciously to maintain the status quo, while most Rhode Islanders clamor for reform. So as more and more arrows are fired at Frances Gallo over the upcoming weeks, Rhode Islanders should consider the possibility that all of the union’s grievances are entirely artificial; that they represent a mere escalation of the union’s revenge agenda.

If you valued this article, please LIKE GoLocalProv.com on Facebook by clicking http://www.facebook.com/#!/GoLocalProv">HERE.

Travis Rowley (TravisRowley.com) is chairman of the RI Young Republicans, and a consultant for the Barry Hinckley Campaign for US Senate.


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