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Archive for February, 2008

Teachers Don’t Like Bumping, Either

As reported by Linda Borg in today’s Providence Journal, Superintendent Evans convened the newly revived “Teachers’ Council” yesterday, to hear teachers’ views about problems in the public schools, and their potential solutions. Teachers expressed concerns about the condition of facilities, funding problems, curriculum and other issues. We at ESPEC were very interested to hear that bumping is not just a concern for parents. Teachers apparently don’t like it either.

Bumping, the process by which teachers with more seniority displace those with less, generated a lot of complaints. ….

Teachers said they are extremely frustrated because they have no control over their futures. Even senior teachers are losing their classrooms this year. In some cases, a fourth grade teacher is assigned to teach first grade because the certification is the same. That teacher, however, might love fourth grade and have little interest in teaching 6-year-olds. In other cases, teachers are bumped from schools where they have worked for years because of the bumping process.

Not only is the teacher’s life disrupted, but, if enough teachers are transferred, the entire teaching culture is undermined.

“This is not in the best interest of the School Department or the teachers,” said Tracy Carcamo from Lima Annex Elementary School. “Now, you’re looking at teachers who have to do something they don’t want to do. We have to find a better way of doing this.”

“Talk about morale,” said Thomas Morra, a science teacher at Mount Pleasant High School. “How can you keep quality people if every year you keep laying them off? There is no continuity.”

Evans said he was as frustrated by the system as the teachers.

“I agree that the process stinks,” he said. “We are seeking to do things differently.”

We look forward to hearing more from Dr. Evans about how the Providence Public School Department will change contracts and PPSD procedures to end the massive and unnecessary layoffs, and subsequent reshuffling of teachers. We hope that the bill that we’ve submitted to the state legislature will help move this forward on the state level.

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Update: The website Kidoinfo is an excellent resource for Providence Parents. ESPEC Steering Committee member Jill Davidson has a very detailed post about the registration process here.

Tell your friends and neighbors who have small children!

Registration for Providence Public School Kindergarten begins, tomorrow, today February 27th, and continues through April 12th. Registration is in alphabetical order, by the child’s last name. A’s register Feb. 27 & 28th, B’s register Feb. 29 & Mar. 3, and so on. Children must have been born on or before September 1, 2003

Registration takes place at the Parent Information & Student Registration Center 650 Prairie Avenue Providence, RI 02905. For more information call 401.456.1702

Elementary schools will hold open houses March 3-7.

The Official School Department page with registration information is here.

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RIPEC Report on Education Spending

The Rhode Island Public Expenditure Council has released its 2008 report on education spending in Rhode Island. Among the highlights are the following:

• “Rhode Island continues to depend more heavily on property taxes to finance education than the rest of New England and the country”. Over 60 percent of education revenues came from local sources in 2007 while nationally, the figure is 43.5 percent. In 1997 Rhode Island ranked 12th in our level of reliance on property taxes vs. state funding. In 2007, we ranked 2nd.

• “In 1997, Rhode Island ranked 7th highest for per pupil expenditures; in 2007 the State was
ranked 9th highest”.

• “Rhode Island ranked 16th highest in the country for current education expenditures per $1,000 of personal income in 2006-07 and 18th highest in 1996-97. Connecticut and Massachusetts also rose in the national rankings, from 31st to 30th highest, and 38th to 25th highest, respectively”. The main reason for this difference is the lower levels of income in Rhode Island.

A story on the report is in today’s Providence Journal.

You can download the report here (PDF)

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East Side Monthly Education Column

Sam Zurier’s most recent column, In the February issue of the East Side Monthly, discusses the authority of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) to intervene at the district and school level, as was done at Hope High School.  He notes that RIDE  has recently directed attention toward peformance issues in middle schools. Sam concludes:

In short, the Board of Regents and RIDE have considerable authority on paper to override the policies of the Providence School Board and the contract with the Providence Teachers Union. To date, they have used these powers only sparingly, based on limited resources and a sense of self-restraint. If Providence cannot gain enough flexibility for reform in the new teachers’ contract (which, at the time I am writing this column, is still pending) to advance sufficiently on its own, there may be an opportunity for RIDE to come to the rescue in the future.

 Read the full article here

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Donnie Evans Speaks Up

Another link to a Providence Journal article. Superintendent Donnie Evans, under fire from several quarters, gave an extensive interview to the ProJo’s Linda Borg.

I offer the the article without comment, with one exception. Dr. Evans said,

“I need to be hearing from parents, teachers and principals in a less formal way,” Evans said. “People are right when they say that I and my staff need to communicate more directly with the public.”

This is clear encouragement for citizens, especially parents with children already in the public schools, to communicate directly with the School Department about what we want and need from our public schools. ESPEC hopes to continue to be one vehicle for that communication.

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Keeping our Children’s Schools Safe

As we approach the start of construction work at Nathan Bishop, we have been relieved to learn from the City that there are no significant environmental concerns about the site. There are no underground storage tanks or other issues that would suggest that the site is in any way hazardous to students who attend. Remediation of any dangerous materials inside the building, such as asbestos, will take place this Spring.

Other schools are not so fortunate. Some constructed on hazardous waste sites and are experiencing unfortunate consequences.

A new bill (H-7577), introduced in the RI House with bi-partisan support, would prevent the construction of schools on contaminated land. Sponsors include Segal, Diaz, Moffitt, McNamara, & Slater. As the discussion over on Rhode Island’s Future indicates, the bill may have problems that need to be ironed out as it goes forward. Still, it is good to know that this important issue is being addressed.

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In the Metro section of today’s Providence Journal, Linda Borg reports on anti-bumping legislation which has been drafted by ESPEC’s Sam Zurier and submitted by the ESPEC Steering Committee to House Majority Leader Gordon Fox and Senator Rhoda Perry. In addition to discussing the bill itself, the story reports that state Commissioner of Education Peter McWalters and the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education have been looking at issues of bumping and teacher evaluation. According to the story, “Yesterday, McWalters said the state Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education has asked him to explore the issue of seniority and bumping. McWalters said he will invite the teachers unions to discuss how to create a better system for handling layoffs and job fairs.”… “Seniority has a role in the hiring and firing of teachers, [McWalters] said, but it shouldn’t be the only or the most important factor. ”

Bill proposed to dump seniority bumping
Friday, February 22, 2008
By Linda Borg

Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — The East Side Public Education Coalition has submitted proposed legislation that would repeal a 1946 state law that prevents school districts from laying off teachers purely on the basis of seniority.

The proposal has been sent to Rep. Gordon Fox, D-Providence, House majority leader, and Sen. Rhoda Perry, D-Providence, who will review the language with attorneys and consult with the state Department of Education. Sam Zurier said the East Side parents’ group decided to tackle the issue after it came up last summer at a forum on public education at the Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School.

At that gathering, several parents expressed dismay that highly respected teachers were “bumped” from their schools because they lacked seniority. Two weeks ago, more than 600 Providence teachers received pink slips, even though only 66 positions will be eliminated. The disparity results from a complex process in which the most senior person bumps or displaces someone with less seniority and so on down the line. Adding to the complexity, districts have to factor in which teachers have the right certificates to teach a specific subject at a specific grade level.
(more…)

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