As parents whose children attend and who are committed to Providence public schools, we wish to express sympathy with our teachers in this time of uncertainty. We understand teachers’ anxiety upon receiving dismissal notices effective at the end of this school year. We value our children’s teachers and we respect teachers’ rights to belong to a union and to engage in collective bargaining.
As parents who are also taxpayers, we wish to express our understanding for Mayor Taveras and his administration, for Superintendent Brady, and for the Providence School Board members who are grappling with a $40 million school department budget shortfall and whom we believe have not taken this action lightly.
We understand that 1,926 teachers have not been fired, nor will they all be fired. We understand that the notices to dismiss are effective as of the end of the school year. We understand that the vast majority of the dismissals will be rescinded once the school budget has been completed.
We respectfully urge all of our teachers to maintain their professionalism in this challenging period so that the best conditions for teaching and learning in the classroom can be upheld. We urge that adults discuss and resolve these issues in a civil manner outside of the classroom in a way that models for our children the way we would wish them to behave.
We agree with Mayor Taveras that transformational reform is required to significantly raise the quality of education in Providence. We face severe budget constraints and hard choices. Everything is on the table, from teacher terminations to school closings. We ask that every budget decision prioritize students’ educational needs.
To this end, while we respect seniority and believe it should be one consideration in hiring and firing decisions, we oppose teacher lay-offs, terminations and reassignments based solely on the basis of seniority, which leads to “bumping.” We are heartened by reassurances given by Superintendent Brady at his meeting of 2.24.11 with the Providence Parents Advisory Council that teacher reassignments will be made according to the criterion-based interview hiring policy.
We urge that in the event of school closings, the integrity of school communities be honored as much as possible and that students are redistributed to other schools in a way that respects each school building’s capacity and the resources of the building. We do not wish to see class size increased beyond the current limit of 26 students.
We recognize that the budget-making process is broken. We urge the Rhode Island General Assembly to amend the state law (Section 16-13-6 (b)) mandating that teachers be notified by March 1 of each year that their contracts may not be renewed the following school year. The school department budget is not finalized until July or August, and teacher salaries and benefits comprise 85% of the Providence school department’s budget. We urge the General Assembly to bring the notice to notify teachers that their contracts may not be renewed in line with the budget submission deadline, perhaps aiming for both processes to occur by May or June of each year.
While we face a difficult future, we remain heartened by the commitment, dedication, and integrity of parents, teachers, administrators, policy makers, and elected officials in their resolve to find a fiscally responsible, equitable, and fair solution to this crisis that ensures that our students learn and thrive in the highest quality schools.