As mother nature prepares to come crashing down upon our heads, it is becoming evident that something is rotten in the city of Providence.
A great deal has happened over the past few months. All of our teachers were fired, and then many were rehired. We reported in February that Superintendent Brady assured parents that teacher reassignments would be made according to the criterion-based interview hiring process. See:
We reported in May that the Providence School Board would rehire teachers following a process which utilized a Matching event followed by Criterion based hiring (CBH). See:
This appeared to be a step in the right direction. While CBH has imperfections, it would have eliminated seniority as the overriding factor in appointing teachers, and would have also eliminated the now annual, pernicious, bumping process which often led to the loss of excellent junior teachers. CBH was also a response to Commissioner Gist’s order to eliminate seniority as the sole determinant (coupled with appropriate certification) of deciding which teacher might receive a given position. Note that no one believes that seniority is unimportant. We all value our excellent senior teachers, and do believe that seniority should be taken into consideration as part of a placement process. We are dismayed though by the ongoing retention of ineffective tenured and senior teachers in our school system.
We have since lost one Superintendent and gained another.
In July, a back-room, last minute bill submitted by Paul Jabour essentially stripped the Providence School Board of its power to ratify labor contracts. See:
Shortly after, our School Board president, Kathleen Crain, resigned. See:
Her resignation reflected her disappointment over the direction the Mayor was taking PTU contract negotiations, and his decision to effectively exclude the School Board from discussions about the collective bargaining agreement.
Our Mayor negotiated a contract which was ratified by the union 2 weeks ago:
That contract guaranteed that every fired teacher would be returned to this district. This comes after 5 schools were closed, and teachers were fired, purportedly to deal with declining enrollment, inefficient utilization of school buildings, and to help our ailing economy.
So what else have we learned?
First, that the Providence School Board (now being loaded with new Mayoral appointees who did not participate in the usual community vetting/public question and answer sessions), just voted to endorse the proposal to open up to 5 new Mayoral Academies (Charter Schools):
The West Side Public Education Coalition (WSPEC), representing the community most adversely impacted by the school closings, has publicly denounced this decision, and notes that supporting Charter Schools could mean as much as $12.5 million less would be available to children attending Providence Public schools.
Second, we just learned that the Mayor’s office, while touting the savings engendered by all of the new municipal workers’ contracts, failed to mention that the new teacher’s contract contained 2 three percent raises in later years:
The Mayor’s office also touted the fact that the school day was to be lengthened, and common planning time is no longer to come out of the school day. The school day lengthening only amounts to an increase of 5″ per day per year! While we welcome the “fix” to the common planning time fiasco, we have yet to learn when common planning time will occur.
Third, we have heard from reliable sources that teachers have been assigned (force-placed) in positions at Vartan Gregorian, Martin Luther King, and Nathan Bishop Middle School around and outside of the Criterion Based Hiring process. Some of the placements may have occurred even after a teacher was identified via CBH. This would appear to violate the Commissioner’s order and RIDE’s BEP.
In our February post, we supported Mayor Taveras’ concept of transformational reform. Reform was supposed to right-size schools, provide the best teacher and the right teacher for every classroom, and help deal with our “category 5” financial crisis. What we are seeing now looks like something taken from Mayor Cianci’s “Politics and Pasta”: back-room deals, fiscal decisions made for political expediency, the needs and desires of the PTU put before those of our children.
Now as we are all facing a true, hopefully no more than, category 1 storm, we call upon the Mayor, his aides, the Providence School Board, and the Providence Teacher’s Union to re-earn our trust. Decisions need to be made in a transparent fashion. Decisions need to be made in the best interests of our students, first and foremost. Letters are being written. Protests are being organized. We will not allow the needs of our students to be sacrificed.