Saturday, February 26, 2011

Providence Mayor, " we have a responsibility to balance our budget. We have a very difficult situation. It’s unprecedented."

Next door in Rhode Island, they have been hit pretty hard by the Recession....When Massachusetts had an unemployment rate of about 10% (with real unemployment at about 17% when you included underemployed), Rhode Island has an unemployment rate of 14% (real unemployment being about 22% for them), 2nd highest in the land except for Michigan.....Ouch!

The Mayor of Providence has had to move to much more drastic measures to get costs under control....The seniority system and how we employ Teachers does not allow us to keep the BEST Teachers, only those who have the highest seniority...That said, we also spend more per capita on students in the USA than any other country in the world and we only rate "Average" in the world for education.

The three-yearly OECD Programme for International Student Assessment (PISA) report, which compares the knowledge and skills of 15-year-olds in 70 countries around the world, ranked the United States 14th out of 34 OECD countries for reading skills, 17th for science and a below-average 25th for mathematics.

25th in MATH ?!?? Are you kidding me?? We need higher Math scores if we are to keep up with the other countries and continue to innovate.

So when people get irate at the idea of what the Providence Mayor is doing, I look at it and say it can't be that bad as the present system only reinforces lower performance for education....In this manner, the Providence Schools system will be able to keep the BEST teachers, not just the ones who have been there the longest.....

How long would you be employed at your job if year after year you were only rated as " average "....likely you would be out except in a public sector union where " average ' get reinforced.

NOW, we need to do the same for the ADMINISTRATORS as they are just as responsible for the low rating of our education system.....Send them packing too.

Providence teacher dismissals seen as blow to seniority system
01:00 AM EST on Saturday, February 26, 2011
By Linda Borg - Providence Journal Staff Writer

PROVIDENCE — No matter how you slice it, school experts say, the decision Thursday by the city School Board to notify teachers that they might be terminated at the end of the school year strikes at the heart of their union contract’s seniority system.

Mayor Angel Taveras says that the decision he recommended to the board is strictly about balancing the city and the School Department budgets. He says that termination will save money because teachers who are dismissed and not rehired will not end up in a substitute teaching pool.

But David V. Abbott, the state’s deputy education commissioner, said the difference between layoffs and dismissals is this: When a teacher is laid off under state statute, he or she is put on a recall list. Although that teacher is no longer working and no longer paid, that person exists in an employment “limbo.” The teacher hasn’t been actually dismissed.

If a job becomes available for which that teacher is qualified, that person must be rehired based on seniority.

“If you are laid off, you have the right of recall,” Abbott said Friday. “You still have one stick in your bundle. If I’m dismissed, I’m out of work and I need to be rehired.”

In effect, every teacher who is terminated has to reapply for his or her job as would any new teacher entering the system.

“It is a way to get around seniority,” said Tim Duffy, executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Committees. “In order to give the administration the flexibility to recall the teachers they need, they had to give out dismissal notices.”

But Duffy also says that the shift from layoffs to dismissal notices moves Providence — and Rhode Island — into “uncharted territory.”

Will the dismissed teachers be entitled to a hearing before losing their jobs? What will an appeals process look like? Will the district have to state why each teacher is being dismissed?

“Termination for fiscal reasons,” he said, “is different from termination for ‘we don’t like you’ reasons.”

Duffy says that the mayor, whose schools face a $40-million budget shortfall next year, doesn’t have a lot of choices.

“The mayor is looking into the abyss,” he says. “He doesn’t have any options. The biggest driver in the city’s budget is education. You have to take a look at personnel costs.”

The termination process, Duffy says, gives Taveras a chance to consolidate schools and match teachers to the needs in each school.

But Taveras dismisses the common perception among teachers that his decision was motivated by a desire to eliminate seniority-based hiring.

“Why did I do this?” he said. “Because we have a responsibility to balance our budget. We have a very difficult situation. It’s unprecedented. That’s why we have taken an unprecedented step, even though it has caused turmoil.”

Taveras says that the city will let teachers know whether they’ll be able to keep their jobs as soon as possible. He also says that the city will do everything it can to make sure that the terminations do not damage teachers’ careers.

“This is not about ruining anyone’s future prospects,” he says. “It’s about getting our budget under control.”

Further complicating matters, Providence recently changed the way it fills vacancies. Starting last fall, teachers are no longer chosen for openings based solely on seniority. They have to submit to an interview process, held by the school principal and a team of colleagues. In addition, they have to submit a model lesson plan and a writing sample.

The goal is to select the best person for each position, not simply hire the most senior person for the job.

And statewide, the situation gets still more complicated in the months to come. Many other school districts may be altering the use of seniority in assigning teachers.

State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist, in an October 2009 memo, informed districts that they can no longer base teacher assignments solely on seniority.

In a memo sent to school districts this week, Gist wrote that the state’s Basic Education Plan, which took effect July 1, 2010, “requires districts to recruit, hire and retain highly effective personnel based on student and district needs.”

“As I noted in my memo,” Gist wrote, “teacher assignments based solely on seniority cannot comply with this requirement. Under Rhode Island law, these are personnel-related considerations that must be used in the planning and implementation of a reduction in the teaching force for budgetary or program reasons.”

As teacher contracts come up for negotiation, districts will have to include new language that limits the role of seniority in hiring.

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