Fixing The Broken - Doing What's Necessary

As the old saying goes, some times you have to break eggs in order to make and omelet. And so it is sometimes when one is trying to fix a broken educational system, clearing away that which does not work and starting fresh.

The Central Falls, Rhode Island school system has been grossly underperforming for years, with 50% of the high school students failing and a graduation rate of under 50%. The school superintendent decided she had to do something about it.

Her plan calls for teachers at a local high school to work 25 minutes longer per day, each lunch with students once in a while, and help with tutoring. The teachers' union has refused to accept these apparently onerous demands.

The teachers at the high school make $70,000-$78,000, as compared to a median income in the town of $22,000.

The school superintendent has responded to the union's stubbornness by firing every teacher and administrator at the school.

When the teachers and administrators refused to be part of the solution, they proved they were part of the problem. It then became necessary to deal with the problem. The superintendent did just that in the most effective and dramatic fashion, sending the message “Lead, follow, or get out of the way.” Since the union decided to neither lead or follow - to do nothing - which was an unacceptable solution, the superintendent decided they needed to get out of the way.

Sometimes the best way to stir things up is to do the unexpected, in this case getting rid of the obstructionists and starting with a clean slate.

Under threat of losing their jobs if they didn’t go along with extra work for not a lot of extra pay, the Central Falls Teachers’ Union refused Friday morning to accept a reform plan for one of the worst-performing high schools in the state.

After learning of the union’s position, School Supt. Frances Gallo notified the state that she was switching to an alternative she was hoping to avoid: firing the entire staff at Central Falls High School. In total, about 100 teachers, administrators and assistants will lose their jobs.

Like unions across the nation have been finding out, calling a bluff these days has more often than not meant they have found themselves on the unemployment line. And so it was this time too.

Let's hope that the people and the governmental leaders of Central Falls will stand behind the school superintendent's decision and let her rebuild the school system into something that actually serves the children as it should.