Valley Breeze

The Valley Breeze & Observer 07-03-2019

The Valley Breeze Newspapers serving the Northern Rhode Island towns of Cumberland, Lincoln, Woonsocket, Smithfield, North Smithfield, Pawtucket, North Providence, Scituate, Foster, and Glocester

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10 OPINION JULY 3-10, 2019 | VALLEY BREEZE & OBSERVER | SMITHFIELD SCITUATE FOSTER GLOCESTER EDITION Key findings by the Johns Hopkins School of Education's Institute for Education Policy are enough to make anyone concerned with education blanche. The report on the Providence School System concluded that the school culture in the capital city is broken. The great majority of school children are not learning at or even near grade level, parents feel shut out of their children's education, and teachers feel demoralized and unsupported. Almost immediately, the blame game among constitu- encies reared its ugly head. The reality, however, is that everyone is to blame with differing degrees of respon- sibility. Virtually all adults interviewed stated that the collective bargaining agree- ment is the heart of the problem. Indeed, it is. A little over a year ago, in February 2018, Providence Journal reporter Linda Borg noted that the then-superintendent of schools announced a five- year plan where he hoped to cut teacher absenteeism from 58 percent to 54 per- cent. In effect, this means that nearly 6 out of 10 hired teachers are out of the class- room for 11 or more days. It is little wonder that the Johns Hopkins team found very little engaged teaching/ learning in the classrooms. Students weren't "show- ing up" either since the classrooms were in constant flux. In the present contract, teachers can be out on 15 sick days with a total of 150 days at full pay after being in the system for five years. Excuses from a physician are not needed until after 4 consecutive days. The school teaching force is loaded with substitutes. The report found that a thicket of bureaucracy makes it difficult to know who is in charge or, indeed, who is in the school to teach that day. Throw in the fact that the school days must end no later than 3:30 p.m. (elementary) or 4:30 p.m. (high school), it is extremely difficult to engage parents in the joint venture of educat- ing their children. So, now that another study is completed what is the response? At a press confer- ence Gov. Gina Raimondo and Mayor Jorge Elorza talked tough but essen- tially punked out of any real reform. The system needs to be taken over by the state. Period. What is particularly pathetic is that the findings in 2019 were already pre- saged in a 1993 "blue rib- bon report." Back then – 26 years ago! – the study docu- mented that Providence school children spent far fewer hours in school than in their peer cities. In 1993 the panel found that the teacher's "working day and school year " had to be lengthened if teaching goals were to be met. The report called for a redesign from top to bottom. After a simi- lar "weeping and gnashing of teeth," nothing fundamen- tally changed. Apparently, we will all be reading in another 25 years a similar dire report as today's politicians lack any guts to challenge the terms of the collective bargaining agreement. All taxpayers should be outraged. Make no mistake about it, you pay now or you pay more later. As it is, your pocket is picked already through the alloca- tions made by the General Assembly. Isn't it past time to do the right thing by the students in Providence, many of whom are behind the eight-ball already because of poverty? Stop the cheap rhetoric, state and local leaders. The reforms are all laid out. Get to it! Violet is an attorney and for- mer state attorney general. Circular firing squad begins I wonder how long politi- cal and educational officials think Rhode Islanders will give them to clean up the mess in Providence schools? Reported The Providence Journal June 26, "Students in the Providence public schools aren't learning much, bullying and fighting are rampant, bad teachers are nearly impossible to fire, and a thicket of bureaucracy makes it difficult to know who's in charge." Said new state Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green, "It is heart- breaking to see how dysfunc- tional the school system is." No, Ms. Infante-Green, it's not "heartbreaking." That's too touchy-feely a word. It's infuriating. It's maddening. It's sickening. On the matter of unionized teachers being almost impos- sible to fire, it was reported that one teacher was "final- ly" put on administrative leave for "repeated inappro- priate contact with children." That teacher is still paid, of course. And bad teach- ers are "reshuffled … They just make the rounds each year," said one principal. It's amazing to me that every- one hates on the Catholic Church for doing this 50 years ago, but nobody has much to say about this in Providence schools today. Maybe priests should join the union. When teachers told researchers of "no backup for discipline issues," their stories pointed to the much deeper rot of parents who complain loudly about the perceived "rights" of their misbehaving children, and back them no matter what. When school administrators cede control of classrooms to threatening, pain-in-the- neck parents, and teachers are not backed up, nobody should be looking for a good outcome. There is none. No amount of money will fix terrible parenting. And, of course, "there is no student accountabil- ity," reported one teacher. Students are "cutting class, smoking weed in the bath- rooms, and there are no repercussions because the administrators have been told they can't suspend kids" so the numbers of students – counted by bureaucrats – looks good. And, I might add, probably so the tax money keeps flowing. That seems to be Job #1. Gov. Gina Raimondo, a Providence resident, and Mayor Jorge Elorza have been in office for five years, and all of this fight- ing in schools, "impossible to fire" lousy teachers, and unschooled children didn't begin last year. Providence schools cost a fortune, and suburban residents are forced to aid this chaotic swamp, money that could be spent on their own children. Add to that a Raimondo/ Elorza "Sanctuary State" pol- icy that welcomes and pro- tects non-citizens to (mostly) Providence, and all the associated costs that come – costs we cannot afford – and you begin to understand the magnitude of the problem. Our nation's border remains open, after all. Children are still coming, and welcomed by Raimondo, Elorza, and others. The cost to educate them, and the difficulty in integrating them, is irrel- evant to these people. Here is where we are. We have imported a Third World educational system to our capital city. Providence schools are in one hell of a mess, and further studies, "more money," and goodwill won't fix it. I'm no expert, but good teachers com- plain of "multiple layers of bureaucracy" slowing them down. If Providence wants good schools, they ought to fire the bureaucrats (Yes, also impossible, I'm sure), let teachers teach, and give them backup with trouble- some kids. Let principals run the schools. (I can dream, can't I?) I wish our new educa- tion commissioner luck in reversing the catastrophe that has been placed on her doorstep. If she doesn't, this toxicity in Providence will surely spread to surrounding communities. Ward is publisher of The Valley Breeze No 'sanctuary' for kids in Providence schools From the Publisher TOM WARD Poli-Ticks ARLENE VIOLET Founded in 1956 by The Burgess Family Volume LXIV, Number 18 July 3, 2019 valleybreeze.com @ Observer THE VALLEY BREEZE & ABOUT US The Valley Breeze Newspapers are a locally operated group of free weekly newspapers serving the people of Cumberland, Lincoln, North Smithfield, Woonsocket, Smithfield, Scituate, Foster, Glocester, North Providence, Pawtucket, R.I., and Blackstone, Mass. Each Thursday, 58,500+ copies are distributed to retailers, banks, offices, and restaurants and other busy spots. Circulation is audited by the Circulation Verification Council of St. Louis, Mo. and has earned its "Gold Standard Award." OUR MISSION It is the Mission of The Valley Breeze to facilitate a positive sense of community among the res- idents of Northern Rhode Island by providing a forum for the free exchange of ideas, and to provide information of local events and neighbors. It is our further Mission to provide the highest quality advertising at the lowest possible cost to retailers, professionals, tradespersons, and other service providers in order to enhance the economic well-being of our community. Thomas V. Ward, Publisher tward@valleybreeze.com James Quinn, Deputy Publisher jquinn@valleybreeze.com Ethan Shorey, Managing Editor ethan@valleybreeze.com Barbara Phinney, Controller accounting@valleybreeze.com

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