- The Washington Times - Monday, March 15, 2010

ANALYSIS/OPINION:

Heroes can and will emerge from the most unsuspecting places and make crucial decisions that can reverberate around the world.

Rhode Island schools Superintendent Frances Gallo boldly confronted the neglect of Central Falls High School students by pompous teachers and the Central Falls Teachers Union. Her challenge boldly illuminates the burden union and government jobs have on productivity and the overall quality of products that everyday Americans consume.

Ms. Gallo was willing to courageously glare at the shameless monster of one of the worst school districts in the nation — reporting 50 percent of students failing their classes and less than 50 percent graduating. She was willing to challenge recklessly negligent teachers who were facilitating the abysmal performance of their students with shameless apathy. In the end, all they cared about was their fat paychecks every two weeks and no concern for the dismal results of their students.

The continuing embarrassing situation became a desperate matter for Ms. Gallo in the Rhode Island public school system. The shameless teachers and administrators boasted an average salary of $72,000-$78,000 a year in a town where the average salary was only $22,000.

Thankfully, Ms. Gallo became fed up and demanded that student results become a priority for these hypocritical and selfish teachers and demanded six changes that she knew would turn around the unaccountability of that school. Those changes included: Being subjected to new standards of professional evaluations, adding 25 minutes to the workday, meeting with other professionals weekly for planning sessions, eating lunch with students one day a week, a two-week training session in the summer and tutoring, occasionally. All of which I am shocked were not a priority and demanded from these teachers in the first place.

The coldhearted and self-centered union showed no compassion or commitment to improve the condition of its members’ students. In fact, the union rejected and refused to enact any of Ms. Gallo’s recommendations. This is where Ms. Gallo’s conviction and commitment to the well-being of her students took precedence, and she fired nearly 100 teachers and administrators. Wow, thank you so much for your needed example of boldness!

Adding a little comedy to the scenario is the “deer in the headlights” response from a spokesman for the union, who claims that the union didn’t think Ms. Gallo had the authority to do such a thing. It is as though this union is so shocked that a manager could care so much about the quality of teaching that is being delivered to our children that she was willing to do something about it. Unions have become completely comfortable in their power to get whatever they want.

Apparently, there are teachers out there who suggest that they would be open to such changes; however, they would like the terms to be negotiated first. What a joke! If I may translate this: These teachers don’t mind doing the extra work as long as they maintain complete control and are heavily compensated for their duties. Since when did helping children succeed not become a part of a teacher’s job description? There is nothing outrageous about Ms. Gallo’s request.

Unfortunately, not all superintendents everywhere will be able to act as courageously as Ms. Gallo. Most are heavily bound by airtight contracts that prevent them from taking such action. In other words, if they want to do such a thing, they first will have to negotiate with the unions who use their collective-bargaining power to shut down any efforts to make teachers more accountable to our students. Ms. Gallo was able to escape solely due to a clause that allows management to step in, in only the worst of school districts.

In difficult economic times such as this, our country should look at the potential fiscal impact of such blatant selfishness. These teachers are paid by our government, which collects its revenues through us. Because of this, they should be held accountable to the students’ parents for delivering a quality product. If they aren’t, one must consider what happens to these children they so desperately failed. It is a well-known fact that high school dropouts on average make significantly less than a high school graduate. In addition, these students also rely more on government assistance than graduates. So, in essence, these unions’ irresponsibility is catching the American taxpayers coming and going.

There was a time when we as a country needed unions: Labor laws were loose, families were being exploited and people were faced to work in harmful conditions, among other things. However, now the state has stepped in to implement laws to protect workers. This should be the framework through which industries organize.

Across the board, we have seen what happens when an industry becomes protected by bureaucracy. There becomes a lack of competition and, therefore, the end product consumed is watered down to the point of not being drinkable. This is precisely what is happening to America and its school systems. We spend more money on education than any other country. However, on average, our children’s performance is still suffering in international competitiveness.

Why does it take so long for one person with courage and conviction to take an unprecedented and uncompromising stand against teachers union bosses who impede the education and progress of our schoolchildren across this nation? Nothing has eroded faster in this country than our primary public school system. This is only perpetuated by powerful and callous teachers unions who bully administrators into accepting their way of doing business. And they don’t just stop with the so-called powerful teachers union.

As Americans, we need to halt the push for unionized jobs. The people of our country deserve the best products and productivity. Thankfully, Ms. Gallo’s actions have been showcased brilliantly at a time when our country desperately needs more like her.

Please, superintendents everywhere, take note and get results!

“The Armstrong Williams Show” is broadcast on XM Satellite’s Power 169 channel from 9 to 10 p.m. weeknights.

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