Providence Teachers Union Chief Reacts to Staffing Order

By Stephen Sawchuk — March 19, 2009 1 min read

I recently wrote a story on the staffing situation in Providence, R.I. The state commissioner, Peter McWalters, has directed district officials to override the collective bargaining agreement and to staff open positions through a criterion-based hiring process, rather than teachers’ seniority perferences (see here for the story and here for some background).

The head of the Providence Teachers Union, Steven Smith, wasn’t able to comment at press time, but I got a chance to speak with him earlier this week. Not surprisingly, he’s unimpressed by the directive. For instance, it ignores the turnover within the rank of school principals and administrators, he asserted.

"[T]hey have had complete control of staffing at the administrative level, principals and vice principals,” he told me. “I can’t even fathom how many building changes have occurred in the past seven to eight years. ... You have this merry-go-round of principals and now you want them to pick their staff?”

Smith said his union isn’t conceptually opposed to schools having more autonomy over hiring, but teachers should be included in the staff-selection process and he hopes that will be included as the district provides more details on the criterion-based staffing. “That’s something we’d be much more agreeable to,” he said.

He said the directive also ignored other issues in the district such as school safety and an escalating number of incidents of unruly behavior in the schools.

Smith also sounded piqued that the order also contains a “staffing stability” requirement for schools to keep a teacher facing a layoff within that school to serve as the designated substitute teacher. The proposal was initially the union’s idea, he contended.

“I should really sue McWalters and the district for plagiarism,” he said.

A version of this news article first appeared in the Teacher Beat blog.

Let us know what you think!

We’re looking for feedback on our new site to make sure we continue to provide you the best experience.


This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Future of Work Webinar
Digital Literacy Strategies to Promote Equity
Our new world has only increased our students’ dependence on technology. This makes digital literacy no longer a “nice to have” but a “need to have.” How do we ensure that every student can navigate
Content provided by
Mathematics Online Summit Teaching Math in a Pandemic
Attend this online summit to ask questions about how COVID-19 has affected achievement, instruction, assessment, and engagement in math.
School & District Management Webinar Examining the Evidence: Catching Kids Up at a Distance
As districts, schools, and families navigate a new normal following the abrupt end of in-person schooling this spring, students’ learning opportunities vary enormously across the nation. Access to devices and broadband internet and a secure

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Speech Therapists
Lancaster, PA, US
Lancaster Lebanon IU 13
Elementary Teacher
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools
Elementary Teacher - Scholars Academy
Madison, Wisconsin
One City Schools

Read Next

Education Obituary In Memory of Michele Molnar, EdWeek Market Brief Writer and Editor
EdWeek Market Brief Associate Editor Michele Molnar, who was instrumental in launching the publication, succumbed to cancer.
5 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: December 9, 2020
Here's a look at some recent Education Week articles you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of articles from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read
Education Briefly Stated Briefly Stated: Stories You May Have Missed
A collection of stories from the previous week that you may have missed.
8 min read