Hundreds of teachers speak out against RI education commissioner - ABC6 - Providence, RI and New Bedford, MA News, Weather

Hundreds of teachers speak out against RI education commissioner

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By: Melissa Toupin

Their opinion's are strong, and Monday night teachers from around the state didn't hold back. Nearly 600 disgruntled educators packed into the auditorium at Cranston High School West to talk about Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist's job performance.

"In the 30 years I've been teaching I've never seen such chaos and such stress on teachers' parts," said Steven Pickering, a physical education teacher at Burrillville Middle School.

The meeting comes on the heels of a recent survey which shows that 85% of teachers do not want to see Gist's contract renewed. One of the union's biggest gripes is graduation requirements, and in particular the NECAP test.

"There have been constant changes in policies and concerns about the new evaluation process; Especially how teachers are rated," said Valerie Lawson of East Providence High School.

The commissioners contract is set to expire on June 7th. The released a statement to ABC6 saying in part, "I cannot and do not base my decisions on public outcry or popular opinion..." Instead Gist says she bases decisions on what is the student's best interest.

Recently two dozen local businesses signed a letter to the Governor and Education Board stating their support for the commissioner.

"If kids are graduating and they don't have the right credentials, or they are not at the right standard level it might put us in a determent as far as where we are to hiring them or how much training we might need to give them," said Bob Nangle, Chairman of the Rhode Island Manufacturing Association.

Parents we spoke to feel caught in the middle. They just want to make sure their children are getting the best education possible.

"There has to be a standardized way of testing them, so apparently this is their measure," said Tabatha Cimerol whose two daughters attend the North Smithfield Public Schools.

Commissioner Gist is taking the feedback from the Union meeting head on. Following the meeting she took to her Twitter account to say she is looking forward to reading the transcript from the event saying she plans to respond.

The teacher's testimony will be brought before the Board of Education Thursday.

Meanwhile, students have invited Gist to participate in a public debate about the states new controversial diploma system.

(C) WLNE-TV 2013


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