Embattled Education Commission Deborah Gist will keep her job in Rhode Island, but the Board of Education offered her a two year contract instead of the three year deal she was seeking. Both labor and management can claim some victory this morning.
“It’s a new day for education in Rhode Island,” said Board Chairwoman Eva Mancuso after the meeting.
Going forward, Gist will be given performance reviews. But this isn’t something the new Board instituted last night as a result of the public outcry against Gist. This is something Gist asked for in her initial contract that the old board never did. In other words, while Deborah Gist was holding teachers accountable, Rhode Island wasn’t holding her accountable.
After weeks of watching Rhode Island teachers speak out about Gist, her reforms and her management style, it seems as if both Gist and the Board now want this as much as educators and activists.
“It’s more of a statement going forward that we all need to work together, and that means going in a room and rolling up our sleeves as we did tonight,” Mancuso said after the meeting.
The meeting lasted four hours and about half of it happened in executive session. Executive session means a public body can meet outside the view of the public, but the conference room at CCRI where the meeting was held had a glass wall, and many reporters, teachers, activists and RIDE employees could see the very animated executive session playing out before their eyes.
“We were loud at times, we discussed it, people had very strong opinions,” Mancuso said. She said the Board may revisit either the NECAP test as a graduation requirement or the statewide performance review in the near future.
Pat Crowley told me yesterday, “If the board votes to renew the contract, we want to make it clear tonight isn’t the end of a campaign.”
It shouldn’t be the end of a campaign, and that’s a good thing. To my mind, a very great thing happened for public education in Rhode Island because teachers spoke out and managed up.