The Lookout

Providence teachers in speed date-like interview process

Liz Goodwin
The Lookout

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Teachers protest mass layoff notices in March: AP

In March, we wrote about how Providence, Rhode Island school officials sent pink slips to all 2,000 district teachers, warning them they may be laid off.

Now, NPR explains that the 400 Providence teachers who were eventually left without jobs for next year--many because administrators closed their schools due to budget constraints--are fighting for fewer than 300 open spots in city schools. Instead of a traditional application process, with lengthy individual interviews, cover letters, letters of recommendation, and all the other trappings of a job hunt, teachers were corralled into a middle school gym last week and given 15 minutes each to impress individual principals.

Some teachers waited in lines for more than an hour for their brief interview, according to the Providence Journal.

Margaret Madoian told NPR she compiled binders full of teaching materials from her decades as an elementary school teacher to bring, in case she had time to show a principal her work. Sixth grade teacher Ed Jirmin said he thought the process was "demeaning" to the profession.

"We certainly recognize that teachers are not interchangeable," said district spokeswoman Christina O'Reilly. "They are not widgets. They're people, and they're professionals." The district says the open process will have a better chance of correctly matching teachers with principals.

A computer system will try to match teachers' and principals' preferences after the brief interviews. Teachers who still don't have a job at the end of the process can apply to teach at some of the worst-performing schools in the state, according to the Providence Journal. The lucky teachers who managed to get hired will start in the fall.

Providence teachers have protested since the layoff notices first went out in March, arguing that the city needs to spend more money on public education. Earlier this month, a small group of teachers graded papers in a local mall over the weekend, to raise awareness about the long hours they put in after school gets out.

The city's mayor Angel Taveras said he was forced to close five schools and dismiss about 25 percent of the city's teachers because of the $110 million budget shortfall he's facing next year. But teachers are also angry that Taveras is allowing five Achievement First charter schools to open up in the area. The schools will serve nearly 2,000 kids and are partly funded by private foundation money. Union members argued in a rally last week that they will siphon off public money from the city's already hurting public schools.

(Providence teachers rally outside City Hall in March after 2,000 layoff notices were sent out: Stew Milne/AP)

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