kitchen table math, the sequel: effigy

Friday, March 19, 2010


Superintendent Frances Gallo combed the classrooms of embattled Central Falls High School. Teachers and students were gone for the day. Gallo was hunting for a particular item: an effigy of President Obama.

She hoped the rumor of its existence wasn't true.

Gallo had fired all the high school teachers just a month earlier, igniting an educational maelstrom in Rhode Island's smallest and poorest community while winning praise from the president.


In this Democratic stronghold, teachers wondered: How could the president they supported turn his back on them? Some peeled Obama bumper stickers off their cars.

Gallo knew Obama's endorsement would create further uproar. She just didn't know how bad it would get.

She continued making her way through the school, clearing the first two floors. She was disheartened by the newspaper postings but relieved she hadn't found the offensive item.

One floor to go.

She climbed the steps and entered a classroom.

There it was.

"You couldn't miss it."

An Obama doll, about a foot tall, hung by its feet from the white board; the doll held a sign that said, "Fire Central Falls teachers," she says.

Recounting her discovery later, Gallo broke down in tears. A flood of emotions poured out, the raw toll of all that has transpired in recent weeks.

When she confronted the teacher responsible, she says he responded that it was "a joke to him."

The teachers, she says, have "no idea the harm they're doing." She thought of Obama's words: Students get only one shot at an education.

"I've tried to explain this over and over again: The children here are very disturbed by the actions of their teachers, and they're torn apart because they also love them."

Decision makes schools chief loathed and loved
by Wayne Drash
CNN March 18, 2010


SteveH said...

Front page news in our area. It's sad. Then again, we have some in our town who seem more than willing to blame the students, parents, society, and just not having enough money for the schools.

Linda said...

I'm not sure that I would call this "hanging in effigy", which implies hanging by the neck. Hanging someone (actual, not in effigy) by the heels, out of a window, was called "defenestration" and I think was practiced in universities in Austria-Hungary in the pre-WWII era and before.

rocky said...

She fires all the teachers a month before, and then breaks down in tears when she finds an Obama doll? Interesting.

I guess she was expecting all of them to go away cheerfully whistling "Bridge on the River Kwai".

Catherine Johnson said...

I find this appalling in every conceivable way.

Linda - I know what you mean about 'hanging in effigy' (I had the same reaction) - but this is what an effigy is, and it's deeply disrespectful. It doesn't matter who you voted for; Barack Obama is the president. Period. Teachers inside the classroom should show respect for the office.

I find the upside down doll with the plackard threatening, too, though maybe that's just me.

This reminds me of the year when the school nurse had the "George Bush as Curious George" picture hung on the entrance wall to her office, where every single child coming in would pass within a foot of it.

I've always kicked myself for being too timid to ask the principal to have it removed.

The 2nd time something along those lines occurred (with the kids, not with staff), I did raise the issue with the principal.

I'll add that this is one area where I think my district, at least in grades K-8 (I don't know enough about the high school to say), is doing a fantastic job. They seem committed to **not** bringing party politics into class. Other parents have told me the same.

I was amazed on election eve. A teacher had her 5th grade students reading essays about the election. Now, generally speaking, I prefer teachers not give such assignments because in fact what you're assigning is: Write a paper about who your parents are voting for.

In a politically homogeneous town like this one, I don't like that.

Nevertheless, while the Obama papers dominated, there were a significant number of McCain papers --- AND virtually every child said something like, "No matter who wins, this will be a historic election." Every child expressed respect for the other side.

That was obviously thanks to the teacher who had done a terrific job teaching civics: teaching respect for the country and its political institutions.

It was great.

Catherine Johnson said...

I'm pretty sure every child said something positive about the candidate his folks weren't voting for -- which was amazing in this day and age.

le radical galoisien said...

wait did she fire them for striking?