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