Mass Termination in Rhode Island: Lessons for New Hampshire

As reported in the Providence Journal, the first two options were not feasible. Since the city has only one high school, closure was not possible. And taking over a failing school is not something charter or management organizations often want to take on. Originally, the teachers agreed to the third option, which would have meant more training and more time spent in and out of the classroom. But the two sides could not agree on compensation and other issues, leading the superintendent to recommend firing everyone. While the unions are fighting the move, U.S. Education Secretary Arne Duncan said the district showed courage for doing the right thing for kids.

How can this affect New Hampshire? Could we see similar mass terminations? Education Secretary Duncan is now requiring states to identify their lowest 5 percent of performers and act using one of the four options. According to Ted Comstock, executive director of the New Hampshire School Boards Association, New Hampshire will be affected. “This is all tied to the federal Race to the Top program,” he says. “It can certainly change the landscape, but it’s too soon to tell how exactly things will shake out. We don’t fully know the rules yet.” Comstock explains that the original legislation did not have the third option, which is essentially local control and less draconian than the first or second options.

What other implications are there from a mass termination? Just because it is a federal mandate does not necessarily stop claims, grievances or trips to the New Hampshire Public Employee Labor Relations Board (PELRB). Districts could be faced with litigation and legal costs, which could eat up budgets that are already at minimal levels.

Many eyes will be focused on this case, as the implications and results could be far-reaching as well as close to home.

Jon Steiner is a former member of the Kearsarge (SAU #65) School Board, representing the Town of Bradford. He can be reached by phone at 800.852.3358 or by e-mail at
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