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State Education Commissioner faces an uncertain future as teacher unions fight to replace her

May 21, 2013 by

CRANSTON, R.I. – Educators from across the state will have the opportunity to voice their opinions regarding the renewal of Education Commissioner Deborah Gist’s contract.

The state’s teachers have organized a public forum to take place on Monday. Gist, whose contract is up in June, has been Education Commissioner since 2009.

A recent poll by the state’s leading teachers unions revealed that 85 percent of public school teachers believe Gist’s contract should not be renewed, according to

“For too long Commissioner Gist has spoken of her support among classroom teachers,” Frank Flynn, president of the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Professionals, said in a statement. “We decided to put that notion to an independent test.

“This survey found that she is not supported by classroom teachers. In fact, there is overwhelming evidence that her leadership is almost universally rejected.”

Gist, who will deliver her State of Education speech Tuesday, has been a polarizing figure in education circles, garnering criticism from teachers and praise from education reformers.

Since beginning her career in education as an elementary school teacher in Texas, and later in Florida, Gist has spearheaded a number of education initiatives – most notably, increasing accountability for teachers and principals.

Gist made headlines last February after she threatened legal action against any school that assigns teachers based on seniority.

In a letter written to the Rhode Island Board of Education, more than 20 local associations and organizations expressed support for Gist, arguing that she brought a “renewed sense of urgency” to the state’s public education system, according to the news site.

“Commissioner Gist has a track record of developing a rigorous, reliable and transparent education system,” the letter reads. “If granted the opportunity, our associations and organizations are confident she will continue to lead our state towards a brighter future, in which education and the economy can grow together.”

Board of Education Chairwoman Eva Marie Mancuso indicated the state is in negotiations with Gist.

“We have no search out there. We are working right now to work with Commissioner Gist on extending her contract,” Mancuso told the news site in April.

via State Education Commissioner faces an uncertain future as teacher unions fight to replace her – :: Education Research, Reporting, Analysis and Commentary.

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