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Theodore Roosevelt College & Career Academy

'A' grade costs were too much for EdisonLearning's Roosevelt

Contributed By:The 411 News

Unprotected school teachers and school workers are cost centers to close down

There were no WARN notices to the 25 staff dismissed from Roosevelt College and Career Academy right before the Thanksgiving break. In 1988, the U.S. Congress enacted the Worker Adjustment and Retraining Notification Act. The labor law protects employees, their families, and communities by requiring most employers with 100 or more employees to provide 60-day-advance notification of plant closings and mass layoffs of employees.

Roosevelt itself didn’t qualify, although EdisonLearning, the company that operates the school has thousands of employees across the U.S.

Roosevelt employees didn’t belong to a union because Indiana allows employment “at will.” That means workers can be dismissed for any reason and without warning, as long as the reason is not illegal, such as firing because of an employee's race or religion.

The staff dismissals came two days after EdisonLearning announced Roosevelt had earned an ‘A’ on the 2017-18 Indiana School Accountability report card, a first for the school in the history of the state’s accountability system that was established in 1999.

Those 25 workers – an assistant principal, 17 teachers, teaching and administrative support staff – started the work day on November 16. They were told to collect their personal items, leave the building within an hour, and their health benefits would end at midnight. Grades 7 through 12 lost math, reading, English, science, social studies, and business teachers.

Chelonda Ray, a 5-year Roosevelt teacher and one of the dismissed, said it had been a time of jubilation that only lasted a day or two. The state released its accountability report on November 14.

When EdisonLearning took control of Roosevelt in 2012, the school had 6 prior years of ‘F.’ That failing score continued until the 2016-17 report card, when the grade moved up to a ‘D.’

The layoffs won’t affect learning, EdisonLearning spokesman Michael Serpe told the NW Times. “In fact, they are designed to enhance the continued successful progress at the school.” Serpe said the layoffs came as a result of low enrollment numbers.

Ray described learning in the 2018-19 school year as already on the decline. “There were no buses for summer school students. Saturday school has been cancelled. We no longer have after school tutoring.” For after school activities and sports team practices, she said, students have to provide their own transportation.

Roosevelt lost students soon after school started, Ray said, because of a dispute with the Gary Community School Corp. “They wanted EdisonLearning to pay for Roosevelt students attending the Career Center for cosmetology, welding, certified nursing, and other programs. So EdisonLearning pulled them out. Our students who wanted to stay in those programs transferred to West Side.”

Ray taught 12th grade math. “I had 15-16 students in each period, except the last period of the day had 25 students. Now, with the layoffs, class sizes are being doubled to 30 and more students.”

Ray said she’s seen layoffs at Roosevelt. “Then, administration spoke to employees individually; they were handled fairer. They were told if they could use sick or vacation time.”

“After all the work we did to improve students’ behaviors with their peers, increase teacher-student relations, and reduce suspensions. It’s the first time I’ve seen treatment like this at Edison. I don’t like the way this was done,” she said.

Ray said she spoke briefly with Tom Jackson, EdisonLearning’s CEO after the layoffs. “He’s always been open,” she said. His response to her was only, “I heard there were enrollment issues.”

As a turnaround school, Roosevelt is assessed on growth and not on strict academic performance. It gained points for catching students up to levels of proficiencies, improving student achievements, and getting students ready for further levels of growth.

EdisonLearning is a for-profit education management company operating public schools, with earnings coming from student enrollments.

“If Roosevelt didn’t have enough students, the enrollment manager should’ve been laid off,” said Chanita Moody, a laid off staff member.

Moody said she came to Roosevelt in October 2016 as an “avid high school tutor. Shortly, I was made a substitute.” For the next 2 years, she was the assigned teacher in the reading recovery lab for 7-8 graders in the Junior Academy, but this year the lab didn’t open. “Those kids aren’t getting the services they need,” she said.

“I was never evaluated. This year, I’ve been substituting in the junior and high schools,” Moody said. She added, “Roosevelt laid off the staff that got them to the ‘A’ grade and kept people with less experience.”

Story Posted:12/02/2018

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