School & District Management

State Takeover of Providence, R.I., Schools Starts Next Month

By Linda Borg, Providence State Journal — October 15, 2019 4 min read

The state takeover of the Providence public schools will begin Nov. 1, last at least five years and permit more input from students, families and other community members.

State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green on Tuesday morning released her final order, a lengthy document that gives her sweeping authority over the district’s budget, programs and personnel, and, if needed, allows her to reconstitute individual schools, which could include restructuring the schools’ governance, budget and staff.

Infante-Green will assume the powers now held by the superintendent and the School Board as well as any authority over the schools exercised by the mayor and the City Council. The commissioner can delegate this power to a turnaround superintendent. However, Infante-Green will retain final decision-making authority.

At a press briefing late Tuesday morning, Infante-Green said that she is poised to announce the name of the next turnaround superintendent in Providence shortly.

Her final order, the commissioner says she is committed to serious community involvement, saying she will “afford students and parents sufficient opportunity to measure the progress of the plan, [and] afford relevant stakeholders, including students and parents, sufficient mechanisms to express their opinion on material decisions.”

See Also: Total Dysfunction in Providence, R.I., Schools? Here’s Some Context You Need to Know

At a show-cause hearing last month, three members of the Providence City Council, speaking through their lawyer, argued that Infante-Green’s draft order failed to provide enough community engagement.

At the same hearing, several student groups and eight parents submitted a motion to become one of the parties that have status to support or oppose the commissioner’s takeover order. Infante-Green denied the motion.

According to the order, the commissioner or the turnaround superintendent will evaluate the plan every year in consultation with the School Board. The evaluation will be made public with a caveat: the commissioner contends that the evaluation is not a public record and said portions of the document may be withheld from public release.

In the commissioner’s draft order, the plan was supposed to last three years. The final order extends the duration to five years. The commissioner will then evaluate the progress of the plan with input from city and school leaders as well as students, families and community members.

The takeover, a first of its kind in Rhode Island, was prompted by a scathing report from Johns Hopkins University that concluded that the Providence schools were broken and needed a systemic transformation. The researchers reported buildings needing profound repairs, with operations hindered by layers of bureaucracy, demoralized staff and chronically high rates of absenteeism among students and teachers.

A subsequent report by the Council of Great City Schools reached similar conclusions.

In her order, Infante-Green builds a case for the takeover.

Despite an increase of more than $40.7 million in state funding over the past five years, the district continues to struggle, Infante-Green wrote in her order. Student achievement has remained “unacceptably low,” with fewer than two out of every 10 students scoring proficient in math or English on the 2018 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System test.

“As we begin the transformational changes needed in our schools, I remain committed to engaging our families and centering their voices to ensure long-lasting change,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza in a statement Tuesday. “We have always known that providing our students the 21st century education they deserve cannot be done alone. The strong collaboration we have built with the State and local stakeholders will continue to be the driving force behind what we have envisioned for PPSD. As we consider every option and engage every stakeholder, we will focus on developing sustainable changes that build bright futures for every Providence student.”

“When I returned to Providence Public Schools, it was with the understanding that the district was on the precipice of great transformation,” said interim Supt. Fran Gallo. “This order is a big step forward in the process of bringing about that change. Our children deserve the very best we can give them, and for too long, the resources available have not been enough. That has not been for lack of effort and is not the fault of any one individual or entity. I have seen wonderful things happening in Providence schools and believe we already have many of the tools needed for success: we have smart, resilient, engaged students who want to learn. We have dedicated teachers, principals and staff who cherish our students and are committed to creating a safe, welcoming learning environment. I am very hopeful that this action by the state will bring about the change needed to ensure that our schools have the resources they need to move our district forward.”

Related Tags:

Copyright (c) 2019, Providence State Journal. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency.

Events

This content is provided by our sponsor. It is not written by and does not necessarily reflect the views of Education Week's editorial staff.
Sponsor
Equity & Diversity Webinar
Culturally Relevant Pedagogy to Advance Educational Equity
Schools are welcoming students back into buildings for full-time in-person instruction in a few short weeks and now is the perfect time to take a hard look at both our practices and systems to build
Content provided by PowerMyLearning
Classroom Technology Webinar Making Big Technology Decisions: Advice for District Leaders, Principals, and Teachers
Educators at all levels make decisions that can have a huge impact on students. That’s especially true when it comes to the use of technology, which was activated like never before to help students learn
Professional Development Webinar Expand Digital Learning by Expanding Teacher Training
This discussion will examine how things have changed and offer guidance on smart, cost-effective ways to expand digital learning efforts and train teachers to maximize the use of new technologies for learning.

EdWeek Top School Jobs

Teacher Jobs
Search over ten thousand teaching jobs nationwide — elementary, middle, high school and more.
View Jobs
Principal Jobs
Find hundreds of jobs for principals, assistant principals, and other school leadership roles.
View Jobs
Administrator Jobs
Over a thousand district-level jobs: superintendents, directors, more.
View Jobs
Support Staff Jobs
Search thousands of jobs, from paraprofessionals to counselors and more.
View Jobs

Read Next

School & District Management 4 Ways to Keep Staff and Students Safe from the Delta Variant
Just as schools reopen, a super-contagious COVID-19 variant is infecting people nationwide at alarming rates. Here's what schools can do.
5 min read
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Students and parents walk into school on the first day of school at Enrique S. Camarena Elementary School on July 21, 2021, in Chula Vista, Calif.
Denis Poroy/AP
School & District Management A View From the Hot Seat: How One District Leader Is Confronting COVID-19's Latest Twists
An assistant superintendent in Texas talks about how to keep the pandemic in check for the new school year even as the Delta variant spreads.
9 min read
Jeanie Johnson, assistant superintendent for administration, is a kind of the air traffic controller in Midway ISD, absorbing the glut of information from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Texas education Agency, Tex. Gov. Greg Abbott, Waco-McLennan County, Public Health District and others, to help the Waco School District devise safety protocols and plans for students. She’s doing so amid rapidly changing and sometimes conflicting guidance. She talks about what she learned over the last year and that’s helping the school district prepare for the second COVID-19 school year.
Jeanie Johnson, assistant superintendent for administrative services, helps lead the COVID-19 response for the Midway Independent School District in Texas.
Eric Guel for Education Week
School & District Management Opinion Q&A Collections: Education Policy Issues
Posts on the key education policy issues from the past 10 years.
13 min read
Images shows colorful speech bubbles that say "Q," "&," and "A."
iStock/Getty
School & District Management Opinion Leaders, Your Communication Plan Needs to Start With Your Staff
Staff members are the point of contact for thousands of interactions with the public each day. They can’t be the last to know of changes.
Gladys I. Cruz
2 min read
A staff meeting around a table.
Vanessa Solis/Education Week and Getty Images