Providence superintendent asked by state education commissioner to resign

PROVIDENCE, RI (WLNE) – Rhode Island Department of Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green has asked Providence Public Schools Superintendent Harrison Peters to resign, according to a spokesperson.

The commissioner’s request comes amid growing calls for Peters’ resignation from both state lawmakers and the Providence Teachers Union over his hiring of former Providence Schools Administrator Olayinka Alege.

Court records show Alege was charged with simple assault and battery by the Warwick Police Department on April 20 after he gave a forced foot massage to a minor at a gym. The charges were filed on May 10.

Before working in Providence, Alege worked for Hillsborough County Public Schools in Tampa where students complained about Alege’s “unusual” punishments.

According to a report from the South Florida Sun-Sentinel in 2009, five boys told deputies that then-assistant principal Alege asked them on numerous occasions to take off a shoe and sock behind closed doors, and allow him to ‘pop’ their toes.

On Monday the Senate Oversight Committee grilled Peters over his hiring of Alege who previously worked under Peters in Tampa.

“I put my trust in someone, and that trust was betrayed,” said Peters during the Monday hearing. “I called the references and again, based on information I received I felt we made the right decision. Clearly, I was wrong.”

Following the commissioner asking Peters to resign, Governor Dan McKee’s office said it was the right thing to do.

“As the Governor said yesterday, we must do what is best for the students. Asking for the superintendent’s resignation was the right thing to do,” a spokesperson for Governor Dan McKee said Wednesday.

Soon after, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza also called for Peters to resign.

In a virtual call with reporters, Elorza said he’d spoken with Peters several times over the last day but he did not say if he’ll be resigning.

“We need new leadership in the district. This whole situation has been extremely and incredibly disturbing. It’s not just this, but we also have to call attention to the slow pace of the turnaround,” Elorza said on the call.

He said the state turnaround of Providence schools is starting to look like the failed takeover of Central Falls schools.

Elorza said he’d like to see the state invoke the Crowley Act, reform the teachers’ contract, and then hand the reigns back over to Providence to lead the public schools.

“It should’ve been done a year ago,” Elorza said.

Peters has not responded to requests for comment. A spokesperson for RIDE said the commissioner was unavailable for an interview Wednesday.

A school board meeting is set for Wednesday at 6:30 p.m. where the board will discuss Peters’ performance. School board president Nick Hemond said the meeting will happen whether or not Peters shows up.

Hemond said he would have fired Peters last summer when these allegations came to light, but said the board was ‘brushed aside’ during the state takeover. He said he doesn’t agree with the mayor that control should be given back to the city.

“I don’t think it’s time to turn it back over to the city. I do think it’s time…so much of our time has been spent on negotiations of the contract and this battle on finances and things along those lines, really what I have learned through this is our problems are more in governance,” Hemond said. “The board kind of just advised the superintendent, advised the mayor, advised the council and that structure doesn’t work. To just give it back to the same structure, then it was all a waste of time.

“What I think we should spend some time focusing on is, what does the new governing structure look like? Once we have that in place, whether it’s by agreement or by legislation, then you can start talking about bringing it back to the district. But just to give it back to the system that didn’t work, and I say that as a person who’s tried within that system to make it work, then it was a waste of time.”

© WLNE-TV 2021

Categories: News, Providence, Rhode Island