Education commissioner denies families legal role in state takeover
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) -- Fiona Russ is a Classical High School student nervous about the state takeover.
"I love going to school," she said. "It's my favorite place to be. It's where I feel safe. So the fact that I don't know what's going to happen to me and all my friends is a little bit scary."
That's why she and her mother, along with other parents and students packed a hearing and testified for hours, demanding a formal legal role in the state takeover of providence public schools.
One witness was Domingo Morel, a Rhode Island native who wrote a book on state takeovers called "Takeover: Race, Education, and American Democracy."
He dismissed concerns that bringing in students and parents would slow down the process.
"This is serving them, and it's a public education system," said Morel, now a professor at Rutgers University - Newark. "How can we have a public education system without the public being part of that?"
But fears about an excessive number of voices factored into Commissioner Angelica Infante–Green's ultimate decision to deny parents and students a formal legal role.
"We will move forward together," said the commissioner. "But we need to make the distinction of what we're doing at this hearing right now, as opposed to what will happen in the plan."
Some parents were outraged.
"To completely eliminate the community and the students and the population who are affected by this is just offensive to me," said parent Lelsey Bunnell.
But Infante-Green promised parents that she is committed to letting them participate, as she demonstrated with the community forums this past summer.
Yet some parents say they want that role to be legally protected.
"We can't just rely on the good will of our appointed or elected officials," said parent Daniel Rodriguez. "Rather, we need mechanisms. Because I think together - the data shows when the community is actively involved in this process that we can be successful."
Families tell ABC6 they are considering appealing the decision.