State takes over troubled Providence School District
PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WLNE) - The state has officially taken over control of the troubled Providence Public School District.
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green spoke to reporters on Friday morning, the first official day of the takeover.
"I start today with mixed feelings. It's not a great day when the state has to come in and intervene in a district."
The move has been months in the making ever since a scathing Johns Hopkins report on the condition of the schools was released in June.
Weeks of classroom visits and interviews with teachers, parents, and students revealed a broken school culture, with ineffective bureaucracy, unsupported teachers, and demoralized parents. The report found Providence Public Schools have among the lowest academic results of any urban school district in the U.S., with more than 93 percent of 8th graders unable to do grade-level math.
"If we are graduating our kids, and we know they can't read or write, I think that's criminal."
Infante-Green said she started the day Friday by meeting with principals about the possibilities that exist in the district, saying she sent a clear message that the environment inside schools must change. She said she expects all staff to be out front, greeting families, with staff in place who speak the language of the community.
"This is day one of a journey that we're embarking. We're calling this year zero, where we're gonna be working together to remove a lot of the barriers that exist here so that we can provide our students a world-class education," said Infante-Green.
She said it will be a while until results are seen from the five-year turnaround.
Infante-Green said she will be working to remove the hierarchy in the district and will be looking at the curriculum, and removing barriers for teachers who feel that their hands are tied.
"We need to remove all the barriers from teachers, from administrators, and those that do not want to be part of this journey have choices to make. Because at the end of the day, this is about the kids."
She will be starting a committee of "community design teams" that will work on the turnaround plan. The teams will include community members and parents.
During her meetings with principals, Infante-Green said they're nervous, but told them, "If you're doing your job, you're okay".
In her press conference on Friday, Infante-Green said there will be an immediate focus on 11th and 12th graders.
"We don't have enough time with them right now. But that's where my heart breaks the most."
She hopes to have a plan in place in the next few months going forward, starting with the 2020-2021 school year.
Through all of this, the district is still searching for a permanent superintendent. Doctor Fran Gallo is serving in the interim.
"It's not so much the job. I think Rhode Island pays a little less than other places so that becomes challenging, and there is a lot of moving parts to it," said Infante-Green.
Dr. Gallo, according to RIDE, has already made several staffing changes over the course of the past month, and in the last week or so started to inform the Commissioner of those decisions directly. Infante-Green said Friday that she will be taking a deeper look at the current structure of the district office, and she expects to be making decisions about possible shifts or changes in the weeks to come.
As part of the takeover, the Commissioner will be visiting other districts to inspire teachers and see how other communities are working. She said they'll visit Lawrence first, where the state took over in 2011.
Infante-Green is expected to meet with the teacher's union Friday afternoon.