Rhode Island is taking control of the troubled Providence district on Nov. 1.

Rhode Island takeover of Providence district will begin Nov. 1

Oct. 15, 2019
State officials step in after report spells out dysfunction and mismanagement in the school system.

The takeover by Rhode Island of the Providence school district will begin Nov. 1, last at least five years and permit more input from students, families and other community members.

The Providence Journal reports that State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green has released her final order, which delineates the sweeping authority she will have 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 local school board as well as any authority over the schools exercised by the mayor and the city council. The commissioner may delegate this power to a turnaround superintendent. However, Infante-Green will retain final decision-making authority.

Infante-Green says she will announce the name of a next turnaround superintendent shortly.

The final order says that the commissioner is committed to significant community involvement.

At a hearing last month, three members of the Providence City Council contended that Infante-Green’s draft order failed to provide enough community engagement.

According to the order, the commissioner or the turnaround superintendent will evaluate the plan every year in consultation with the school board.

In the commissioner’s draft order, the takeover plan was supposed to be in effect for 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 needed a systemic transformation. The researchers reported many buildings iin desperate need of needing, and operations hindered by layers of bureaucracy, demoralized staff and chronically high rates of absenteeism among students and teachers.

In her order, Infante-Green makes a case that the takeover is necessary.

Despite an increase of more than $40.7 million in state funding over the past five years, the district continues to struggle. Student achievement has remained “unacceptably low." Fewer than two out of every 10 students scored "proficient" in math or English on the 2018 Rhode Island Comprehensive Assessment System test.

Interim Providence School Superintendent Fran Gallo issued a statement after the final report was issued.

“When I returned to Providence Public Schools, it was with the understanding that the district was on the precipice of great transformation,” said 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.”

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