PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Providence Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez said collaboration is needed to turn the state-controlled school district around.

“We can only do this if we’re doing it together,” Montañez said. “We have to do it together.”

The city’s schools have been under a state control since 2019. The R.I. Department of Education (RIDE) released a Turnaround Action Plan (TAP) in June 2020 with detailed goals, metrics and benchmarks for Providence Public Schools.

Montañez, a former teacher and principal, was named interim superintendent last spring, until RIDE made it permanent in April. He said RIDE’s plan is his “North Star” in leading the district to success.

One of the goals Montañez hopes to achieve is closing the achievement gap.

“We start to develop professional development for our building administrators, our teachers, our staff, to make sure everyone’s prepared and have the tools that they need to support students in the classroom so they can be successful,” the superintendent said.

But Montañez said teaching and learning can’t happen unless both students and staff are in school.

Combating absenteeism and chronic absenteeism, a problem that escalated during the pandemic, is another goal for the superintendent.

Montañez said an attendance team will work year-round to make connections with kids and families to let them know they care.

“It takes a village to make sure that we meet the needs of our students so they can be successful,” Montañez said. “At the end of the day, that’s what it’s about.”

Montañez said creating an environment that’s not only inviting, but also safe, is another major and ongoing goal.

According to a TAP summer progress report, the district conducted about $7 million dollars worth of building improvements this summer.

Montañez said almost $300,000 was spent on upgrading exterior doors of school buildings.

“We have a new system that’s going into George J. West, and we also have one at Green Elementary, where if someone leaves a door propped open, it rings in the main office and alerts in the main office that a certain door’s open,” the superintendent said of the pilot program.

Montañez said there are still some safety precautions in schools related to COVID-19, including having air purifiers in classrooms and testing kits on hand if students show symptoms.

“We want to make sure that let everyone know that we’re doing all we can to make sure that this is a safe place for students and teachers and and staff,” he added.

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