EAST PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Congressman David Cicilline – the former two-term mayor of Providence – said city leaders past and present owe students and parents an apology in the wake of a devastating schools report.
Cicilline, who served as mayor from 2003 to 2011, said he felt his administration made progress on the schools, but “nowhere near” the benchmark they needed to hit.
“I think all the adults in the system from me on owe the children an apology,” Cicilline said on a taping of WPRI 12’s Newsmakers. “We have a whole generation of kids who have lost opportunities because of the quality of the system.”
Last month, a report conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy found “deep, systemic dysfunctions” inside the capital city’s K-12 schools.
“This has been a challenge in urban places, for Providence, for a very long time,” Cicilline said. “But this report, more than anything I have ever seen, is a call to action for all of us.”
On Friday, new R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said she plans to use a 1997 law to take some level of control over Providence public schools. Cicilline said he is meeting with the commissioner in the coming weeks to share his experiences as the city’s chief executive, and to see if there is a role the federal delegation can play.
“We can’t rely on this great new commissioner to be the savior. This is a community, it is a collective responsibility; everybody has to play a role,” Cicilline said. “We all have a vested interest in the success of students in Providence.”
The 93-page report was also critical of the teachers’ contract, which administrators told the researchers made it difficult to hire the best teachers and fire ones that were not performing well.
Cicilline said he did find the collective bargaining agreement posed “some limitations on the system.”
“You have to have a contract that allows you to support great teachers, to give professional development to emerging great teachers,” Cicilline said. “And to get rid of teachers who aren’t getting the job done.”
“You want contracts that provide that opportunity,” he said.
Steph Machado contributed to this report.