PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The state takeover of Providence schools was front and center on Smith Hill Wednesday night, with the Senate Oversight Committee seeking an update from the district.
The vast majority of the conversation revolved around the city’s teacher vacancies.
“I think it was the day before school started, we had how many resignations? Twenty-eight,” R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said. “The Friday before school starts. That poses a challenge for the district. It poses a challenge for the rest of the staff that’s in the building.”
As of Wednesday, the district was lacking permanent teachers for 106 classrooms throughout the city’s 29 schools. The schools with the most teacher vacancies include Mount Pleasant High School, which needs 12 teachers, followed by DelSesto Middle School, which is missing seven teachers.
The vacancies account for approximately 6% of the district’s classrooms. The departments with the most vacancies, according to the district, include special education and human resources.
Sen. Lou DiPalma, chairman of the Senate Oversight Committee, argued that student performance is directly tied to consistency in the classroom.
“A student’s education is the only thing that you really have to measure,” he said. “That’s all driven primarily, I think first and foremost, by their parents or family members, but critical is their teachers.”
District leaders explained that they remain focused on not just recruiting new teachers, but also retaining current staff through financial incentives and workforce development programs.
“Many of our students have encountered disappointment and failure through their educational experience,” Chief of Staff Scott Sutherland said. “If the over-age, under credited program had not given them alternative options, then most likely they would have dropped out. This program is a lifeline.”
DiPalma has repeatedly called for an independent investigation into the accusations.