Ed commissioner will visit Mass., convene community groups for Prov. schools takeover

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green is planning to take a field trip to Massachusetts as part of her efforts to turnaround the Providence Public Schools.

Infante-Green officially took state control of the beleaguered school district on Friday, finalizing a legal process that took several months to complete.

She said there would not be immediate changes, as she works to form a five-year “turnaround plan” that will guide the district to improvement.

“This is not going to be easy, and it’s not going to change overnight,” Infante-Green said. “Don’t come and ask me next month, ‘are the schools different?’ That’s not how this works.”

Infante-Green told reporters Friday morning she would travel with a group to visit Massachusetts, which is often touted for having some of the best public schools in the country. The field trip will include visiting Lawrence, where the school district was put under state control in 2011.

“We need to go see different places so we can see what that looks like,” Infante-Green said.

There’s no update on the timeline for hiring a new Providence superintendent, who will report directly to Infante-Green. Interim Superintendent Fran Gallo is staying on in the meantime.

Infante-Green said there may be some reorganization of the central administrative office, and said she would be “holding people accountable to what they are hired to do.”

“I think there’s a lot of concerns, fear, people are a little worried,” Infante-Green said. “If you’re doing your job, you’re okay.”

Some personnel changes were made immediately, including replacing district spokesperson Emily Martineau with Laura Hart. Infante-Green’s spokesperson Meg Geoghegan said the staffing decisions were made by Gallo over the past week, and the commissioner plans to make more changes in the coming weeks.

She met with principals before school Friday, and said she set expectations including that people be installed in the front offices of schools who speak “the language of the community.” She said the people could be volunteer parents, or the district could hire multilingual employees.

New “community design groups” are also being planned to help write the turnaround plan. RIDE is accepting nominations for community members who want to be a part of the teams.

Community involvement was a major point of contention during the process of writing the schools takeover order. Parent and student groups wanted a guarantee that they would have a formal role in the plan. Infante-Green denied their legal motion to intervene in the process, but promised they would have an integral role.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

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