Forum rallies community in effort to improve Providence schools


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Efforts to improve Providence public schools are underway. The district has a new superintendent, and on Saturday the national president of the union representing teachers rallied hundreds of community members.

Teachers, community members, parents and students filled the auditorium of the Juanita Sanchez Educational Complex all in an effort to improve Providence public schools.

“I think it speaks to the fact that our teachers are truly ready to have conversations, build bridges and relationships,” Maribeth Calabro, president of the Providence Teachers Union said.

It was a rally for change across the board, as the Providence Teachers Union begins negotiations with the state in a particularly tumultuous time for the system.

In November, the state took over Providence public schools following a scathing report by Johns Hopkins researchers last summer. It found that overall not much learning was going on in a majority of classrooms visited.

Researchers were also critical of the teachers union saying people they interviewed called the collective bargaining agreement one of the most pressing problems for the schools.

“It had that in one or two pages and that’s become the narrative of the report. That is a blaming down. That somebody else is taking that narrative instead of looking at everything else that’s going on,” Randi Weingarten, President of the American Federation of Teachers said.

At Saturday’s forum, Randi Weingarten encouraged the community to think outside of the box and not just about finances when asking for changes to the contract.

“Everybody whose here volunteered to come here to come together as a convening to try to say, ‘What do we want for our kids in Providence?’ and then how do we use collective bargaining to get there?'” Weingarten said.

Calabro said the forum was a way to gether all ideas on how to improve learning, then get to work.

“We can’t ask for a million things. We need to prioritize what would be the most important and that could get us the most success in the urgent amount of time that we have,” Calabro said.

The union and the Department of Education have already exchanged letter saying they’re ready to begin the negotiation process, according to Calabro.

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