PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence Public School District has a new temporary leader who is taking the helm of the struggling district for the start of the school year.
Dr. Frances Gallo, the former Central Falls superintendent, was appointed by the Providence School Board as interim superintendent Wednesday night. She officially starts Thursday, though she said she has been volunteering for the district for the past few weeks ahead of her expected appointment.
Gallo came out of retirement for the post, and said she expects to stay for only 90 days. Rhode Island’s education commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, is planning to take state control of the school district and install her own superintendent sometime this fall.
State law also only allows retirees to work for 90 full days per school year or their pension benefits can be suspended. Gallo replaces Dorothy Smith, who was filling in as acting superintendent after former superintendent Chris Maher left his post at the end of the school year.
While Gallo’s tenure as superintendent will be short, she will hold the role during the first day of school, after a full summer of discussion and debate about what to do in the wake of the Johns Hopkins report that painted a dire picture of the schools back in June.
“I’m going to turn the place upside down,” Gallo told reporters.
Gallo said she will “capitalize” on the moment as so many people call for change.
“We will demonstrate and really exhibit to the public servant leadership,” Gallo said. “Every child matters. We serve them.”
During the first two weeks of the school year, Gallo said she is planning to dispatch most of the district’s central office employees to the schools, where they will greet students and help out with anything from lunch duties to recess.
“This is about really building a family,” she said. “There shouldn’t be anyone here who doesn’t enjoy coming to work.”
Mayor Jorge Elorza said in a statement that he was “excited” for Gallo to take the helm.
“Dr. Gallo joins a team of committed individuals seeking meaningful and impactful change in the Providence Public School District and represents the priorities of our community during this time of transition: student-centered processes, robust community engagement, and sustainable investments for long-term success,” Elorza said. “Dr. Gallo’s leadership will be critical in moving our city’s schools forward.”
Gallo said she is not interested in coming out of retirement to apply for the permanent superintendent role.
Infante-Green hasn’t said when she will name that person, but she is expected to come out with a preliminary order to take over the school district in the coming days.