PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The first of eight meetings scheduled following the release of a scathing report on Providence Public Schools was packed as parents voiced their concerns directly to education officials.
The review, conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy, sent researchers into 12 unnamed Providence schools and reported on devastating observations. Researchers interviewed dozens of people including teachers, administrators, parents, students, city councilors, school board members, the mayor and the superintendent.
Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said the forums are a chance for her to hear what parents are most concerned about. She stressed she is only interested in moving forward.
“Our buildings are crumbling, teachers and students do not feel safe in our schools. That’s what a broken system looks like,” she said.
Several parents spoke up at the meeting begging for change, saying officials can no longer say they didn’t realize what was going on in the city’s schools.
“Johns Hopkins had to come in here and be shocked and horrified to the point of tears about what they saw before we were called here,” one concern parent said.
“Now, no one can claim ignorance. The state now needs to take responsibility,” another concerned parent said.
From academics to discipline, the report describes the district as one that is struggling from top to bottom. Parents at the meeting brought up cell phone usage multiple times, reiterating how shocked they were about what the report uncovered.
In the report, one person told researchers, “…There’s no penalty for being on a phone. At least 10 phones out are in my class every day. They are Facetiming and watching Netflix in the classroom with no headphones.”
“Students vape in class and goof off on their cell phones,” parent Esther Howe said.
President of the Providence Teachers Union Maribeth Calabro said educators are well aware of the problem.
“I’m proud of teachers showing up here and I’m glad that they’re here because they want to hear what’s going on and they want us to do better,” Calabro said. “They want to be here for their kids.”
There are seven more meetings scheduled for parents to attend and voice their concerns. Infante-Green said people from both in and out of Providence are invited to attend the public forums.