PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — With graduation ceremonies looming, Providence school officials are racing to reprint diplomas following the recent ouster of the superintendent.
Diplomas that had already been printed with the name of former Superintendent Harrison Peters emblazoned on them will not be given to graduates of Providence’s nine high schools next week, spokesperson Audrey Lucas confirmed.
Initially, the district was planning to send new diplomas — without Peters’ name — to students over the summer. But Friday afternoon Lucas said they would try to print new diplomas over the weekend at the Providence Career and Technical Academy, one of the high schools, rather than ordering a new batch from private vendor Herff Jones.
“PPSD is working with PCTA to print diplomas in-house for our graduating seniors,” Lucas said. “We anticipate having them ready for students to pick up next week. Any that are not picked up next week will be mailed.”
The graduation ceremonies are scheduled to begin on Monday at Conley Stadium, with the last ceremony on Friday night. Students were already slated to receive empty diploma covers at the ceremonies with the actual certificate arriving in the mail.
The number of graduates walking the stage next week was not immediately available, but enrollment data shows 1,680 12th-graders were attending Providence Public Schools in the fall of 2020.
The soon-to-be-tossed diplomas cost taxpayers $2,300, Lucas said. It was not clear how much it will cost to reprint the diplomas in-house.
Parents started expressing disappointment this week when word spread about the diploma issue.
“I’m very upset it will be delayed,” remarked Courtney Washington, the mother of a graduating senior at E-Cubed Academy. “Who thought it would trickle down to you couldn’t get your diploma because of someone making a bad decision.”
Peters resigned on May 21 amid a controversy where he acknowledged hiring Dr. Olayinka Alege as a top district official even after he found out Alege had been accused of inappropriately touching students’ feet in Florida more than a decade ago.
Less than a year after his arrival in Providence, Alege was arrested and accused of forcibly rubbing an underage boy’s foot at a Warwick gym. He has pleaded not guilty to the crime and resigned from his job.
Calls mounted for Peters to also resign after he acknowledged knowing about the Florida allegations and failing to disclose them to the hiring committee or to Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, his boss.
Infante-Green asked for Peters’ resignation earlier this month. RIDE struck a nearly $170,000 severance deal with Peters to get him to leave, arguing it avoided costly litigation if he had to be fired.
“I cried many a night with this situation with Harrison,” Infante-Green said at a meeting of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Thursday night. “What happened with Harrison doesn’t hurt anyone as much as it hurts me. He made a mistake and jeopardized me.”
Infante-Green and Gov. Dan McKee are aiming to get a new superintendent hired by the start of the next school year. The Providence schools are controlled by the state following a legal intervention in 2019.
An interim superintendent is expected to be appointed in the meantime, but a pick for the job has not yet been named.