PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence School Board has elected one of its brand new members, Erlin Rogel, as president.

Rogel, who joined the board this month after being appointed by Mayor Brett Smiley and confirmed by the City Council, was previously the chief of staff to Superintendent Javier Montañez.

Rogel is also a graduate of Providence public schools and has taught in the school system. He currently works for Lt. Gov. Sabina Matos as a senior advisor.

The vote was 8-0 to elect Rogel, who replaces Kinzel Thomas as president. Thomas stepped down from the board when his term ended on Jan. 31.

The board also elected Travis Escobar as vice president, and re-elected Mark Santow, the board’s longest-serving member, as secretary. (Escobar was not present at the meeting.)

“I’m a kid from Providence,” Rogel said in brief remarks after the election. “I’ve taken these buses, I’ve sat in these desks, and I’ve also taught in front of their classrooms.”

“I’m very honored to be in this position and very humbled by the support of my colleagues,” Rogel continued.

While the vote was unanimous, two board members expressed concerns about the new leadership.

“I am going to hold the new leadership team accountable making sure that you guys are on the ground, doing the work, showing up to community meetings,” said Ty’Relle Stephens, who had considered running for leadership but did not garner enough support.

Rogel is one of four new members who joined the board for their first meeting Wednesday night, all appointed by Smiley last month and subsequently confirmed by the council. Toni Akin, George Matouk and Carolina Roberts-Santana are the other three new members.

While Rogel, Matouk and Akin were appointed to three-year terms ending in 2026, it’s unclear what will happen to the nine School Board seats when the board converts to a half-elected, half-appointed ten-member board in January 2025.

Providence voters approved the new type of School Board last year, setting the first election for November 2024. Five members will be elected, while five will continue to be appointed by the mayor.

A city spokesperson said it’s not yet clear which seats will be converted to elected seats, and whether members whose terms are not yet up would need to seek reappointment or run for office.

“There are many unanswered questions around implementation and how it affects the terms of current members, which is why the mayor has previously expressed his opposition to this proposal,” said Patricia Socarras, spokesperson for Smiley.

The board doesn’t currently hold any power over the district due to the state takeover of the city’s schools, which started in 2019. But the takeover could end next year, giving the current board members back their power over the budget, hiring and policies in the public school system.

Montañez, who underwent a surgery in the fall, was not present at the meeting. His current chief of staff, Scott Sutherland, said the superintendent is still recuperating.

A spokesperson did not immediately respond to a question about when the superintendent is returning.

Parents and teachers from the Alan Shawn Feinstein at Broad Street school, one of two schools slated for closure this spring, demonstrated at the board meeting. The community members from the school in Washington Park have been protesting the school’s closure since it was announced in December, despite taking no public input beforehand.

Members of the Teamsters Local 251 union representing the city’s First Student school bus drivers also picketed at the meeting, threatening a possible strike if a new contract isn’t settled.

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.