PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The president of the Providence School Board is leaving his position when his term expires at the end of January.
Kinzel Thomas, who has been on the board since 2017, confirmed Tuesday he did not submit his name for consideration to renew his appointment to the School Board by Monday evening’s deadline. His term expires Jan. 31.
Thomas said his decision is unrelated to recent tensions between the board and the state-controlled school department.
“I recently received a promotion at my job at Family Service of Rhode Island and it requires more of my attention and time,” Thomas told Target 12. “I wish my colleagues on the board well, and I know they’ll continue to serve.”
Thomas, who was appointed to the School Board by Mayor Jorge Elorza in 2017 and reappointed in 2020, was elected board president last year following the resignation of former president Nick Hemond.
“It’s been just a complete honor to serve on the School Board for the only city I’ve ever lived in, servicing the only School Department I’ve ever attended,” Thomas added.
Thomas was among those who criticized the school district last week for failing to notify the public about plans to close multiple Providence schools. The proposal was never brought before the School Board, which serves in an advisory role under the state takeover, before a final decision was made.
“There’s no easy way to inform students, to inform parents, to inform faculty about your school closing,” Thomas said on Wednesday. “But the manner in which the information was conveyed is inexcusable.”
The board has also had several tense meetings recently following an anonymous letter submitted to the board about an alleged hostile work environment in the district’s central office.
An heir-apparent to Thomas is not immediately clear. The vice-chair Diagneris Garcia has already announced she plans to resign from the board. The board secretary, Mark Santow, said he hasn’t thought about running for the job yet.
Ty’Relle Stephens, one of the most outspoken members of the board, confirmed Tuesday he is considering throwing his hat in the ring for a leadership role.
Mayor-elect Brett Smiley will be responsible for filling a number of vacant seats on the board, which currently only has an advisory role after being stripped of its powers under the state’s intervention into the city school district. In addition to Thomas and Garcia, board member Elizabeth Goldberg resigned earlier this year to move out of state, and her seat remains vacant.
Jesus Nuñez is the only other board member whose term is expiring in January. He confirmed Tuesday he has applied to be re-appointed.
While the School Board is racially diverse, there will be no women left on the board after Garcia’s resignation.
In all, 26 people submitted applications by Monday’s deadline, and must attend a public forum on Thursday before the School Board Nominating Commission to be considered. (The full list of applicants is below.)
The nominating commission will submit recommendations to Smiley.
The vacancies will be filled at a time of transition for the Providence School Board. The state takeover of the school district is currently scheduled to end in 2024 — though it can be extended — meaning the board could regain control of the schools in the coming years.
Voters also amended the city’s charter in last month’s election, creating a new partially-elected School Board of 10 members. Half of the board’s members will be elected by voters in 2024, while the other half will continue to be appointed by the mayor.
As of now, all nine members of the board are appointed by the mayor and confirmed by the City Council.
In addition to Nuñez, the following people submitted applications to be members of the Providence School Board, according to Elorza’s office:
Diego Tomas Arene-Morley