PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence School Board plans to put forward the name of former Central Falls Superintendent Frances Gallo for the job of interim superintendent, board chairman Nick Hemond confirmed Tuesday.
The board, in collaboration with Democratic Mayor Jorge Elorza, interviewed five candidates for the interim job after the recent departure of former Superintendent Chris Maher.
Hemond said the board would vote at a special meeting, which has not yet been scheduled, to authorize contract negotiations with Gallo.
“Dr. Gallo’s decades of experience, spanning service as a teacher to the highest levels of district administration, make her an incredibly qualified candidate,” Elorza said in a statement. “We have a lot of work do to provide our students’ the high-quality education they deserve and Dr. Gallo’s leadership will be critical moving forward.”
If appointed, Gallo would take the reins of the school department during a tumultuous time. State education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green next week is slated to announce plans involving some type of state intervention in light of the devastating Johns Hopkins report conducted last month. She held several public forums on the report over the last several weeks.
Hemond said the intention is for Gallo to stay in the position for a full school year, but acknowledged it’s unclear what actions might be taken with regards to the superintendent job in the event the state intervenes.
“I’m hoping that my experience will hold true and that I can come [into the role] with a sense of that experience,” Gallo said in a telephone interview with WPRI 12.
Gallo, who is 69, was the superintendent of the Central Falls School District for eight years until she retired in 2015. She made waves in 2010 after announcing that all 88 teachers at Central Falls High School would be laid off as part of a “turnaround” plan for the low-performing school district. The district later reached a deal with the union to rehire the teachers.
“There was quite a bit of trouble in Central Falls,” Gallo said. “Certainly, I had issues trying to get us to agree on a transformation … once we got on the road, I think things were very good and cordial. They certainly ended that way… We were able to make long strides into professional development and curriculum building.”
Gallo said any change to Providence schools is going to take a long time. In the short time she could possibly serve as interim superintendent, Gallo said she hopes to build a strong foundation for the future.
“It is a daunting task, but I think the report shows certainly that this isn’t a single job,” she said. “It’s a multi-faceted job for a great plethora of individuals. The state and the city will come together, will work together, and will step forward for positive change and transparency.”
“I think everybody needs to have a voice,” she continued. “It’s imperative I put on my listening ears and try to establish a climate of respect, where kindness and encouragement will be consistently understood.”
Dorothy Smith was appointed as the Providence schools acting superintendent beginning earlier this month but told WPRI 12 she did not apply for the interim position.