Providence School Board won’t oppose state takeover of schools

Providence

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — The Providence School Board has decided not to fight the state education commissioner’s plan to take control of the city’s school district, though its members do plan to make a “wish list” for the commissioner to consider.

The vote by the board came around 10 p.m. Wednesday night after a lengthy executive session behind closed doors.

School Board Vice President Nina Pande said the board members debated in the private session whether or not to contest the state takeover, and ultimately decided to ask legal counsel to draft a resolution of “non-opposition.”

Even though the discussion about the state takeover was posted on the agenda as part of the public meeting, Pande said it was discussed in executive session because it pertained to possible litigation.

R.I. Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green has been leading the charge to take state control of the Providence schools in the wake of the scathing Johns Hopkins report. She has already submitted a preliminary order to effectively strip the School Board of its existing powers and put them in the hands of the state.

Infante-Green is holding a show cause hearing on Sept. 13 where four parties will be able to voice opposition to her plan: the School Board, the City Council, Mayor Jorge Elorza and interim Superintendent Frances Gallo.

Pande said the board will present its list of recommendations to the commissioner at that hearing, but will not oppose her plan. Those recommendations have not yet been drafted.

While the legal process of taking over the troubled district is ongoing, Providence students head back to school on Tuesday with the district still in the hands of the city.

Gallo said at Wednesday’s meeting that all of the buildings will be clean and ready to open in time, though she acknowledged cleaning will continue this week and even into the weekend ahead of the first day.

“They’ll be open, they’ll be clean, they’ll be welcoming for children,” Gallo told reporters.

Infante-Green said earlier this week that her team had inspected all of the schools last week and she was “disappointed” with some buildings, though she did not elaborate on which ones.

In response, Gallo said, “If you come to my home during spring cleaning and you come the first day I start, it looks a little different than the way it ends.”

Gallo said she was “worried” last week about the Frank D. Spaziano School cafeteria being ready in time, but said Wednesday that work in the school is on track to be finished.

She also said custodial company Aramark has “stepped up to the plate” during the summer cleaning process.

Gallo, who came out of retirement Aug. 1 to be interim superintendent and is only expected to stay for 90 days, said earlier this month the schools would be free of rodents by the start of school.

Asked for an update Wednesday, Gallo said there was one rodent reported to her the other day, and it was handled by exterminators. She said she was confident the rodents were gone.

“We’ve had the exterminators present, we’ve taken every precaution and if we’re true to form, we’ll be clear,” she said.

Meanwhile, Providence’s schools crisis continues to draw national attention. Late Wednesday, The Wall Street Journal published a scathing editorial — its second one about Providence in recent weeks — criticizing Elorza for his position on charter schools.

Steph Machado (smachado@wpri.com) covers Providence, politics and more for WPRI 12. Follow her on Twitter and on Facebook

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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