PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Dan McKee and Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced Tuesday Dr. Javier Montañez will be the new interim superintendent for the state controlled Providence Public School District.
Montañez replaces Harrison Peters, who was ousted as superintendent last month. A search for a permanent superintendent is expected to take place over the summer.
Montañez is the principal of Leviton Dual Language School and has worked in the district for more than two decades.
“I am humbled, honored and excited to serve the city in this way,” Montañez said at a news conference outside Mary Fogarty Elementary School. “I look forward to work ahead in the summer and make sure that every student has the opportunity to return to school in the fall.”
McKee and Infante-Green would not say if he will be considered for the permanent position, and Montañez also would not say yet whether he intends to apply. Montañez has a superintendent certification, according to Infante-Green.
The goal is to have the permanent superintendent in place before the start of the school year, McKee said. The job has not yet been posted, and details about the hiring process have not yet been finalized.
“It’s going to be an open and public process, and it’s going to include anyone and everyone who is interested,” McKee said. He noted that he preferred a local candidate for the interim job, and Infante-Green said selecting someone from within Providence would allow for some continuity.
The selection was swiftly praised by the head of the Providence Teachers Union, Maribeth Calabro. The union has been in contentious contract negotiations with the administration, and previously voted no confidence in both Peters and Infante-Green.
“He’s a phenomenal educator, he’s a phenomenal administrator,” Calabro said. “I’m just thinking that this is going to be a great, fresh new start.”
She said Montañez is highly respected by the rank-and-file teachers, and knows the name of every single student in his school.
Calabro said negotiations have been heading in a positive direction since McKee assigned Tony Alfonso to join the talks.
McKee gave no timeline for getting a new contract done, one of the major goals of the state takeover. The previous contract expired last August.
“I would’ve liked to have it done yesterday,” McKee said. “But we’re gonna work with the parties, and as you can see I’m certainly taking more of a role.”
A Providence native, Montañez was homeless at one point while attending Hope High School, and received his GED in the late ’80s. He went on to receive numerous degrees including a doctorate in education from Johnson & Wales University, according to his resume.
“Dr. Montañez possesses a wealth of experience and a deep understanding of the needs of the Providence Public Schools community,” McKee said. “I am proud to welcome him as interim superintendent and look forward to working with him to move the District forward.”
Montañez began his tenure in Providence as a bilingual teacher at Spaziano Elementary School in 1997 and has been promoted multiple times, eventually becoming assistant principal and principal, according to RIDE.
“Throughout his years of service Dr. Montañez has demonstrated a deep commitment to Providence students and families,” Infante-Green said. “A lot of work remains ahead to improve outcomes for students in the capital city, and I’m pleased to have him as a partner in this critical effort.”
At Leviton, the elementary school went from a one-star to three-star in the state’s ranking system, RIDE said. Leviton was also one of the only three schools in the state that grew by at least two star levels.
“I’m honored to have the opportunity to lead Providence Public Schools and work with our incredible school community during this pivotal moment,” Montañez said. “I know the immense value of an education personally because it changed my life, and I’m eager to contribute to the transformational work that is taking place in Providence to help students reach their highest potential.”
According to RIDE, Montañez experienced homelessness as a student and often went to school only because he knew he would get two meals a day if he was there.
Providence has not had a superintendent since Harrison Peters resigned last month with a nearly $170,000 severance deal.
Infante-Green asked Peters to resign following his hiring of Dr. Olayinka Alege, a top administrator who has been arrested by Warwick Police, accused of forcibly rubbing an underage boy’s foot at a Warwick gym. Two adults also told police Alege touched their feet without consent, but did not want to press charges.
Alege faced similar allegations at a Tampa High School in 2009, which Peters knew about prior to hiring Alege in 2020.