Raimondo: ‘The system is broken’ in Providence schools


PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — Gov. Gina Raimondo vowed along with her new education commissioner Angélica Infante-Green and Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza to take action after a damning report on the capital city’s schools, but did not announce any immediate plans in light of the review.

The state will hold a series of public forums, beginning Wednesday night at William D’Abate Elementary School, to discuss the report and get input from community members.

“It’s much worse than I realized,” said Raimondo, who called for the review earlier this year. “The system is broken, and the Providence public schools are in crisis.”

She said she doesn’t see a scenario where the state doesn’t get involved in Providence schools, but stopped short of calling for a state takeover.

“Everything’s on the table,” Raimondo said, emphasizing that she wants the state to partner with the city. “We need to spend the summer figuring out what are the next steps.”

Elorza said it would require an “all hands on deck” approach, adding the “structure” needed to change when it comes to laws, regulations and policies. Specifically, he said the “thick” teachers contract that is criticized in the report should change.

“While this report is certainly jolting, there’s also a bit of optimism inside me,” Elorza said. He commended parents who have been organizing for change.

The review was conducted by the Johns Hopkins University Institute for Education Policy, which sent researchers into 12 unnamed Providence schools and came out with devastating observations. The team also interviewed dozens of people including teachers, administrators, parents, students, city councilors, school board members, the mayor and the superintendent.

The report painted a sobering picture of the academics, safety and support inside city schools. It described disgusting building conditions, classrooms with little learning going on, and frustrated teachers and administrators who feel defeated by the system. Abysmal test scores appear to support the findings, and Elorza described the report as “grim, concerning and accurate.”

Asked if anyone would be fired as a result of the report’s findings, Elorza said, “It might be the case that there are personnel changes.” But he also said many teachers and school district staff have been “broken” by the system after starting out with “spirit and optimism.” This system, he said, can “suck life out of people.”

He also declined to name the one elementary school where, according to his interview with researchers, he would not be willing to send his own child.

Infante-Green urged people both in and out of Providence to attend the public forums and be involved in coming up with solutions.

“We are all responsible,” she said. “Everyone is responsible because we all knew what was happening … What matters to me is what we do moving forward.”

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

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