PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) — When Dr. Javier Montañez was first tapped to be Providence’s interim superintendent in June, the district was in a tumultuous phase.

The first state turnaround superintendent, Harrison Peters, had just resigned amid a scandal involving one of his high-level hires. The teachers union contract was still unsettled after months of tense negotiating. And everyone was coming out of an exhausting pandemic school year that taxed students, parents and teachers alike.

A few months later, Montañez was promoted to acting superintendent, keeping him in the top job for at least a full school year. The teachers contract is settled and ratified, and the Peters debacle is in the rearview mirror.

So far Montañez is receiving heaps of praise from the teachers union and local leaders, ahead of what could be another difficult year of navigating both the pandemic and the second year of the state’s five-year intervention in the school district.

In his first interview since becoming superintendent, Montañez details his difficult youth — he was homeless at one point, and dropped out of Hope High School — and how it propelled him to where he is today.

In the full episode of Pulse of Providence above, Montañez also answers questions about plans for the upcoming school year, Providence’s mask and vaccine policies, and how to tackle chronic absenteeism.

The first day of school in Providence is Sept. 9.

Steph Machado ( is a Target 12 investigative reporter covering Providence, politics and more for 12 News. Connect with her on Twitter and on Facebook.