Interim Superintendent Dr. Fran Gallo – Providence School District
1. What’s the number one thing parents and students should know about this district this year?
It is important that everyone know we will be ready for the first day of school and beyond. There has been a lot of talk about the conditions of our buildings. We know that some of our buildings are over 100 years old. However, they will be clean, pest-free and ready for our students. The city has allocated $20 million of work this spring and summer on our school facilities, and has committed to investing $400 million over 10 years. That will take time. Right now, I can commit to safe, clean buildings. I can also promise that we at the district office are putting students and families at the forefront of every decision we make.
2. What is the biggest challenge your district faces?
PPSD is facing many challenges which present us with the greatest opportunity to rebuild, to reframe culture, to embark on a learning journey that will transform lives. The State of Rhode Island is on the threshold of exercising unprecedented authority over the Providence Public School system. However, this gives us tremendous opportunity for transforming the district. I am optimistic that we will work together to create real, lasting change.
3. What is the vaccination rate for your district and what is your policy for opting out? Have you seen a spike or decline in the number of parents opting out over the last two years?
PPSD’s vaccination rate is more than 99%; out of approximately 24,000 students, about 38 have been excluded from vaccinations. PPSD follows the Rhode Island Department of Health’s policy for immunizations required of students; if a parent wishes to obtain an exemption it must be for medical or religious reasons. PPSD’s numbers have remained fairly consistent in terms of vaccination rates.
4. Some school districts in the state are banning electronic devices/cell phones. What is your current policy? Do you have plans to also ban electronic devices? If so, why?
PPSD does have a cell phone policy, and it is listed on our website and in our Student Code of Conduct, which is distributed to every student in our district. However, I realize that it’s important for us to have input from our students. I have pledged to undertake a review of the Code of Conduct in collaboration with our students.
5. Tell us something nobody knows about your district.
Our teachers work incredibly hard and our students are amazing. In our district, there are about 55 different languages and 91 countries represented. That is incredible. Just last week I visited a summer learning program and a student there was originally from Afghanistan. He told me he and his family left their country on foot and walked for months, first to Iran, then Turkey, Greece and so on, until they reached safety. Our kids are resilient, smart and capable. By the way, that young man speaks five languages fluently while learning English!