Recommendations based on almost two decades of direct experience overseeing Providence schools
Monday, November 14, 2022
PROVIDENCE, RI – Mayors Jorge O. Elorza, Angel Taveras and Joseph R. Paolino Jr. today outlined a series of education recommendations designed to help Mayor-elect Brett Smiley most effectively transform education in Providence public schools. Mayor-elect Brett Smiley was in attendance to receive the recommendations.
“For decades, Providence’s education system has been one of the City’s greatest structural challenges, even as we have each continued to work to address systemic barriers,” said Mayor Jorge Elorza (2015-2023). “Together, we have outlined the bold changes needed for our students and families, and what we believe can best position Providence’s future in education. I thank Mayor-elect Smiley for his openness in receiving these recommendations.”
“As a Providence Public Schools graduate and former Mayor, I am grateful for the opportunity to share my experience with Mayor-Elect Smiley,” said Mayor Angel Taveras (2011-2015). “I have no doubt that all of our children can succeed. We know what works and we need to implement it with the ‘fierce urgency of now’.”
“As former Mayors of this amazing city, we know what has been done and what needs to be done now,” said Mayor Joe Paolino (1984-1991). “It’s important that we share with incoming leadership, our experience, and our challenges, because education is the cornerstone of our community’s success. I hope that these recommendations can help prepare the Mayor-elect for the hard work that lies ahead and act as a catalyst for real change in our classrooms and schools across the District.”
Mayors Elorza, Taveras and Paolino made four recommendations, emphasizing that despite the myriad of challenges that Providence students face, they strongly believe that Providence students can succeed because there are examples throughout the country, and right here in Providence, of how to address these challenges, how to support students, and how to improve student performance.
A recommendation to highlight outlines that the Mayor-elect should work with the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) to fix the unworkable management structure.
Currently, the Providence Public School District (PPSD) is governed by contract provisions, teacher tenure laws, and state arbitration laws. Together, this structure strips principals and the superintendent of the autonomy and power to act in a broad array of circumstances and stands in the way of bringing about meaningful change. Most noteworthy is principals’ and superintendents’ lack of basic authority to manage their own personnel and to set their own calendar, regardless of whether the City of the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) has ultimate oversight of PPSD.
The Mayors outlined that the structural breakdown, and the unworkable management structure it creates, must be fixed. Further, they recommended that these changes are so critical that if the Mayor-elect is not able to achieve them, they recommend that he can achieve that same autonomy by increasing the number of public charter schools districtwide. Nationally, public charter schools have proven to provide leadership with both the flexibility and autonomy needed to impact change at the classroom level.
Mayors Elorza, Taveras and Paolino made four total recommendations to Providence’s Mayor-elect Brett Smiley on education:
- Address the management structure.
- Invest in 21st century school buildings.
- Invest in out-of-school learning time.
- Work with key stakeholders and amplify their voices.
Mayor-elect Brett Smiley joined Mayors Elorza, Taveras and Paolino to receive the recommendations.
“I am grateful to the former Mayor’s for their continued commitment to our students and our families and for these recommendations,” said Mayor-elect Smiley. “As I mentioned throughout my campaign, I am committed to providing high-quality education opportunities in every neighborhood. We are all frustrated by the lack of progress in our classrooms but collectively, with PPSD leadership, teachers and families, we can improve outcomes for our students.”
The full letter of recommendations can be read online here.