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State decides to take over Providence public school system

July 24, 2019

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (AP) — Rhode Island has given the state education commissioner the sweeping authority to turn around Providence’s beleaguered public school system after a report labeled it among the worst in the nation.

The unprecedented move Tuesday night came a month after a searing report from the Johns Hopkins Institute for Education Policy laid out issues of rampant bullying and fighting among students, deteriorating facilities and a tangled bureaucracy.

The 7-0 vote by the state’s Council on Elementary and Secondary Education put Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green in charge of the system, which she said must also address “systemic racism.”

“There will be no third report,” Infante Green told the Providence Journal on Tuesday, referring to a similar report released in the 1990s that mirrored the same failures as this summer’s report. “We are witnessing history.”

The Johns Hopkins report called the system severely dysfunctional and among the worst in the nation. It is the state’s largest, with 24,000 kids, more than 2,000 teacher and a $394 million budget, according to The Boston Globe .

The City Council, the School Board and the interim superintendent still have a month to argue against the district being taken over. The Journal reported that so far everyone but the City Council has approved of the state overseeing the system.

Infante-Green has the power to completely overhaul the existing system by revamping teachers’ contracts, how the school district is governed and even designating over staff changes, according to the Journal.

She said she plans to focus on a series of issues plaguing the system, including school safety, attendance and robust professional training, especially around cultural sensitivity.

“Systemic racism came up at every one of our public forums,” she told the Globe. “We can’t move forward without naming it and dismantling it.”

Another part of the commissioner’s role will be to hire a superintendent to take over the schools by late fall. The Journal reported Infante-Green began to speak with potential candidates, but no names have been released.

The interim superintendent Frances Gallo, who once led the Central Falls schools, will supervise the school’s fall opening on Sept. 3 and oversee the system until the new superintendent takes over.

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