University News

School closure vote pushed to Thursday

By
Staff Writer
Tuesday, April 26, 2011

The Providence School Board held a meeting last night to discuss Mayor Angel Taveras’ recommendation to close four of the city’s public schools and convert a middle school to an elementary school. The board, which was originally scheduled to vote on the decision yesterday, decided to postpone the vote until Thursday due to lingering questions about the city’s financial capabilities.

Instead, the board reviewed the financial impact of the proposal and allowed community members to voice concerns.

A 30-minute rally attended by about 50 protestors and organized by the Providence Parent Teacher Student Community Coalition took place outside the building before the meeting began. Anna Kuperman, a teacher at Classical High School and a member of the coalition, said the group has proposed a year-long review to avoid prematurely closing the schools. The coalition currently consists of approximately 60 parents and teachers.

Brown students also attended the rally. Students came to support and acknowledge the University’s obligation to the Providence community, said Julian Park ’12, a Herald opinions columnist. Protesters moved inside the building as the meeting started, chanting slogans such as, “They say cutbacks, we say fight back!” Ralliers promised to return for the board’s vote Thursday evening.

Carleton Jones, chief operating officer of the Providence Public School District, presented the impact of the proposal to the board. He said students would be placed in higher performing schools and referenced the “walk optimization” plan, which would place students within 1.5 miles of their homes. He added that siblings — and most likely children living in the same apartment complexes — would be relocated to the same schools.

The proposal also offers students the option to transfer schools if they provide for their own transportation.

Jones said the proposal would save a net $7.7 to $10.4 million and would displace 1,943 students. Half of those savings would result from the firing of 44 to 70 teachers.

The proposal is a result of a reported 5,000 excess seats in Providence public schools. By closing the four schools, the number of teachers would better correspond to the student population, according to the state’s standard student-to-teacher ratio of 26 to one.

Following Jones’ presentation, community members were each allotted three minutes to voice their opinions.

“Give us the opportunity to get it done, and I know we can,” said Steve Smith, president of the Providence Teachers Union, referencing the coalition’s plan to institute a review process before closing the schools.

“Public schools are not corporations, and our children are not commodities,” said another community member.

The proposed closures send the message that the community’s children aren’t “worth it,” said Frank Almeida, equipment mechanic for the Department of Facilities Management at Brown.

Both his wife, April, and his daughter spoke after him. “Please do not close my school,” his daughter pleaded.

Several speakers called for the board to postpone voting a second time, insisting the Thursday deadline does not allow enough time to make the decision.