Metro, News

PVD community members call for dialogue in school takeover

Panelists at Annenberg Institute push for open communication as state takeover progresses

By
Senior Staff Writer
Tuesday, September 17, 2019

In a panel Monday, Providence community leaders, students and educators stressed the need for dialogue between all groups with a stake in the state’s upcoming takeover of the Providence Public School District.

In a panel Monday, Providence community leaders, students and educators stressed the need for dialogue between all groups with a stake in the state’s upcoming takeover of the Providence Public School District.

The city must implement channels to address the current absence of adequate communication that one of the community leaders referred to as a “tragic game of telephone.”

The Annenberg Institute for School Reform hosted a discussion between six panelists, including Victor Capellan, senior adviser to the Rhode Island Education Commissioner; Barbara Mullen, director of the Center for Leadership and Educational Equity’s Learning Leader Network; Travis Escobar, member of the PPSD School Board and PSSD graduate; Carol Pagan, teacher at Alfred Lima School; Yan Sosa, a senior at Classical High School, and Dan McGowan, a reporter for The Boston Globe who is covering the Providence school takeover.

The panel follows RIDE Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green’s decision to deny the community a formal and legal role in the state takeover. On Friday, some community members represented by the R.I. Center for Justice asked to be recognized as a group with the power to object to the state takeover, but the Commissioner turned down their request, The Herald previously reported. At the panel, Capellan said that the Commissioner “listened and learned” during Friday’s hearing and plans for RIDE to work with “the community, the students, the families … at the table.”

Sosa, a member of the Providence Student Union, said that his peers’ main concerns are school spending, the representational gap between mostly white teachers and mostly non-white students, and a more meaningful curriculum. For him, the shape of the takeover needs to answer the questions for students: “How will this help me in my life? How will this help me in my career?”

Providence school board member Travis Escobar wants the takeover to foster “an environment that inspires … instead of feeling like you’re going to a prison.” If the state decides to edit the curriculum in any way, Escobar and the rest of the board will not have official legal control over those changes. However, they will still control the district’s funding.

The “work needs to be done with teachers, not to teachers,” said Pagan, who is affiliated with the Providence Teachers Union. Teachers are the ones who are used to “being in the trenches.”

This event is the first in a series of three panels that are scheduled to take place at the Annenberg Institute this fall, said Susanna Loeb, the Institute’s director. Later in the fall, Infante-Green will speak at the Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy.