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Metro, University News

Brown grants $474,000 to Providence Public School District

First payout of Public Education Committee to support academic excellence

By
Senior Staff Writer
Friday, April 30, 2021

The University fully funded its $10 million endowment to support the Providence Public School District in July, fulfilling a 2007 pledge.

The University granted $474,000 to the Providence Public School District to bolster academic excellence and other critical efforts in 2021, the University announced in a news release Tuesday. This grant is the Brown’s first payout to PPSD since the University fully funded the Fund for the Education of the Children of Providence, a $10 million endowment for the district, in July of last year, The Herald previously reported

The Public Education Committee unanimously approved the budget at its meeting earlier this month. Members of the PEC include representatives from both the University and greater Providence, such as University President Christina Paxson P’19, Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza, PPSD Superintendent Harrison Peters, Providence community members and University students, staff and faculty. 

The funding aims to promote the educational improvement initiatives outlined in the district’s Turnaround Action Plan in four high-priority areas: equity and justice work, high school redesign, data and analytics capacity and employee appreciation. Within these categories, specific action items include strengthening “culturally responsible” training for teachers, creating an International Baccalaureate program at Hope High School, developing a program to support male leaders of color, constructing data analysis infrastructures to encourage information-based decision-making and improving teacher retention rates, according to the news release.

The Action Plan was announced in June 2020 as part of the takeover of the district by the Rhode Island Department of Education. The state first took over Providence schools in November 2019 following the Johns Hopkins report that documented underperformance and hazardous building conditions in the district, The Herald previously reported.

After an in-depth conversation with Peters, the PEC identified key components of the plan with which the University could assist, said Jonathan Collins, assistant professor of education and PEC member, in explaining how the committee evaluated and ultimately approved the grant. Collins added that this payment comes at a critical time for the district, as it is currently struggling amid the district takeover turnaround and the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

“The emergency nature of the moment very much played a heavy role here,” he said. “The district is very concerned with learning loss in reaction to the pandemic, and I think there was an extra sense of urgency because of that in approving this grant and getting things in motion right now.” 

PPSD Spokesperson Audrey Lucas echoed Collins’s sentiment about the time-sensitive character of the grant. “Radically transforming a school district takes time, especially during a once-in-a-generation pandemic,” she wrote in an email to The Herald. “But we can’t wait — our students are counting on us to make change now. This funding from the Public Education Committee will help us do just that by accelerating our ongoing work.” 

The PEC meets at least twice over the course of each academic year to discuss ways to allocate the Fund to best support the interests of PPSD students and stakeholders, The Herald previously reported. There is no established date for the next payout, but committee members expressed that they expected consistent payments. 

“My understanding from our last meeting was that this was going to … be a relatively regular process of continuing to take proposals from the district, evaluating those proposals and providing continued funding on a regular basis,” Collins said. 

Marguerite Joutz, chief of staff and assistant to Paxson, framed the funding as an opportunity for collaboration by deepening the relationship between the University and PPSD. The payout “is part of Brown’s longstanding commitment to supporting K-12 education in the city of Providence, and we’re looking forward to continuing the work in the years ahead,” she said.

For Collins, the payout represents a fulfillment of University promises to the Providence community. “I think it’s a great moment for the University,” he said. “I think we’re honoring our commitment to a district that really needs our help.”

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