Mayor Jorge Elorza spoke about his vision and goals for education reform with Providence residents at Vartan Gregorian Elementary School Tuesday night. The event was a part of the “Citywide Conversation Series,” a mayoral initiative aimed at improving communication between residents and local officials.
Elorza’s education plan targets improvements in physical infrastructure and learning techniques.
“Children deserve to study in a classroom that inspires them to learn,” Elorza said, adding that several schools have classrooms with mold and inadequate heating. Over the next 10 years, the mayor’s office plans to invest up to $400 million in school infrastructure.
In addition to improvements to school buildings, the investment will focus on technological innovation.“Technology is a tool that can be used to customize learning for students,” Elorza said, reaffirming his goal to achieve a 1-to-1 student to technology ratio.
Elorza hopes to complement improvements in equipment by investing in summer enrichment programs to prevent students from falling behind during long breaks.
There is a link between education and a reduced crime rate, Elorza said. His administration invested $1 million in a summer job program intended to mitigate street violence in Providence. The program provides students with internships at non-profits such as the Institute for the Study and Practice of Nonviolence.
Elorza also responded to concerns about racial and cultural bias in schools by elaborating on the importance of positive role models for students. The administration has $750,000 for school culture coordinators, who bring guest speakers and mentors to strengthen the emotional support available for middle school students, Elorza said.
During the discussion session following his talk, community members raised concerns and questions for the mayor. In response to a question about his criteria and model for school reform, Elorza outlined a three-phase process, which includes forming a vision with the community, allocating investments and implementing the ideas efficiently.
Elorza opened his talk by reaffirming the administration’s other key priorities, which include finances, infrastructure and accessibility. “Due to large operating surpluses, the short-term finances are in the strongest shape they have been in,” Elorza said, adding that he hopes to improve pensions and address issues such as uneven sidewalks and potholes.
Correction: A previous version of this article stated that the mayor's office plans to invest $400 million in schooling. In fact, the mayor's office plans to invest up to $400 million in school infrastructure. In addition, the article also stated that the administration spent $75,000 on school culture coordinators. In fact, the administration has allocated $750,000 for school culture coordinators. The Herald regrets the errors.