Community leaders accuse PVD Public Schools of retaliation and discrimination

Reacting to the failed state takeover of Providence Schools and the revelations of racism and retaliation in the Superintendent’s office, community leaders call for resignations, investigations and change.

Rhode Island News: Community leaders accuse PVD Public Schools of retaliation and discrimination

November 29, 2022, 10:16 am

By Steve Ahlquist

Community members gathered in front of the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) offices on Westminster Street in Providence on Tuesday morning to express their concern regarding issues in the Providence Public Schools, as well as the state intervention in the district. Pillar McCloud, CEO and Founder of A Sweet Creation Youth Organization began the press conference by saying that she was representing families, students, legislators, community organizations, and other community members.

“Due to the poor performance of the state intervention and recent allegations against the superintendent’s senior advisor,” said McCloud, “we have a few things we would like to ask of PPSD.”

Providence Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez‘s Senior Advisor, Joan Jackson, was accused of “toxic leadership and abuses of power” in an anonymous letter allegedly written by “eight district leaders.”

Community leaders ask for independent investigation into Providence Schools
Gary Dantzler, Gerard Catala, Dwayne Keys, Pilar McCloud, David Morales, and Ty’Relle Stephens

McCloud then read the list of demands:

  • Immediate resignation of Providence Public Schools Senior Advisor Joan Jackson;
  • Providence Delegation to bring an end to the Providence Public Schools State Intervention beginning September of 2023;
  • Removal of powers for the Rhode Island State Education Commissioner under the Providence takeover, upon return to legislative session in January of 2023;
  • A special Senate Oversight Committee hearing to discuss the overall status of the takeover and recent allegations into the Providence Superintendent’s Senior Advisor;
  • An independent investigation regarding potential graduation inflation occurring in PPSD; and,
  • An independent audit of the metrics/outcomes of the takeover.

Joining McCloud at the press conference were Gary Dantzler, Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island; Dwayne Keys, Chair of the Southside Neighborhood Association; Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence); Providence School Board member Ty’Relle Stephens; and Gerard Catala, President Elect of the Providence Branch of the NAACP.

“They are not listening to us,” said Executive Director Dantzler. “It’s really sad that we have to go to this extreme to get the attention of the media. We need to protect our young Black and brown kids for the future of Rhode Island, and it’s imperative that we stand behind these schools and understand what’s going on.”

“Racism is not something you can perform at your job and still be employed,” said Dwayne Keys. “All those who are protecting the senior advisor, or who are ignoring what is being released are all contributing to that racism and white supremacy that is showing up in this situation.” While recognizing the hard work that is being down by teachers and administration every day, Keys stressed the need for truly independent investigations into these serious allegations.

Noting the need to revise the school funding formula that allocates state aid to municipal school systems, Representative Morales pointed out that today’s press conference and list of demands are “the result of issues that the community has continuously brought up… the tipping point, unfortunately, became the letter we saw a week and a half ago that highlighted the practices that we have been hearing about on the ground… in a way that finally generated the attention it deserves.”

In lieu of a Senate Oversight Committee hearing that is unlikely to take place until January at the earliest, “the School Board is stepping in” said Ty’Relle Stephens, who was careful to point out that he can’t speak on behalf of the School Board. “I think that holding the superintendent accountable to the recommendations that we have given him…is the route that I’d go to as a board member.”

“We at the NAACP will not tolerate racism on any level at any time,” said President-elect Catala. “As soon as we hear about it. As soon as we see it, we will step up and speak against it.”

Gary Dantzler, Gerard Catala and Dwayne Keys

In a press release, the group explained that:

“Numerous complaints have been received from employees within the school department. The first being reports of violation of Federal Laws pertaining to student grading policies. Since then, complaints of retaliation, discrimination, racism, low morale, and intimidation tactics to name a few, are at an all-time high. The Providence School Board received an anonymous letter from eight high-level administrators describing professional misconduct of the Superintendent’s Senior Advisor. After a review of the reports, it has been determined that the trust of our executive leaders has been broken. We, the community, are convinced the overall intervention and the factual conditions of PPSD while under the takeover, has exasperated the already depleted morale of our school community. 

“The Senior Advisor specifically, has been accused of such retaliation, discrimination, racism, and intimidation tactics. In 2017, a 40-page civil rights lawsuit was also filed against this Senior Advisor. These complaints from a previous employer mirror the complaints administrators are experiencing today. Although the lawsuit was settled out of court in 2019, a pattern of behavior has continued, directly resulting in the conflicts our district continues to face. Throughout the state intervention, we have seen poor hiring practices, constant and consistent negative reporting, and a lack of community involvement in our school district. Most importantly, we have also seen a decrease in RICAS and SAT scores. Unfortunately, the Commissioner continues to use the Crowley Act to prevent input and involvement from legislators, school board members, parents, students, and community members, resulting in the district performing at an all-time low. This takeover has failed to accomplish what it was set out to do in November 2019.”

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