Well over 300 Providence School teachers and allies marched from the Rhode Island State House to the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) on Tuesday in a show of strength and solidarity following their March 21 vote of “no confidence” in Providence Public Schools Superintendent Harrison Peters and State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. The Providence Teachers Union (PTU) is also calling for an end to the state takeover of Providence Schools, calling the effort a “failure.”
“We’re asking the General Assembly to either stop the takeover of change the leadership,” said PTU President Maribeth Calabro to reporters outside the State House ahead of the march. There are several issues with the state over, including lack of communication, lack of collaboration with teachers, students and the community; and their unwillingness to negotiate a successful contract, said Calabro.
The school takeover “is not working. It’s an abject failure,” said Calabro, who said that the vote of no confidence has been in discussion since October, but that the union had been holding out hope for fair contract negotiations that were not forthcoming.
PTU brought a list of solutions to they negotiate their contract with Providence city officials. These include:
- Community schools
- Increasing supports for multi language learners and their families
- Supporting differently abled students
- Providing more of a voice in schools for parents and communities
- Civics eduction,
- Safe, modern school buildings
These solutions have “been ignored, or patently laughed at,” said Calabro.
UpriseRI asked Calabro if, in her view, school administrators have been dealing with PTU honestly during contract negotiations.
“No,” said Calabro. “In negotiations we signed a letter of ground rules – we talked about not discussing things publicly – they’ve gone around that document and they tried to negotiate – not only with our teachers, but with the community and families through letters and through a media campaign.”
“There is no accountability for leadership at the state level,” noted Calabro. “The commissioner herself was allowed to write her own report card as to how things were going in the district.”
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Asked what letter grade the Providence teachers would give Commissioner Infante-Greene, Calabro said it depends.
“For the health and safety of building, a D. For providing opportunities for our students in virtual and distance learning, F. In terms of collaborating with teachers… F. Communication, F.”
Ahead of the march PTU President Calabro rallied the demonstrators:
James Parisi, Field Representative at Rhode Island Federation of Teacher and Healthcare Professionals, spoke about the need for a higher tax rate on the one percenters in Rhode Island, so that Rhode Island no longer underfunds the upkeep of schools.
The march and arrival at RIDE:
“It is in the district and state leadership’s best interests to divide and conquer stakeholders while putting blame on teachers so that they can continue to evade responsibility for broken promises,” said Lindsey Paiva, a teacher at The Webster School. “Let’s continue to focus on the people in power and demand that they use that power to bring about true change by fully supporting our schools and fully supporting the social justice contract demands put forth by our union which are supported by research, by students and by families.”
“We’re calling for RIDE to settle a fair contract that makes sure educator voices are heard,” said Anna Maria Urrutia, a teacher at Bailey Elementary School. “That teacher peer support staffing is restored… [and] that teaching in Providence is competitive and attractive.”
“The National Association of Social Workers says… we should have one school social worker for 250 students,” said Nikki Bond a social worker at Mount Pleasant High School. “If we have high special needs, it should be one per 50. Guess what? There’s almost 1200 students at Mouth Pleasant. How many social workers are there? One.”
During my time at Mount Pleasant Hogh School, I noticed that there was both a school nurse and a health clinic inside the school. I did research and quickly came to notice that this clinic was a privately funded and privately connected institution on public school grounds,” said Providence Public Schools substitute teacher Enrique Sanchez. “I learned that our school nurse, Tammy, was removed and transferred to another school because she didn’t comply with what the school district wanted her to do, which meant her going against her contract… A Lot of students and school faculty were upset that our school nurses were transferred elsewhere. And all for what? To please these smart clinics, who were trying to complete their work for their corporate bosses.
“In March, I was called in for a meeting with my principal at Mt Pleasant high school and right after that, a disciplinary meeting at PPSD [Providence Public Schools Department] where I was to discuss and talk about my issues with the smart clinics and why I was very engaged and outspoken on twitter about these projects. Towards the end of the meeting I was told that I was going to be removed and transferred to another school on orders by the chief of staff of the superintendent. I requested to stay at Mount Pleasant and keep working there. I was denied that request.”
Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, Providence):