The public forums follow a blistering report released last week.
A week after a scathing report detailed the dismal state of Providence’s public schools, the district is holding public forums that are drawing angry and emotional crowds.
More than 100 people showed up for an event Monday night, one of eight the district is holding. The two-hour session was, at times, verbally combative, but there was at least one thing everyone agreed on: the dysfunction in Providence’s schools is nothing new.
"You know, this same report was commissioned in 1993," Mayor Jorge Elorza says. "Twenty five years later we’re dealing with the exact same thing."
In particular, one systemic issue this new report focuses on -- that the district has “exceptionally low” expectations for its students -- that was also a focus of the 1993 report.
A lot of parents and students told Elorza and the state's education commissioner, Angélica Infante-Green, that they've been trying to tell them about the dysfunction for years.
"Teachers will tell students -- and I’m one of them -- that they’ll do nothing with their lives," says Frederick Santos, a student in the district. "Just because students aren’t one of those kids who grew up with everything handed to them doesn’t mean we’re not capable of learning."
The mayor called his city’s schools “a broken system” and said they need “transformational change.”
Some were skeptical that the city would take the right approach to the crisis. Ray Watson is an alum of the district.
"I applaud this effort here, but this is Rhode Island," Watson says. "It’s all well and good, this is all solid. Until senator such-and-such or representative such-and-such’s daughter, wife, niece, cousin, husband, whoever needs to lose a job."
The landmark report, released a week ago, casts Providence’s public school district as among the very worst in the nation. It describes an “exceptionally low” level of instruction; a system unable to rid itself of failing teachers; and run-down facilities with peeling paint and leaks that go unrepaired. Providence’s Mayor Jorge Elorza says the schools need “transformational change.”