Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green has asked for the resignation of Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters, who was tasked with leading the district through the state’s takeover of the city’s school system.

The request comes after days of public scrutiny and criticism of school district leaders for the hiring of a top administrator, Olayinka Alege, who last week was charged with assaulting a minor.

Alege is accused of grabbing and massaging a teenage boy’s foot at a Warwick gym. He was placed on leave, and later asked to resign.

“After conversations with Governor [Dan] McKee and community members, yesterday the Commissioner asked Superintendent Harrison Peters for his resignation,” state Education Department spokesperson Victor Morente said in an emailed statement Wednesday morning. 

McKee and Infante-Green met Tuesday, after state lawmakers grilled both Infante-Green and Peters earlier in the week over the hiring of Alege, according to Alana O’Hare, a spokesperson for the Governor.

“We must do what is best for the students. Asking for the superintendent’s resignation was the right thing to do,” O’Hare said in an emailed statement.

Alege previously worked for the Hillsborough County Schools, the same Florida school district that Peters left to come to Providence. In 2009, a local newspaper, the Sun Sentinel, reported that Alege had “squeezed” the toes of high school students as a sort of punishment. 

In 2019, the state took over the Providence schools, after a report from Johns Hopkins University laid out numerous failings within the district. Commissioner Infante-Green was appointed by then-Gov. Gina Raimondo earlier that year, but quickly took on the role of leading the Providence turnaround. The takeover gives Infante-Green control over almost every aspect of the district, including budgeting and hiring. 

Infante-Green hired Peters to head the district in January of 2020. Negotiating a new teachers’ contract has been a major part of the state’s effort to improve the school system, but negotiations with the Providence Teachers Union have lasted more than a year. 

In March, the Providence Teachers Union voted “no-confidence” in both Infante-Green and Peters. The group has also called for state lawmakers to intercede, and for the takeover to end.

"This is a separate issue," said PTU President Maribeth Calabro Wednesday, referring to the Alege's hiring. "It's a very serious issue in terms of judgement, and in terms of trust."

"The same majority of teachers that wanted the 'no confidence' vote are the same majority of teachers that are calling for the superintendent to resign," Calabro said.

“I agree with the Commissioner that Peters should resign,” said Providence School Board President Nick Hemond in an interview Wednesday. Hemond said the board has largely been sidelined from policy and hiring in the district since the state takeover began, but would have vetted a hire such as Alege, under normal circumstances. 

Hemond said he does not believe the takeover should end, nor that Commissioner Infante-Green should step down. 

If Peters has not submitted his resignation by Wednesday evening, he will be expected to appear at Wednesday's meeting of the Providence School Board, where Hemond said he plans to ask about the hiring of Alege in public session.

Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza chimed in Wednesday morning with a call for Peters to resign. Elorza has no power over the district because of the state takeover. 

“This entire situation has been extremely disturbing. Additionally, I am beyond disappointed by the slow pace of the turnaround,” Elorza said in a statement. “We brought in the state with the explicit purpose of radically reforming the PTU contract but, almost two years later, no progress has been made.”

Peters has led the district during the COVID-19 pandemic, which saw the mass closure of schools, and a patchwork of reopening for in-person learning over the last year.

The sudden request for Peters’ resignation from the commissioner also came the day Randi Weingarten, head of the American Federation of Teachers, had been scheduled to visit Providence.

Weingarten is calling for the end of the state takeover of the Providence schools. She spent Wednesday morning touring two Providence public schools with local union leaders, including Calabro. 

She was also scheduled to meet with Governor Dan McKee in the afternoon, where she said she planned to push for an end to the state takeover, and for the Governor to wade into the ongoing contract negotiations between the state and the city’s teachers. 

“We need Providence to actually govern itself,” Weingarten said Wednesday outside the Leviton Dual Language School, a public elementary school. “Both the city and the state control have not worked.” 

On Wednesday evening, the Providence School Board voted “no-confidence” in Superintendent Peters, in a unanimous vote.

Peters was not available for public comment, nor did he make any public appearances during the day, Wednesday. He was expected to appear before the remote school board, but did not show up. The board was scheduled to meet with Peters in executive session. 

Hemond said Peters would have had the opportunity to speak with the board about the hiring of Alege.

During the meeting, Board Vice President Nina Pande said that she would be stepping down from her post at the end of this school year. Hemond is also expected to step down this year.

Correction: Olayinka Alege's first name was initially misspelled in this story.

Updated 10:00pm