Governor Gina Raimondo began a series of what her office is calling "listening sessions" as part of the search for a new state commissioner of education.
About 20 people gathered around tables in a Providence elementary school classroom to give feedback on the search for a new education commissioner.
The event was by invitation only, with guests hand-picked by the governor’s office.
Many of the participants were former teaching award winners or candidates for teacher of the year. Others were principals, administrators and charter school leaders.
Don Miller, the principal of Shea High School in Pawtucket, said his message to the governor would be to find a good communicator.
"I know we all have the same common goal and that’s to do what’s best for kids, but I think there was a lot of tension, a lot of frustration, a lot of struggle," Miller said. "And so we somehow have to be able to move past that and work together."
Outgoing Education Commissioner Deborah Gist was controversial because of her support for using test scores as a requirement for high school graduation and teacher evaluation. Many teachers felt she ignored their concerns as she moved ahead with an agenda aimed at raising student achievement.
Susan Sabella, a reading specialist from Narragansett, said she hopes the next commissioner will take a closer look at teacher training.
"I’m hoping that there’s a renewed focus on teacher preparation because I work with new teachers, teachers who are either just starting out or are non-tenured teachers, and I would like to see them in the schools more before they graduate from college," Sabella said.
Raimondo’s office says they’re planning more listening sessions as they look to replace Commissioner Gist, who is leaving to become superintendent of Tulsa public schools.