Rhode Island education officials have reached an agreement with the superintendent of Providence schools to terminate his contract in the wake of criticism about a hiring decision.

The agreement late Friday came after Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green asked for the resignation of Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters earlier in the week. Peters was tasked with leading the district through the state’s takeover of the city’s school system.

As part of the agreement, Peters is expected to receive a nearly $170,000 pay-out. Peters is set to receive the money by June 10th. 

“The last few weeks have been extremely difficult for our community,” Infante-Green wrote in a letter sent to Providence families Friday.

“Changes in leadership are always hard, but I want you to know that as the Commissioner of Education entrusted with leading this transformation, I am as committed to our turnaround effort as I was on the first day of the state’s intervention a year and a half ago,” Infante-Green added. 

Providence Teachers’ Union President Maribeth Calabro called Peters’ severance “disappointing and discouraging,” in an interview. However, Calabro said she continues to support the “direction of the turnaround.” 

She said she had not heard any timeline for naming an interim or replacement leader, but hoped community input would be included in the hiring of the next superintendent.

The agreement followed 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.

Rhode Island Governor Dan 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.

"Commissioner Infante-Green is a firm believer in the turnaround work that has been done and remains steadfast in her commitment to improve outcomes for Providence students and families," state education department spokesman Victor Morente said in an email Friday confirming the termination agreement. "She is committed to rebuilding the trust and strong partnerships that will help us fix the Providence education system."

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.

This story was updated 3:30p.m., May 24, 2021.