Parents have been lobbying for a formal role in the process. And while they won’t have that, education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green insists they will be closely involved.

Recently, Infante-Green has been meeting almost nightly with community members since that big gathering last month when she told parents they couldn’t have a legal seat at the table.

“So how do we communicate with communities that are not aware that a change is going to be happening?” she asks a group of about 20 people in a classroom at URI’s Providence campus last week. Infante-Green wants to talk about how to include the community in the decisions that will affect their children.

Infante-Green is candid and clear. At one point she even gives out her personal email address. She and her staff take copious notes. The group quickly moves from formal question-answer setting to an informal chat, with parents rattling off suggestions.

Things are cordial, but parents here are on the defensive. They’ve seen the schools go through new superintendents, new tests, even major turnarounds, but little has seemed to stick.

“Many people say ‘well where were the parents? How did it get this bad?’” said Maggie Mian, mother of four students in the Providence schools. “But the fact is, we’ve been here trying to advocate and we just haven’t had the people to listen to us, or they’ve ignored us.”

Mian felt ignored when she found out from her seventh grade son, not the school, that he had no full time English teacher this year.

“I was worried that he wasn’t going to learn and if he doesn’t learn he’ll get farther and farther behind. It was do I take him out of a class?”

For now, her son has come up with his own solution: he leaves his substitute-led class and joins another class.

Last month, parents and students crowded an emotional public meeting demanding a formal role in the decisions that will determine how to fix the Providence Schools. They brought on attorney Jennifer Wood to make their case.

“There are going to be many difficult and important decisions made over the next three to five years about the future of the Providence Public Schools, and those many difficult decisions are going to  directly affect the lives of the students and parents currently enrolled in the schools, so their voice – in my view - is the most important voice,” Wood said.

Research on state takeovers has found that leaders often strip power over failing schools from the only bodies parents have ever had contact with: local school boards, city councils, superintendents, and the mayor’s office – effectively cutting parents out of the equation.

Infante-Green insists that will not be the case.

“That has been my message from the very beginning and we will continue to do that,” said Infante-Green.  “We have had more communication and interaction with parents than in the history of RIDE and we will continue to do that.

Providence resident Susan Rohwer is the mother of a first grader and will likely be involved with the Providence schools for the next decade. She’s waiting to see how seriously the commissioner takes parent input, and hopes parents are given a meaningful role in the state takeover.

“And that we are baked into the process for the long term, because the commissioner’s going to leave, the governor’s going to leave, the mayor’s going to be gone and we’re still going to be here,” Rohwer said.

The ultimate blueprint for the state takeover of the schools will be completed with a new superintendent, which Infante-Green hopes to hire soon and have on the job by November.