Parents and teachers have related significant concerns with the Providence, Rhode Island school district. Recently hired Superintendent, Harrison Peters, has made significant progressive changes during covid, affecting the Special Education department and the curriculum.

One of superintendent Peters’s first actions was to fire over 30 staff members while bringing in people from his previous jobs to fill in those newly made slots. The Providence Journal explains the elimination of 30 people was a reorganizational effort to improve the schools and how they test. Peters had this to say,

“This is an opportunity to think strategically about what works,” Peters said. “It’s less about the size of the school. Large, comprehensive high schools work well in some cases. Part of the high school redesign model could be smaller schools.”

Superintendent Harrison Peters comes with an entire career of helping other schools across the country. The district within Providence, Rhode Island, has had many superintendents come in to try and fix the schools. The Providence Journal took note of where Harris comes from and what his credentials are,

“Eleven superintendents have come and gone in the last 20 years. Now there’s another new school chief in town — Harrison Peters, the man charged with transforming the city’s struggling school system.

A district that has been roiled by turnover at the top, Peters’ contract stipulates a three-year commitment at $225,000 a year. In recent years no superintendent has lasted much longer than that in Providence. Peters himself has bounced from one school district to another: Hillsborough County, Florida; Houston; Chicago; Charlotte-Mecklenburg County, North Carolina; and Orange County, California.”

Considering the Chicago public school system is failing, it’s highly skeptical his tactics to change Providence schools will work. So far, he is off to a bad start. He has fired much-needed individuals that impact the school positively. WPRI reported,

“The 45 jobs eliminated in the central office include payroll clerks, human resources associates, supervisors of science and math, math instructional school supports, a psychologist, and others. The union members had already been noticed earlier this year that their jobs might be eliminated.”

Furthermore, the Providence district received a grant for special education. Providence schools are in significant need of this money for their special education classes. With $684,000 funding for these programs, parents are frustrated with how poorly they are currently run. The education commissioner, Angelica Infante Green, had this to say to WPRI:

“Infante-Green also addressed a recent Target 12 report that the R.I. Department of Education recently pulled a $684,000 federal grant from the Paul V. Sherlock Center on Disabilities…No one is trying to short-change anyone,” Infante-Green said. “I think everyone is trying to work together to make sure services continue so parents can continue to receive services from the teachers that they trust.”

However, the parents I spoke to directly are affected by the lack of competence by both Peters and Green. Inmaculada Gonzalez, a parent with a son in the special ed program, explained what is going on. During Covid-19, her child was highly disadvantaged due to mass firings. She told me that her child receives 100% assistance in a regular school year. From March 2020 through January 2021, she claimed her child wasn’t getting the services he needed, like speech therapy and no extra assistance. Teachers were either late to classes or didn’t come at all. The new teacher they brought in is forced to teach two classes at once.

Now highly concerned, Inmaculada emailed the superintendent, Harrison Peters; education commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green; the news, and the governor—anyone willing to listen and received zero response. While trying to set up meetings, they would only schedule them during the day, which most parents cannot make. They were unwilling to work with the parents and schedule meetings after school or work. Her community consists of mostly Spanish-speaking people, so she feels like she is their voice too.

Inmaculada related that her son was ready to go back to school. She said his schedule had been interrupted for an entire year, which is very detrimental to his learning; he needs consistency. So, she set up a school tour to see what they are doing for the children during this pandemic. These are the things she noticed, and she tried to reiterate her concerns to the school principal:

“So, I spoke with the principal, I said,’ Listen, you know who and how I am. I am vocal about my son’s needs. He wants to go back to school. I came here and asked to check out the classroom.

My first impression was that this room was not for our kids. The classroom is like a leftover closet, like they didn’t have any more options, and this is where I am going to put you guys. It’s tiny and suffocating, they don’t know how to express themselves, and I am his voice! So, just ask yourself if this is where you want your son to learn. If you can please find a better room so that my son can come to school?”

Special Education Class Room, provided by teachers at Mount Pleasant High School.
The other side of the Special Education classroom.

Thanks to the brave teachers, we are able to show pictures of a class room cut in half and only able to comfortably fit a few amount of students. Mount Pleasant High School has a high population of kids within the special needs program.

These concerns leave the teachers and parents wondering where the money is going. Recently announced, on US News, Providence Schools have raised over $3 million to grant and boost Teacher diversity. US News further reports,

“The grant from the Rhode Island Foundation will enable the state’s largest school district to offer up to $25,000 in loan repayment incentives over the first three years of employment to new teachers who identify as Black, Asian, Indigenous, Latino, or multi-racial.”

If you are a new teacher of color, they will pay some of your loans; if you’re white this doesn’t concern you. What are the primary concerns and goals of this new agenda? The money given for the special needs programs isn’t being allocated directly to the kids or classrooms, shown by lack of space, services, and teachers. Now, they are more concerned about what race a teacher is than the students themselves.

From the same article:

About 80% of the district’s roughly 24,000 students are people of color while only about 20% of teachers are, foundation President and CEO Neil Steinberg said in a statement.

“Research confirms that when taught by a teacher of color, students of color experience higher reading and math test scores, higher graduation rates, decreased dropout and discipline rates, and increased enrollment in advanced courses,” he said in a statement.

Exclusively given to me by a teacher who wishes to remain anonymous are emails and plans that will ultimately segregate the teachers and the classrooms. She was told that kids learn better when taught by the teacher of the same race, due to the studies mentioned above, and was confused as to where she fits in.

The teacher also explained to me that teachers of color are to be in separate groups than their white counterparts. A lot of these teachers are of Latin descent and have expressed they aren’t sure to which group they would naturally belong to and are shocked that they are even being forced to separate.

This email was sent to a “white group” of teachers employed by the district, in order to further their progressive Critical Race Theory agenda.

Another email sent to the “white group” was a list of books they should read in order to better understand their POC colleagues and to become ‘less white’.

Here is the list of suggested books:

When the “white group” teachers sign in to do their training, they are given lists of different courses. I obtained these screenshots from one of those teachers. They show the focus for the white teachers being about equity, diversity, and again critical race theory.

Joseph Buchanan, the father of a former principal at one of the Providence schools, took to Facebook and expressed his frustrations with superintendent Harrison Peters. Matthew Buchanan was essentially fired for speaking up and was promptly replaced. Another teacher acknowledged the same sentiment,” Their goal is to ‘hire more people of color,’ but POC who speak out against this are actually being fired from their jobs.”

Providence holds the biggest special needs educational programs in the state. The town is a majority of minorities; many parents are Spanish-speaking only. The new superintendent is changing the entire district, adding a progressive curriculum, shutting down specific schools, and forcing kids in the 9th grade to go to a completely different campus than the rest of the high school grades. Garnering more than enough funds to fix the schools, hire teachers, and fund programs, one may ask– where is the money going? And if you dare to speak up about this or the critical race theory agenda, you will be fired and replaced by one of the superintendent’s friends.