Dalia Gómez de Hernández: Providence failed my children. Now I want a seat at the table

Classical High School in Providence. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff)
Classical High School in Providence. (Lane Turner/Globe Staff) The Boston Globe/Globe Staff

To read all of the Globe’s op-eds on Providence schools, click here.

My name is Dalia Gómez de Hernández. I am a Dominican immigrant and Providence resident. I moved to the United States seven years ago with my husband and two children. When I came to this country, I had high expectations and dreams about the quality of education that my children were going to receive. But, like hundreds and maybe thousands of parents, I realized that the Providence public school system failed my children miserably.

When we first came to Providence in 2013, my daughter, then 15 years old, attended Central High School. The message she constantly received at from one particular teacher Central was that she was not going to pass to the next grade and would not learn to speak English. My son, who began studying here in eighth grade and is today a 20-year-old adult, still doesn’t speak English fluently or know how to do math. The education system in Providence disappointed him so much that he does not have any motivation to pursue a college degree because he knows that he lacks the skills necessary to be successful.

My two oldest children are no longer in the Providence school system, but I have a six-year-old daughter who begins her education journey today, at an elementary school in Providence. I confess: I am terrified and anxious to know that my daughter will enter a system that lacks the resources and supports necessary to provide her with a high quality public education.


Even with the trauma and pain of our past experiences, many of us parents are ready for our voices to be heard and our ideas to be put into action. Now that the state is in the process of taking control of Providence public schools, the time has come to do things differently. Clear and effective communication channels must be established where parents can receive accurate information, in our native language, so that we are informed and prepared to efficiently advocate on behalf of our children.


Our leaders, those making decisions, must be open and transparent and be prepared to explain to parents their rationale in making any decisions. Remember, if you can’t explain it, maybe you shouldn’t have done it. Engage parents in a culturally responsive, respectful way, and celebrate our experiences and backgrounds. The days of dismissing us and our children are over. We must have a significant and transformative role in the development of the turnaround plan and the interventions that will be implemented.

Think about this: In three years, the current governor, mayor and very likely the commissioner of education, will move on to other ventures. But we parents and our children will stay here, in this community, left to pay the consequences or reap the benefits of the decisions being made today. That reality deserves nothing less than a real decision-making seat at the table. I refuse to accept that my daughter is going to be another victim of the system as my two oldest children were. Enough is enough!

Dalia Gómez de Hernández. is a parent of a child in a Providence public school and a member of Parents Leading for Educational Equity (PLEE).

Dan McGowan can be reached at dan.mcgowan@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter at @danmcgowan.