To read all of the Globe’s op-eds on Providence schools, click here.
As Providence teachers begin another school year, there are many things that remain uncertain in terms of the who, the what and the how of the “takeover” of Providence Public Schools. What we know for sure is that we are committed to collaborating with students, parents, community partners and the state to improve our schools.
The Providence Teachers Union will continue to advocate for clean, healthy schools that are positive environments for our students to thrive and learn in and for our teachers to teach in. We further hope that, with the assistance of our students and parents, we can set behavioral expectations for all who enter our school communities, along with responses to behaviors that are not in keeping with those expectations.
If this is done collaboratively, and the expectation is expressed clearly to everyone, regularly and explicitly, there can be no mistaking that everyone’s safety and security is important in our schools. Bullying of any kind will not be tolerated.
As we move forward, we acknowledge there is fear and trepidation -- fear of the unknown, trepidation about change. We have witnessed significant changes in Providence Public Schools, starting with Hope High School, in a previous takeover. It was a great success in terms of student outcomes. There were increases in reading and math scores; a clearly defined and administratively supported discipline policy was implemented; and the school’s administrative team had a clear vision and support from the Rhode Island Department of Education.
But it didn’t last. Budget cuts and changes in priorities caused it fall apart. That is what makes teachers fearful this time around. Adapting, adjusting and learning a new curriculum every single time a new leadership team comes into the district makes teachers fearful. Not having input into changes, or not having your expertise as an educator valued, makes teachers fearful.
We need stability, a clear vision, mutual respect and precise communication in order to believe this time will be different. We know members understand we have a great deal of work to do and we are ready to do it. This is only the tip of the iceberg. Our real work begins when our students arrive today.
From day one we must engage our students, spark their creativity, and challenge them to be curious, inquisitive, and resourceful. They must know and believe that we see them, we value them and we believe in them. It is our mission to do better for all Providence children.
Maribeth Calabro is the president of the Providence Teachers Union.