October 1 letter

As Congress debates the conditions to continue (or re-open) of the federal government, the General Assembly is in recess pending the start of the next session in January. The recess provides time to work on study commissions. With that in mind, I wish to provide an update concerning the Senate’s commission to review labor-management relations in the Providence Public Schools.

In June, the Senate approved Resolution S-1131, establishing this commission with a charge to:

* Review the professional standards and the labor-management relationship for employees of the Providence Public Schools, particularly as defined by State law; and

* Develop recommendations that promote a rewarding professional environment and 32 great school-based flexibility and accountability for the district’s professional educators.

I was motivated to request the formation of this Commission after reading an opinion piece written by Sue Lusi (a former Providence Superintendent) and Steve Smith (a former Providence Teachers Union President) who offer a vision that places a higher value on the profession of teaching through “dramatically new rules of engagement that will mandate collaboration.” Other experts, such as Saul Rubenstein of Rutgers University, have published research finding a significant correlation between improved labor-management collaboration and improved student outcomes.

The Commission held its first in-person meeting on September 21 at the State House. During October, the Commission will hold three listening sessions to learn the perspectives of stakeholders and community members on this issue. All listening sessions will occur in the State House, Room 313. * The schedule is as follows:

·        Tuesday, October 10 at 5:00 p.m.

·        Tuesday, October 17 at 5:00 p.m.

·        Thursday, October 26 at 5:00 p.m.

We are working on securing Spanish translation service for one or more of these meetings, and will announce when that is available.

After hearing from the community, the Commission will hold three “business meetings” to hear from experts, discuss their findings and formulate a report with recommendations. These meetings will take place in the State House, Senate Lounge on:

·        Wednesday, November 1 at 5:00 p.m.

·        Tuesday, November 7 at 5:00 p.m.

·        Tuesday, November 14 at 5:00 p.m.

All of these sessions and meetings will be broadcast online on Capitol TV.

The Commission also will welcome written comments from the public, which you can send to policy analyst Morgan Dimaio at mdimaio@rilegislature.gov .

An All-Star team of officials, teachers and community members have stepped forward to join me to serve on this Commission. They are as follows:

·        Senate Minority Leader Jessica de la Cruz;

·        Senator Meghan Kallman;

·        Jeremy Sencer, Providence Teacher and R.I. Federation of Teachers;

·        Maribeth Calabro, President, Providence Teachers Union;

·        Lisa Odom-Villella, Deputy Commissioner for Instructional Programs;

·        Zach Scott, Deputy Superintendent for Operations;

·        Wobberson Torchon, Principal, Mount Pleasant High School;

·        Nirva LaFortune, City Year Providence and PPSD parent;

·        Erlin Rogel, President, Providence School Board;

·        Marcus Tremblay, Junior, Classical High School;

·        Providence City Council member Justin Roias;

·        Thomas Kerr-Vanderslice, Office of Mayor Brett Smiley

·        Steven Smith, former President, Providence Teachers Union**

·        Susan Lusi, former Superintendent, Providence Public Schools**

Their broad array of knowledge, experience and backgrounds can support a rich discussion and hopefully a useful contribution to this important subject.

Please share your thoughts and ideas with the Commission to allow us to do the best possible job. Thank you for your consideration.