At a press conference today on Thurbers Avenue in the vicinity of the Roger Williams Middle School, Independent candidate for Providence Mayor Vincent A. Cianci, Jr. announced his strategies to reform the system of public education in Providence.
Noting the importance of a high quality education to the children, parents, and the economy of the city, Cianci cited the challenges and problems the district is facing. â€œNearly 81% of Providence School children are eligible for the free lunch program,â€ Cianci said, adding, â€œnearly one-third of our public high school students missed more than 10 days of school last year,â€ and â€œProvidence school studentsâ€™ test results are below the state average in every NECAP test for math, science, reading and writing, by an average gap of 23%."
There are some 24,000 students enrolled in the Providence Public School System and Cianci said they can, should, and must be better served. Cianci said that making the move to site-based school management would make the schools more efficient, the teachers better able to innovate, and allow the school districtâ€™s administrators to focus on systemâ€“wide issues. â€œAs mayor,â€ he said, â€œI will place the highest priority on the swift implementation of the site-based management model. Principals must be given more autonomy, with parents, students and educators working as partners to effect a new educational agenda to maximize student achievement. Goals based primarily on statistical mandates or incremental measures cannot bring about the fundamental changes needed to offer equal opportunity for our children to realize their potential.â€
Another aspect of improving education in Providence is the recognition that technical education is a legitimate option for some students. Cianci noted that the Providence Career and Technical
Academy is one example of the potential within the system to provide career and technical education training and prepare students for entry into the workplace. The Award-winning Worcester Technical High School in nearby Massachusetts is a model for success.
Students who excel in studies aimed at college should also have better options, Cianci said. â€œI want to create more opportunities for success for students who cannot be accommodated at Classical by expanding Advanced Placement courses in all city high schools. I also want to institute more enriched, gifted classes in the middle school classes city-wide. All students in Providence should be able to find appropriate placements in our public school system.â€
Cianci said he would put social service specialists in all of the cityâ€™s schools where poverty and low academic performance is an issue. â€œCurrently,â€ he said, â€œthere are social workers split between several schools, and they cannot adequately bring community services to our students. As part of each schoolâ€™s administrative team, the school social worker will focus on at-risk students and their families to solve social problems that become schools problems, such as chronic absenteeism and dropping out of the system.â€
Along with closer collaboration with social workers, Cianci said a palette of services, from enhanced guidance and early career counseling, and the institution of a system in which students are assigned to Deans who counsel them from third grade on, are also essential components he would implement, along with creating more efficient transportation routes to shorten the time kids spend on buses.
Cianci also noted that deplorable and unsafe conditions exist in many of the cityâ€™s schools. â€œRight across the street at Roger Williams Middle School, thereâ€™s a multitude of violations that put students and faculty at risk,â€ he said. â€œNo student, no teacher, should be allowed into a school where even one violation exists. I would take immediate action to correct violations.â€
â€œOur school system has dedicated administrators, teachers, interested parents, and students eager to learn,â€ Cianci said. â€œAll are the core elements of an excellent system. Working together, as teachers, students, parents and administrators, we have all the components needed to provide a vital and improved learning experience for all our students.â€
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