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New Providence superintendent promises to transform district

The new superintendent for the struggling Providence Public School District said Monday he'll work with a sense of urgency to unleash “hope and opportunity” for students.

Harrison Peters was introduced Monday at an event in Providence as the superintendent charged with turning the district around.

Peters, the outgoing chief of schools for Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, said that while he believes genius and talent is distributed equally across ZIP codes, he has found that opportunity is not. He said he will be a superintendent that moves with a sense of urgency, passion, purpose and respect.

Rhode Island took control of Providence’s schools Nov. 1. It’s expected to take at least five years to turn around a district that has been beleaguered by low test scores, crumbling infrastructure and widespread dysfunction.

Democratic Gov. Gina Raimondo said at the event with Peters that teachers and students “have toiled in a system that is broken for too long,” and she asked the community to work with the new superintendent, since he will “succeed or fail based on the support that we give him.”

Raimondo added that Peters is what the district needs because he has succeeded in some of largest, most diverse, challenging school districts in the country. Peters worked in Chicago and Houston before moving to the Tampa area. He begins work in Providence on Feb. 20.

The state takeover of the district was announced shortly after a scathing report from researchers at Johns Hopkins University was released in June. The review found the school district, the teachers union and the state Department of Education were all failing children, and researchers labeled the district among the worst in the nation.

State Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green said Peters and his team will “dismantle the years of complacency and low expectations,” and move with a sense of urgency not seen before in the city schools. Peters, working with Infante-Green, will have sweeping authority to change everything, from revamping teachers' contracts to the length of the school day.



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