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Providence School Board Chair resigns

July 12, 2011

The head of the Providence School Board has resigned from her post. Kathy Crain has chaired the board since January. She says she came to the position with high hopes for reforming city schools but has become disillusioned by the slow pace of change.

“I guess I was a bit of a Pollyanna thinking that nine people who believed strongly in reform could actually change the system,” Crain said, adding, “I think the politics and the power and the money are sadly much stronger than the desire to really change public education for the better.”

Crain attributes her decision to step down to a new law that strips the board’s ability to approve teachers’ union contracts. Crain says she believes the school board should have some authority to make sure contracts are written with students in mind.

“This is a system built upon patronage and giving out jobs and retaining jobs,” Crain said. “We have children who can’t read and write and instead we are focusing on adults.”

Providence Mayor Angel Taveras has argued that because the Providence school board is appointed rather than elected it should not have power over teacher contracts.

“Ms. Crain apparently did not agree with this,” Taveras said in a written response to Crain’s resignation. “I accept her resignation and thank her for her service to Providence and it’s schoolchildren.”

The Taveras Administration and the Providence Teachers’ Union are reported to be close to a contract deal. The mayor has repeatedly said that as a product of the Providence Public Schools, he is committed to improving the city school system.

Crain is just the latest top official to leave the Providence schools of late. Superintendent Tom Brady steps down at the end of this week, and the district has also had turnover for its Chief Academic Officer and Chief Financial Officer, among others.

Providence city officials say they have confidence that incoming interim Superintendent Susan Lusi will minimize any disruption caused by the departures.

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