Uprise RI: Community leaders accuse PVD Public Schools of retaliation and discrimination

Photo for Community leaders accuse PVD Public Schools of retaliation and discrimination
Pilar McCloud, David Morales, and Ty’Relle Stephens

By Steve Ahlquist


Community members gathered in front of the Providence Public School Department (PPSD) offices on Westminster Street in PVD on Tuesday morning to express their concern regarding issues in the Providence Public Schools, as well as the state intervention in the district. Pilar McCloud, CEO and Founder of A Sweet Creation Youth Organization began the press conference by saying that she was representing families, students, legislators, community organizations, and other community members.

“Due to the poor performance of the state intervention and recent allegations against the superintendent’s senior advisor,” said McCloud, “we have a few things we would like to ask of PPSD.”

Providence Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Javier Montañez‘s Senior Advisor, Joan Jackson, was accused of “toxic leadership and abuses of power” in an anonymous letter allegedly written by “eight district leaders.”

McCloud then read the list of demands:

  • Immediate resignation of Providence Public Schools Senior Advisor Joan Jackson;
  • Providence Delegation to bring an end to the Providence Public Schools State Intervention beginning September of 2023;
  • Removal of powers for the Rhode Island State Education Commissioner under the Providence takeover, upon return to legislative session in January of 2023;
  • A special Senate Oversight Committee hearing to discuss the overall status of the takeover and recent allegations into the Providence Superintendent’s Senior Advisor;
  • An independent investigation regarding potential graduation inflation occurring in PPSD; and,
  • An independent audit of the metrics/outcomes of the takeover.

Joining McCloud at the press conference were Gary Dantzler, Executive Director of Black Lives Matter Rhode Island; Dwayne Keys, Chair of the Southside Neighborhood Association; Representative David Morales (Democrat, District 7, PVD); Providence School Board member Ty’Relle Stephens; and Gerard Catala, President-elect of the Providence branch of the NAACP.

“They are not listening to us,” said Executive Director Dantzler. “It’s really sad that we have to go to this extreme to get the attention of the media. We need to protect our young Black and brown kids for the future of Rhode Island, and it’s imperative that we stand behind these schools and understand what’s going on.”

“Racism is not something you can perform at your job and still be employed,” said Dwayne Keys. “All those who are protecting the senior advisor, or who are ignoring what is being released are all contributing to that racism and white supremacy that is showing up in this situation.” While recognizing the hard work that is being done by teachers and administration every day, Keys stressed the need for truly independent investigations into these serious allegations.

Noting the need to revise the school funding formula that allocates state aid to municipal school systems, Representative Morales pointed out that today’s press conference and list of demands are “the result of issues that the community has continuously brought up… the tipping point, unfortunately, became the letter we saw a week and a half ago  that highlighted the practices that we have been hearing about on the ground… in a way that finally generated the attention it deserves.”

In lieu of a Senate Oversight Committee hearing that is unlikely to take place until January at the earliest, “the School Board is stepping in” said Ty’Relle Stephens, who was careful to point out that he can’t speak on behalf of the School Board. “I think that holding the superintendent accountable to the recommendations that we have given him…is the route that I’d go to as a board member.”

“We at the NAACP will not tolerate racism on any level at any time,” said President-elect Catala. “As soon as we hear about it. As soon as we see it, we will step up and speak against it.”

Gary Dantzler, Gerard Catala and Dwayne Keys