Providence Teachers Union Votes ‘No Confidence’ in School Leaders, Says They Failed to Look Out for Students

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For Immediate Release
March 23, 2021

Maribeth Calabro


PROVIDENCE, R.I.—The Providence Teachers Union membership voted overwhelmingly on a resolution declaring it has “no confidence” in the leadership of Providence Superintendent Harrison Peters and state Education Commissioner Angelica Infante-Green.

The “no confidence” vote announced today was a show of intensifying exacerbation over serious concerns with the mismanagement of the Providence Public School District. Eighty percent of the membership voted with 99.2 percent voting in favor of the resolution. The main areas of discontent are the failure of Peters and Infante-Green to collaborate with the union and to successfully lead the district, failure to properly handle education and safety imperatives during the time of COVID-19 and failure to bargain a contract with the union in good faith.

“Providence teachers and school staff have been running on fumes to get our students through a tumultuous school year, with very little guidance, collaboration and respect from district officials. In the end, our students have suffered because the district failed on so many levels to do what’s best for them. It’s more in sorrow than in anger that we cast this vote of no confidence, in the hopes that it sends a message that our kids and teachers deserve better,” said Providence teacher Carol Pagan, who spoke at a news conference discussing the no-confidence vote.

PTU President Maribeth Calabro said she was disappointed but not surprised that the situation has escalated to this level.

“We hoped that the state takeover would be an attempt to work with frontline teachers and fix many of the district’s problems. Sadly for everyone, the leadership did not rise to the occasion, and it has been a complete failure,” PTU President Maribeth Calabro said. “We held off for a long time, hoping leadership would make a turn in the right direction, but it never happened and our members have spoken very clearly.”

Calabro will use the no-confidence vote to announce the union’s next moves in a major speech later this week.  

The resolution outlined members’ reasons for no confidence in PPSD leadership, including:

  • Failure to collaborate with the PTU and successfully lead the district:
    • Complete disinterest by Infante-Green and Peters to collaborate with the PTU. “Instead of working with us, they want to fight with us,” the resolution said.
    • Total disregard for the voice and expertise of teachers, who are the closest to the students and who know what is best for them.
    • Failure to actively recruit and hire for the 65 current PPSD teacher vacancies and the decision to not renew the contracts of highly qualified teachers of color.

A Providence teacher of color, Amed Torres, discussed at the news conference his surprise when he learned he would not being renewed.

“Providence has an extremely diverse student population and needs more teachers of color. I don’t know why I wasn’t renewed, especially since the district desperately needs a more diverse teacher corps and says publicly they are so committed to attracting and keeping more diverse teachers. Not renewing well-regarded teachers of color for no valid reason hurts all of our students,” Torres said.

  • Lack of any serious, sustainable plan to address recruitment, retention and diversity. Instead, they blame unions, which have no power to hire or fire.
  • Failure to be transparent and effectively communicate with teachers and parents.
  • Infante-Green’s continuing attacks and bullying of teachers publicly.
  • Failure to address urgent school safety and health issues in the time of COVID-19:
    • Failure to collaborate with the PTU on the safe reopening of school buildings, including refusing to conduct a thorough classroom-by-classroom inspection for safety hazards.
    • Reopening school buildings before basic safety measures were in place, as recorded in simplified “walkthroughs.”
    • Failure to enforce recommendations of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, including six feet of distancing in classrooms and maintaining stable pods.
    • Failure to provide classroom ventilators until there was intense pressure from teachers and other community members. Until then, windows were kept open and students were freezing and having difficulty concentrating.
  • Failure to address education imperatives during the pandemic:


The Virtual Learning Academy:

“The district refused the union’s offer to help develop a virtual learning program. Their ‘we got this’ attitude resulted in a horribly flawed VLA program that confused and frustrated students and parents. It took a petition of over 1,500 signatures to get them to do a bit of course correction. Stubbornness will never win the day,” said Providence teacher Melissa Paumbo.

  • Refusal to collaborate with the PTU to create a well-run virtual education program, resulting in a flawed Virtual Learning Academy. Even to this day, VLA students and teachers do not have adequate supplies and materials to implement the curriculum with fidelity.
  • VLA was hastily implemented, with parents and students given an arbitrary Aug. 19 deadline to choose virtual or in-school learning. Teachers lacked essential training on VLA protocols, as late as the Friday before school began. Some medically fragile students and students with disabilities had no placement in VLA for over a month after the start of school.
  • Poor communications and transparency with VLA parents resulted in more than 1,000 unanswered calls to the district’s VLA hotline.
  • VLA classroom sizes ballooned to up to 52 students.
  • Failure to provide support and professional development for multilingual learners and dual-language educators, who were forced to teach in-person students and VLA students simultaneously, harming students academically and violating the “stable pod” safety protocol.

Other education failures:

  • Failure to hire a sufficient number of substitute teachers to cover teacher absences due to COVID-19 exposure, resulting in uncertified personnel teaching students.
  • Failure to provide students with academic resources to make up for learning loss due to the pandemic.
  • Decreased the extended school year for the most vulnerable and neediest students from five weeks to four.
  • Refusal to delay state standardized RICAS tests this spring, as other states have done, wasting valuable instructional time and further traumatizing students.


  • Failure to bargain a contract with the PTU in good faith and abide by the contract:
    • Superintendent Peters’ attempt to circumvent negotiating with PTU leadership in his March 5, 2021, communication to PTU members.
    • Outsourced PTU bargaining unit work and violated state law by removing PTU-member school nurse teachers at Roger Williams Middle School and Mt. Pleasant High School and replaced their services with SMART Clinics.
    • Removed PTU truancy officer positions while the need still exists. The work is currently being performed by central office administrators and an outside agency.


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