Board of Education

John Bender

Rhode Island's new Education Commissioner Ken Wagner officially begins his tenure on Saturday, August 1st, although he is not expected in the office until Monday.

The Rhode Island Department of Education says his first day on the job will include meetings with students, parents and teachers. Wagner is also expected to meet with his new staff.

A former deputy education commissioner in New York State, Wagner has moved to Rhode Island with his family.

He succeeds Deborah Gist as Rhode Island's education chief.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Rhode Island officially has a new education commissioner after a vote Monday to confirm Governor Gina Raimondo’s nominee, Ken Wagner.

So far, reaction to Wagner has been optimistic, but some teachers have expressed reservations because he lacks experience in the classroom. Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison sat down with Larry Purtill, a member of the State Board of Education and the president of the National Education Association Rhode Island, one of two teachers’ unions in the state.

John Bender / RIPR

Rhode Island may have a new education commissioner as of Monday Evening. The Board of Education convenes for a vote on nominee Dr. Ken Wagner.

Wagner is governor Gina Raimondo’s pick to lead the state’s K through 12 education system, following the departure of Deborah Gist. He comes to Rhode Island from New York State where he was deputy education commissioner. His background also includes time as a middle school principal and a school psychologist.

John Bender / RIPR

Ken Wagner is Governor Gina Raimondo’s nomination for education commissioner. The post has been open since former commissioner Deborah Gist left for a job in Tulsa, Oklahoma. Wagner comes to the Ocean State from the New York state education department.

Wagner got his start in education policy at age 18, when he was elected to a local school board in New York. Since then, his education career includes working as school psychologist and middle school principal. 

Governor Gina Raimondo has announced two businessmen to lead the State Council on Elementary and Secondary Education and the State Council on Post-Secondary Education. 

To chair the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education, which oversees public schools, Raimondo picked Daniel McConaghy, an executive vice president at Gilbane Building Company.

McConaghy also serves on the board of trustees for LaSalle Academy, a private, Catholic school that counts Raimondo among its lengthy list of prominent graduates.

albertogp123 / flickr

A group of community organizations has filed a petition with the State Board of Education to stop high stakes testing from taking effect as early as 2017. The groups are concerned about using the PARCC exam as part of grading or as a graduation requirement.

Elisabeth Harrison

Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo is praising the state’s Board of Education for approving new regulations that allow qualified students to do college-level coursework while they are still in high school.

The Governor had sought that approval, saying it is a step toward creating Prepare RI, the jobs plan initiative Raimondo has proposed to allow students to finish professional certifications or college degrees more quickly.

$1.3 million for this program is included in the governor’s proposed budget.

Elisabeth Harrison

Governor Gina Raimondo’s pick to lead the State Board of Education faces a hearing Wednesday. Barbara Cottam is scheduled to appear before the Senate Education Committee. 

Cottam, who currently works as an executive vice president for Citizens Bank Financial Group, has a background in politics. She worked for governors Bruce Sundlun and Joseph Garrahy, and she’s married to Garrahy’s son, John Garrahy. The couple has two daughters, who attend a private school in Providence.

December has come and gone, along with the deadline for the State Board of Education to give notice of its intent to renew the contract for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

The current contract, which expires in June, contains a six-month notification requirement if the board plans to renew. State Department of Education Spokesman Elliot Krieger says the state can still retain Gist, if the board chooses to negotiate a new contract.

The full Board of Education votes Monday on tuition increases for students at the university of Rhode Island, Rhode Island college and the state's community college system.  State higher education officials call it a modest increase.  They say it is necessary after two years with no increases at URI, and three years with no increase at CCRI.  

A parent in Cumberland filed has filed a lawsuit against the Cumberland School District and the State Board of Education, challenging the practice of charging tuition for summer school.

In a complaint filed last week, parent Susan Giannini alleges the fees are unfair to students with learning disabilities and low income families. Her attorneys argue they fly in the face of longstanding state policy that prohibits public schools from charging fees for other programs, like afterschool sports and AP classes.

Rhode Island’s Board of Education has voted to give preliminary approval to a new charter school in Woonsocket. The RISE Mayoral Academy would start out with a kindergarten class and grow to a K-8 school serving more than 700 students from Woonsocket, Burrillville and North Smithfield.

Critics say charter schools draw money away from regular public schools, a particular problem in Woonsocket, where school officials are working under severe budget constraints.

Public schools can charge tuition for summer school courses, under a decision from the State Board of Education

The board voted 7-2 last night to uphold a decision from State Education Commissioner Deborah Gist, in a case that pits a relatively common practice in suburban schools against concerns about fairness for low-income students.

Rhode Island's Board of Education is poised to vote Tuesday on a new mayoral academy charter school that would serve Woonsocket, North Smithfield and Burrillville.

The Department of Education has recommended preliminary approval for the school, which eventually hopes to serve 729 students in grades Kindergarten through 8th grade under the name RISE Mayoral Academy.

The board is also scheduled to vote on a proposed expansion that would more than double the student body at Blackstone Academy, a charter high school in Pawtucket. 

Rhode Island's Council for Elementary and Secondary Education will take up renewals for a group of charter schools and requests for school construction funding later today. The Council will also consider a decision that could have implications for summer school programs.

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