Board of Ed Tackles Guns, Gist and Science

May 22, 2013

There’s a meaty agenda on tap this week at the State Board of Education. The group is scheduled to vote Thursday on a controversial proposal to allow police to carry guns on state college campuses. The board is also scheduled to vote on adopting new science standards and consider a contract extension for Education Commissioner Deborah Gist.

Gist has come under fire this week from teachers, who call her leadership style dictatorial. Teachers complain that Gist has ignored their concerns about the pace of reforms, and she has earned the ire of teachers’ union leaders by tackling seniority rules in teacher hiring and firing.

Gist defends her management practices, saying she has listened to teacher input. She says she understands that change can be “challenging and uncomfortable.”

The adoption of new science standards comes as Rhode Island works to implement the Common Core, a set of national standards for math and English. Teachers across the state have been attending training sessions to understand how the new standards will affect curriculum and classroom practice. Some states have expressed concerns about moving to the new science standards because they are already devoting considerable resources to the Common Core.

On the higher education side of the agenda, the board is scheduled to vote on a policy that would allow campus police to carry guns. Faculty leaders at the University of Rhode Island adamantly oppose arming campus police, a move they say will not make students safer.

But URI President David Dooley has advocated in favor of the change, especially after a recent gun scare on the university's Kingston campus. The proposed policy would allow leadership at each state college and university to make the decision about arming campus police.