Mayor Elorza To Keep Lusi Head Of Providence Schools

Jan 9, 2015

Providence Superintendent of Schools Susan Lusi
Credit Elisabeth Harrison

At the close of his first week as mayor of Providence, Jorge Elorza has announced he wants Providence Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi to stay on for at least another 18 months.

Elorza describes Lusi as a well-qualified leader, who shares his goals for improving city schools.

"Dr. Lusi shares my vision of reforming the role of central administration and directing all available resources to our classrooms," Elorza said in a press release announcing the reappointment.

Lusi, who attended Brown and Harvard University, has led the Providence school department since 2011.

In a statement, she says she's "excited" to continue working in Providence and grateful for the support she has received in her time as superintendent.

“I know that with the leadership and support of Mayor Elorza and his administration, we will dramatically improve the education of each and every child in Providence,” Lusi said.

During his inaugural address, Elorza pledged a complete audit of the school department's central office functions and organization. He has also talked about turning city schools into community centers, to offer a wider array of services to students and their families.

The proposal may be costly, but it is aimed at addressing stubbornly low test scores in a district that also has some of the highest poverty rates in the state.

While Providence's test scores have improved since 2011, student achievement remains well below average, especially in mathematics. The last time students took the statewide NECAP exam in the fall of 2013, just 14 percent of Providence high school juniors scored proficient in Math.

School officials are involved in a variety of efforts to improve performance, including turnaround efforts at several schools, a move toward greater flexibility for principals, and the addition of two new high schools, which will serve small groups of students but have greater freedom to try out innovative programs.

Former Mayor Angel Taveras received national attention for a program known as Providence Talks, which seeks to improve vocabulary levels for young children. The program, which began as a pilot in 2014, tracks the number of words children hear on a daily basis. Parents who participate in the program receive coaching to help them expose their children to a broader vocabulary.

Providence Talks has been heralded as an innovative approach to reducing what researchers call the "word gap," which refers to an estimated 30 million-word difference between what low-income children hear in their households and what middle-income and affluent children experience at home.

Note: While the Providence School Board technically hires the superintendent, the board is appointed by the mayor. Lusi says that with this announcement, the board will vote to take up an option to extend her contract through the summer of 2016.