RI education officials to decide future of charter school

Providence, R.I. – State education officials are expected to vote Thursday on whether to give the Highlander Charter School one more year to remain in operation instead of renewing the school's charter for another five years.

Parents are upset that the state would even consider closing a school that has some of the best middle school test scores in Providence. They feel passionately about Highlander Charter, a small elementary and middle school in South Providence. Amelia Cado, whose daughter is in the fourth grade, says she can't imagine sending her anywhere else.

"My daughter has the passion for math now that I've never seen before," Cado says. "Myself, I work in the financial industry, and I'm so proud of that. So I love the school."

But state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist has raised concerns about Highlander, noting that elementary students score only slightly better than the average for Providence. Middle school students are well above the district average, but they're still lower than the state overall.

Gist says the bar should be higher than that for charter schools, and she's recommending just one more year for Highlander to show improvement. Parents say they can't understand why the state would take away an option, which they believe is superior to the local public schools.