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’s Board of Education has unanimously confirmed Ken Wagner to lead the state department in charge of K-12 schools. Wagner has his work cut out for him when it comes to teachers. Many are hoping that he will reach out to them after they clashed with his predecessor. 

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

Dr. Ken Wagner, Governor Gina Raimondo’s pick for state Education Commissioner, spent Thursday morning at Calcutt Middle School in Central Falls. It was his first site visit since his nomination’s announcement Wednesday. The students demonstrated to Wagner how to operate bottle rockets.

Wagner finishes up as New York Deputy Education commissioner Friday, and says his post in Rhode Island would begin in August.

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. 

John Bender / RIPR

Rhode Island lawmakers passed legislation requiring more music performance opportunities in public schools. The bill mandates that all public secondary schools offer performing ensembles such as band, chorus or orchestra.

Most public schools in Rhode Island have performance ensembles, but some are offered before or after school and sometimes for no credit.  Advocates say the new mandate is a step towards incorporating these ensembles into standard arts curricula.

Summer in Rhode Island means time to grab a book and sink your toes into the sand, or head out to the nearest lawn chair. For a few summer reading tips, Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison turned to Nicole Merola, chair of the Department of Literary Arts and Studies at the Rhode Island School of Design.

Nicole Merola's summer book picks:


"I've just started it, and I have to say that I'm really kind of engrossed in the way that he is weaving together music, musical composition, chemistry and bioterrorism."


The newest mayoral charter school set to open in Rhode Island has picked a location in downtown Woonsocket. 

  RISE Prep will start with a kindergarten class this fall and grow to include a middle school. This will be the first charter elementary school in Woonsocket.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Charter schools dodged a bullet, this month when Rhode Island lawmakers ended the legislative session without agreement between House and Senate bills that could have changed the way charter schools are funded and restricted their ability to grow. 

Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison asked Tim Groves, the head of the Rhode Island League of Charter Schools, whether he thinks public opinion is turning against charter schools.

Elisabeth Harrison

After months of anticipation, the General Assembly failed to pass a single bill related to charter schools.

That's good news if you're in the charter school world. It means lawmakers failed to reach agreement on bills that would place new restrictions on the expansion of charter schools and reopen the state funding formula to reduce money for charter schools.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

Providence Superintendent Susan Lusi opens up about her tenure in the state’s largest school district, as she prepares to step down. She spoke with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at the district central office before her departure next week.

While she says she unequivocally believes she has made a difference, Lusi admits that Providence's student test scores leave a lot to be desired.

Elisabeth Harrison / RIPR

One of Rhode Island’s most controversial school leaders is retiring. Fran Gallo, the superintendent of Central Falls public schools, steps down on Friday. Her tenure includes the firing and re-hiring of high school teachers, which thrust Rhode Island into the center of a national debate over public education. Gallo sat down with Rhode Island Public Radio’s Elisabeth Harrison at her office in Central Falls to look back on the firings, and what she’s learned from Rhode Island’s smallest school district.

Elisabeth Harrison

Calling it "the most restrictive and punitive charter school bill in the entire country," the Rhode Island Mayoral Academies lobbied against the legislation, which would require local approval for new and expanding charter schools.

RIMA, one of several charter school and public education advocacy groups to raise concerns about the legislation, cites negative consequences, including a "fiscal catastrophe" for schools in the process of adding grades.

The group used Providence-based Achievement First, which has opened two elementary schools, as an example.