These kids get only one shot at an education. – James Diossa
Mayor James Diossa calls his community “the comeback city” and education plays a central role in that vision. In a city that is one mile by one mile and made up of predominantly Latino families, school choice has become part of the fabric of the community. Home to five charter schools as well as a traditional system, Mayor Diossa is committed to his entire community and doesn’t shy away from his support for school choice.
Diossa is one of 19 politicians from across the country who are being honored as “charter champions” by the National Alliance for Public Charter Schools during this year’s annual School Choice Week. These “champions” hail from both parties and include federal, state, and local representatives.
Mayor Diossa was the first in his family to attend college. His parents emigrated here from Colombia and worked tirelessly on behalf of their three boys. Education was the motivating factor. While many were fleeing the distressed city, Diossa knew he’d return. “This city gave my parents a job. It’s where they call home. I always knew that I wanted to come back here to give back to my city,” Diossa said.”
And come back he did. At the age of 27, he delivered his first inaugural address in both English and Spanish and became the youngest mayor in the history of Central Falls. In his role as Mayor, he has succeeded in establishing strong working relationships with both superintendents who have served during his tenure.
Jeremy Chiappetta, the executive director of the charter school whose board Diossa chairs, has this to say about Diossa:
Mayor Diossa not only serves as the board chair of Blackstone Valley Prep Mayoral Academy, but also is an active and ardent supporter of all of the district and public charter schools serving Central Falls young people. Over the past few years I have had the opportunity to work closely with the mayor, and I continue to be blown away by how deeply he cares about improving public schools. It is clear to me that his fervent desire to improve schools is rooted in a genuine care about improving the lives and the opportunity for the youth in Central Falls and Rhode Island. Whether it is chairing our meetings, or reading to 2nd graders at Veteran’s Elementary School, whether it is cheering the (Central Falls High School) Warriors football, or lacing up and scrimmaging local youth in fútbol, Mayor Diossa is not just a charter school champion, he is a champion for all of Central Falls.
A local union leader doesn’t particularly like Diossa’s stance on education. “We have way too many charters serving the Central Falls area,” said Jane Sessums, president of the Central Falls Teachers Union. “But we have a mayor and superintendent who have supported charter schools. That sends the wrong message to parents.”
Au contraire. Mayor Diossa sends precisely the right message to parents and to voters by empowering them to make choices about their children’s education and by channelling his passion for education into a commitment to improving public schools for all kids, regardless of how those schools happen to be governed.
We tip our hat to you Mayor Diossa for making your city of Central Falls and the whole state of Rhode Island proud with your award as a 2017 charter champion.