Rhode Island · School Talk

RI Commish Won’t Engage in Conversations That Don’t Center on Students

The Rhode Island Foundation hosted a huge education event today at the Convention Center called Make It Happen RIRhode Island’s Path to a World Class Public Education System, a brainstorming session to improve public education. Approximately three hundred people attended and they ranged from educators, students, parents, community and business leaders, union leaders, elected officials and education advocates. I arrived around 8:30 am and am writing this from the event around 4pm.

Our state education commissioner, Angelica Infante-Green, was one of the guest speakers in the morning and as usual, she did not pull any punches about her unwavering commitment to being student centered. Without exception. 

While she did express optimism about what a full room we had on a Saturday in December, she made it clear that anyone not willing to lock arms and move forward will be left behind. She is steadfast in her belief that the days of adult entanglements impeding progress must end.

Amen to that, Commish!

“If it doesn’t lead to better outcomes for students, I will not entertain it. I do not have adult conversations.”

She is adamant that kids in Massachusetts are not smarter than our kids in Rhode Island—my sense is that everyone in the room agreed. But she does think we need to look at what they’ve done and emulate their bold commitment to stay the course. 

One observation she has made, after being here for seven months, is that the politics here in the Ocean State are quite something. “I come from New York but there is nothing like the politics of Rhode Island”, she said. ” The politics is intense but that can’t dominate our conversation.” She alluded to those who think they can just “wait out” her tenure here—her response is that nobody is waiting anybody out. And in response to those who repeatedly tell her “good luck” she says, “I don’t need luck. I need partners. ”

Infante-Green also came right out and said the work ahead is about much more than just Providence and she—rightly—asserts that the districts that people think are “high performing” are really just okay.

During the afternoon session when Governor Raimondo, Senator President Dominic Ruggerio, Health and Wellness committee chair Joseph McNamara joined Infante-Green on the stage, she shared a few more thoughts. She reiterated the point that “we can and should and will only engage in conversations that lead to student outcomes.” She went on to say that we will lose the battle if we are entangled in adult politics and that “if what we do does not benefit students, we have failed.”

You hold me accountable and I’ll hold you accountable. —Angelica Infante-Green

She ended her comments with gratitude for the support she has received and optimism about the hard work ahead. 

It’s been a long time—maybe forever—since Rhode Island has put student outcomes ahead of adult interests and many of the most adult-centered folks wield great power and influence on Smith Hill. But ensuring that children are at the center of every education conversation is a battle—a war, perhaps—that I will proudly fight by Infante-Green’s side. 

What do you think?

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