Citing ‘interference’ from Mayor Elorza, school board president plans to resign

PROVIDENCE, R.I. (WPRI) – The president of the Providence School Board plans to resign later this month.

In a scathing letter sent to Mayor Jorge Elorza Tuesday morning, School Board President Keith Oliveira explained that he has a “fundamental disagreement” with the administration “over the role of the Providence School Board and its relation to your office.”

“Your persistent interference into the affairs of the school board and the micro-management of the administrative duties of the superintendent by your office cause me to question your administration’s understanding of your proper role,” Oliveira wrote in the letter. “I lack confidence in your administration’s governance and will no longer serve with it.”

In the letter, Oliveira said his final meeting will be Jan. 25.

Oliveira’s resignation comes on the heels of an upcoming vote for officers of the school board, an election he was unlikely to win. In an interview, Oliveira said he expects School Board Vice President Nicholas Hemond to be elected the next president of the board.

In a statement, a spokesman for Elorza said the mayor believes “strong collaboration” is essential to moving the city’s schools in the right direction.

“Mr. Oliveira’s decision to resign ahead of the apparent loss of his leadership role is unfortunate,” Evan England, the mayor’s communications director, told WPRI.com. “The mayor has accepted his resignation and looks forward to continuing to work collaboratively with the school board to make the reforms necessary to make Providence schools the best they can be.”

All school board members are appointed by the mayor to serve staggered three-year terms – they aren’t required to resign when a new administration comes in – and elections occur every time a new member joins the board.

Oliveira, who works as the director of admissions and student support at the R.I. Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School, has served on the board since 2011 and became president in 2012. Elorza reappointed him to the board last year. He is widely credited with restoring stability to a board that was fractured after contentious votes to close schools and issue layoff notices to every teacher in 2011.

He’s also been outspoken about what he considers a lack of financial support from the city to the school department.

Oliveira voted against the school budget that was later passed by the City Council because it level-funded the city’s appropriation to the school department at $124.9 million for a sixth consecutive year. Overall, the school budget grew to $353.5 million thanks to a $7-million increase in state aid.

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Dan McGowan ( dmcgowan@wpri.com ) covers politics, education and the city of Providence for WPRI.com. Follow him on Facebook and Twitter: @danmcgowan

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