Kindergarten registration for Providence Public Schools is just around the corner. Thanks to Anisa Raoof for publishing this comprehensive on-line guide:


Providence Schools’ website contains information at the following link:


We would urge all East Side residents who are considering public education for their children to carefully look at both Martin Luther King and Vartan Gregorian. They are both excellent choices.


We’ve been contacted by a parent who had a number of questions about the academic programs at Nathan Bishop.

We’ve heard about the “word on the street”, and this post is intended to clarify, to the best of our ability, the state of academics at Nathan Bishop. Ultimately, we would strongly advocate that parents come to the building, talk to the Principal, Guidance staff, and teachers, and form their own opinions.

Nathan Bishop just graduated its first full three year class of students since reopening. To say this was a pioneering group of students is an understatement. They entered a building that had just been extensively remodeled, with a teaching and support staff that was only 33% hired, and into a program that had not existed several months earlier. Readers of this blog will note that extensive administrative and community involvement went into formulating what the “new” Nathan Bishop would be. Again, if there are questions, talk to the parents of recent graduates… Most everyone left the building on “promotion day” with wide smiles on their faces.

Providence Public Schools at this time continues to only designate Nathanael Greene as having an “Advanced Academic Program”. For years, this was the best public middle school option for parents with motivated, academically talented children. There are 104 seats per year, and your child is either “all in” or “all out” of the advanced core classrooms.  Over the years discussions were held at the School Department about expanding the Advanced Academic programming to other middle schools, but entropy prevailed.

The opportunity to re-open Nathan Bishop allowed the planners of the academic programming to come up with an “a la carte” advanced programming concept. Unlike Nathanael Greene, your child might be advanced in math and average in English, and would participate in classes geared to their academic level.

There never was “tracking” at Nathan Bishop (except for a separate Math track that parallels the Math program at Nathanael Greene (7th grade algebra and 8th grade geometry)). Instead, the school administrators and guidance counselors made an effort to group students by ability, such that the teachers could differentiate instruction between the stronger and weaker students. Core concepts were taught, and enriched material or advanced goals were provided to the kids that could benefit from them. This coming year, another option for an enriched core math program is being discussed, which won’t shortchange kids by jumping ahead too quickly.

Over the past two years more and more high performing kids have been coming into the school. The administrators and faculty at Bishop see this as an opportunity to expand advanced level instruction to a larger group of students. Their goal is to meet the school department standards and mandates, and then to supplement and exceed them for appropriate students.

Nathan Bishop benefits from the involvement of a number of community organizations, including the Gamm Theater, and PASA, the Providence After School Alliance. Dedicated teachers have organized theatrical presentations (including Shakespeare), talent shows, and a Science Olympiad team. In fact, the Nathan Bishop team placed 2nd in the state-wide Science Olympiad 2 years ago, and 4th this past year… not bad for a school new to the competition!

And don’t forget the beauty of having this dedicated faculty in your own neighborhood school. While many of our children attended Nathanael Greene, and had great experiences, there was something wonderful about our kids at Bishop being able to walk or ride their bikes to school, and develop a large cadre of friends in the neighborhood, with whom they could spontaneously get together with after school, rather than having to rely on “play dates” to get back and forth across town. The value is outstanding. You have paid for it. What is private school tuition this year? $26K? More?

Every school has a few “warts”, and Bishop is no exception. The strength of any public school comes from a principal, faculty, parents, and students that are strong supporters  of the academic mission, the student body, and the school culture. Nathan Bishop has this, and will benefit from further investment by East Side parents.

Many of the ESPEC steering committee members have had, have, or will have students in the building. We’re happy to answer any questions we can, but feel that the best information will come from taking a tour of the building and talking to the Principal and other faculty members. You can call the school about a tour, or attend the Open House in the Fall (see links below). You have to take that first step though. Many of your neighbors have, and with few exceptions, were happy they did.

A few pertinent links:





Please see Jill Davidson’s post about the upcoming Hope High School Alumni Association weekend, including links to the Alumni Association and the event itself. This is the 3rd Annual Alumni Weekend at Hope, and proceeds from the weekend benefit the Alumni Association “Reach for the Stars” Alumni Scholarship.

More at:





I’ve read the Projo article, Bob Kerr’s wonderful editorial in the Projo yesterday, and much of the bloviation on the Projo blogs about Sam’s letter to the Witman’s.

Sam has apologized for writing the letter. We all agree that it came off as inappropriate, and was probably not a smart thing to have written.

The lynch-mob mentality that flows out of the Projo blogs has got to stop. Our lovely local Republican party leadership is not helping either with their Facebook site (shame on you Ms. Pinsky – how many years have you and your family known and even worked with Sam?). I was even distressed by the tact taken by this morning’s Political Roundtable speakers on RIPR, and was proud of Mayor Angel Tavares for not getting sucked in by their line of questioning.

Anyone who knows Sam (as I have for 20 years) knows that he is a man of utmost honesty and integrity.

Sam has devoted his entire “extra-curricular” life to public service.

He is a cerebral and academic politician (remind you of any Presidents we know?).  He’s not the type to show up at community pot-luck suppers and bingo games, and frankly doesn’t always say the right thing in a social situation.

But don’t impugn his integrity.

This is how I understand (but again, don’t condone) Sam’s letter. Sam is a man of his word. Truth is more meaningful to him than most everything else. Sam was asked to do something on behalf of his constituents, and was able to do so. They made a commitment to him, and didn’t keep their word. For Sam, that showed a lack of integrity. His letter was basically a way of telling them that he was disappointed that they didn’t keep their word, as he had. There was no quid-pro-quo. The service had already been provided by the city.  Should Sam have let the unkept promise of a campaign contribution go? Of course. But Sam is not a politician’s (politically correct) politician. And so he wrote the letter expressing his disappointment. The closing paragraph indicates that he was going to have to change his expectations about how people interact with one another, not that he was going to change the service he would provide his constituents.

Did the Witman’s have a right to be disturbed by the letter? I think everyone would agree that they did. I’m sure they have a lot to be angry about. But the creation of this tempest-in-a-teapot certainly makes me question their integrity. Also, who asks a City Contractor if they could also pave their driveway, while a city-contracted service is being performed?

Bob Kerr seems to indicate that Sam was doing “something that everyone does”. Bob: where are the legions of other constituents that Sam has shook down? Why aren’t they coming out of the woodwork? Perhaps because they don’t exist.

Please don’t impugn Sam’s honesty.

What about Sam’s role as a Councilman?

In the twenty-two years I have lived in this city, I have never before seen a member of the City Council take such an interest in the day-to-day workings of the Council, or make them transparent to his constituents. Every week or two Sam sends out and posts a letter describing in detail the issues facing the City, and the deliberations taken by the City Council to address them. Sam has held open community meetings to discuss issues of importance to his constituents. Sam helped dissect the Achievement First application, and came up with a middle-of-the-road compromise that showed a real understanding of the issues raised by two diametrically opposed camps. Sam has served as the Chair of the Council’s Revenue Subcommittee, and has helped explore numerous logical, intelligent ways of helping the City find the revenue to deal with its structural deficits. In his role as Education Subcommittee Chair, Sam helped dissect the PTU contract proposals so that we could all understand the many implications, including some of the problems we are now facing with a “no-layoff” clause. We are truly blessed to have someone of his intelligence participating in City Council affairs.

Please don’t impugn Sam’s forthrightness.

Someone on a Projo blog even claimed that the only reason Sam helped reopen Nathan Bishop was that he was too cheap to pay for schools for his children. First, Sam never sent his children to Nathan Bishop. Second, if the writer of that comment had any idea of how many unpaid, voluntary hours Sam (and several of us) put into the Nathan Bishop project, they would eat their words. I, and many other neighbors, have sent our children to Nathan Bishop, and are grateful for his involvement.

Sam, I am sure, has learned many lessons from this public tar and feathering. He has apologized. The letter was wrong. But now this needs to stop. Let him get back to the business of representing Ward 2, honorably, in the City Council.

Note that this piece was not vetted by the entire ESPEC Steering Committee, but I am sure that most members would stand behind many if not all of these comments.

Read an article last week about hiring of teachers this coming year in Providence. The details can be found at the link below:

Existing teachers to get first shot under hiring plan on Page A6 of Thursday, February 02, 2012 issue of The Providence Journal

Because our PTU contract contains a no lay-off clause, interim Supt. Lusi and PTU President Steve Smith devised a plan “to give inside candidates the first shot at job openings”. We had raised some concerns about this last October:


An interview process is in place. “The most senior candidate will be afforded an interview”.

Teachers who haven’t  been hired will be assigned to an existing job using a computer match algorithm. We had heard last year that Principals HAD to rank teachers, even if they did not want them.

The article goes on to state that ONCE interior candidates are hired, any remaining jobs will be opened to applicants from outside the district. That is when the “Criterion-based hiring process” begins. So what happens during the interior candidate interview process? What criteria are used for making hiring decisions involving those teachers??

The CBH process was heavily scripted and regulated.  As originally envisioned, it was to be used for all hiring decisions in Providence schools.  The elements of the revised, and now severely curtailed, CBH process have not yet been released.

This raises some serious concerns about the process used for hiring internal candidates, and more importantly, suggests that it will be nearly impossible for “fresh blood” to come into the system. The article quotes Lusi as saying “Why not look first to our best Providence teachers?”

While there will certainly be some excellent teachers looking for new positions this coming year, why do we suspect that the majority of the teachers who are looking will not be among “the best”?

I was pleased to hear that Lt. Col. Raoul Archambault, one of the teacher-leaders of the JROTC program at Hope High School, received a “Golden Apple” award this week from RIDE, NBC10, and Hasbro.

Information about the award can be found at the following links:




I met Lt. Col. Archambault and some of his students a few weeks ago at the Hope High open house.

I was so impressed with these kids, their achievements, their investment in their school and the JROTC program, as well as the overall school environment. These students took me on a tour of the school, and proudly showed me not only their listings on the school academic honor rolls and the JROTC trophies, but many of the other positive features of Hope High, including the newly renovated (and beautiful) science classrooms. I also met several very engaging teachers.

Overall, I came away very impressed, and hopeful that East Siders could and should consider looking at Hope High School for their high school age children.

There they go again…

For reasons unclear to us, the Projo often seems to find that pitting one neighborhood against another makes for good news.

The Projo editorial staff came out today in favor of the Achievement First Mayoral Academy Charter application.

The article can be found at the following link:


In the editorial they state “Some in the richer neighborhoods worry that their schools could suffer if some of the city’s education resources go to new charter schools”.

Here is the link to ESPEC’s statement, found on this blog:


We certainly don’t make that assertion anywhere.

And FYI: Who were among the first to oppose the AF application? Parents living in poorer neighborhoods of the city:



Parents THROUGHOUT the city are concerned that their schools may suffer if some of the city’s education resources go to new charter schools… get it?

And we agree with the Projo editorialists, the bottom line should be increasing educational opportunities for ALL students, in ALL neighborhoods, via addressing the barriers to meaningful change, posted in our letter/blog.