The 2017 Power List — Education

Wednesday, November 29, 2017


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Clockwise top left - Shanley, Moffitt, Oliviera, and Walsh

Experts say the difference between Rhode Island’s economy and Massachusetts exploding and overheating economy is the difference between the respective education systems and, thus, the quality of our workforce.

To transform Rhode Island, many believe education is key. Improve K-12 and keep more of our top college students to stay in Rhode Island, and that will transform the economy.

As GoLocal describes the most powerful in Rhode Island, they influence, direct, and even manipulate the state’s government and economy.

“I'm very committed to its educational institutions, including my alma mater Central Falls High School's drama program, because I know that's what got me my start. I do everything I can to keep it alive since it made me feel like I had something to give to the world. I also support the Segue Institute for Learning, a charter school in Central Falls run by a friend of mine that my niece attends. I'm committed to that because of its proven results. They have the highest math scores of any charter school in Rhode Island,” said Viola Davis - Emmy and Academy Award winner — who attended Central Falls High School and Rhode Island College.

SLIDES: See the Most Powerful List for Education for 2017 BELOW

Power and influence in education are often different than politics…or not.

The members of the power group are often stealth in nature.

For Rhode Island to transform from a bottom ranked business state to a top performer, there is a consensus that Rhode Island schools may be the most important factor.

This list was developed with the input of journalists, elected officials, business influencers, top attorneys, leaders in philanthropy — those who contributed to the list are, de facto, powerful in their own right.


Related Slideshow: The 2017 Power List — Education

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Robert Walsh, Jr.

The Rhode Island NEA Executive Director is one of the most powerful and influential labor leaders in Rhode Island.

In 2010, he was tapped as the king-maker when Lincoln Chafee won a three-way race for Governor.

In 2014, he picked the wrong horse. NEA backed Clay Pell and that helped the teachers' arch-enemy Gina Raimondo to narrowly win a three-way Democratic primary.

Now, he can be the key influencer again. Will Chafee take on Raimondo in the 2018 Democratic primary? Would Walsh ever support a moderate Republican like Cranston Mayor Allan Fung over Raimondo?

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Meghan Hughes 

CCRI’s President is trying to reinvent the community college system in Rhode Island. She had no relevant higher education experience when appointed to head the community college and that has turned out to be both a positive and a negative.

She has shaken things up in hopes of improving a mediocre system and in so doing has regularly violated policies - and clashed with a vocal CCRI faculty association. 

She is just the fifth president of the CCRI, which is the largest community college in New England with four main campuses and two satellites.  Now, the lighting rod Promise Scholarship program has Hughes -- and whether or not CCRI can claim it as a "success" -- firmly in the spotlight. 

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Bertram Malle

For decades, Governors and economic prophets have claimed the way to rebuild the Rhode Island economy is to build partnerships between business and the state's universities, but too often it has just been a State-of-the-State speech or a white paper.

Now, a partnership between Hasbro and a team at Brown offers a glimpse into the potential of what has been pointed to, for so long. 

Professor Bertram Malle of Brown University -- lead investigator on the project dubbed ARIES (Affordable Robotic Intelligence for Elderly Support), will add artificial intelligence capabilities to Hasbro’s current Joy for All Companion Pets. On GoLocal LIVE, Malle discussed the collaborative project between Brown and Hasbro and how the effort could have an important impact on seniors and their quality of lives.

The Hasbro products are animatronic dogs and cats designed to provide interactive companionship, comfort, and joy for older adults. The research team’s goal is to develop additional capabilities for the ARIES companions to help older adults with simple tasks that could include help in finding lost objects, medication reminders or other tasks that sometimes become challenging, especially those who may have mild dementia.

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Barbara Cottam 

The Chair of the Rhode Island Board of Education plays two roles. One is that she heads the State’s top education decision-making body. The second is that she is an inner circle advisor to Governor Gina Raimondo. 

Her resume includes being communications director to then-Mayor of Providence Joseph Paolino and the late-Governor Bruce Sundlun, a top executive for Citizens Banks, and daughter-in-law to the late Governor J. Joseph Garrahy.

Cottam plays the game in business, education, and politics.

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Keith Oliviera

He might be the social conscience of education in Rhode Island, having played at every level of the field, and having been the voice of reason, and aspiration, often speaking for those who do not have a voice.

His common sense and quiet advocacy are not partisan. Urban children have no greater advocate and when the apartments across the street from the charter school he was heading had a sign “ F--K Trump,” he skillfully objected to the offensive sign while not endorsing the President’s often offensive behavior.

He served as chair of the Providence School Board, but Mayor Jorge Elorza replaced him with Nick Hemond, a State House lobbyist who has come under scrutiny for representing Providence clubs being investigated by the Board of Licenses.

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Dan Hurley

How can a basketball coach make the Power List for Education?

First, he is by far and away Rhode Island’s highest paid state employee. Starting this academic year, Hurley is guaranteed to make at least $1 million a year.

In contrast, URI President David Dooley has significantly greater responsibility and under his new contract, Dooley’s annual salary of $380,000 in the first year, $391,400 in the second, and $403,142 in the third and final year pale in comparison. 

Hurley’s salary is even higher than long-time Bryant University President Ron Machtley who earns over $800,000 and Brown President Christina Paxson who earns over $900,000.

For the first time since 1999, Hurley made the NCAA tournament for the first time and led the team to the second round of the NCAA tournament. Another trip to the Big Dance, and he may be Rhode Island's highest paid former employee.

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Father Brian Shanley

Over the past decade, Providence College has transformed its reputation and its physical campus. 

The College is now a destination and first choice for many top high school students.

Shanley is the architect of the elevation of the school’s ranking, revitalized campus, and elevated athletics program -- the Friars’ sports program is now pound-for-pound one of the best in America.

The elephant in the room is the endless racial problems on campus. The lack of minority students coupled with a culture of segregation has led to some very public issues. 

Recently, an incident at PC involving a Snapchat using the n-word sparked outrage. 

"I don’t want to personally give the names of the students involved because of my leadership positions on campus as well as me being an RA. I do not want to violate FERPA," said Adriel Antoine, head of the NAACP Chapter on GoLocal LIVE. "But it's definitely a PC student."

Antoine says many things have improved over his four years at PC, but this incident is another example that significant race problems continue.

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Victor Capellan 

Since 2015 he has served as superintendent of the Central Falls Schools system. He took over for the controversial reformer Dr. Fran Gallo who forced change and reform. She was both a change agent and divisive. 

Capellan has been on the short-list for jobs like Providence Superintendent as well as for other cities. An urban superintendent who is gaining support from many, the proof will ultimately be in the performance of the schools and test results.

Watch for Capellan to emerge.

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Susan Moffitt

Moffitt is the Director of the Taubman Center at Brown University

Naming Moffitt to the Power List is a little bit like awarding President Barack Obama the Nobel Peace Prize at the outset. We are hopeful that this designation works out better.

The Taubman Center for American Politics and Policy ”brings together scholars, practitioners, and students from different perspectives to address important problems facing American politics and policy.”

Under Darrell West, now at the Brooking Institute, the Taubman Center was an influencing factor in Rhode Island politics and policy. But, nearly a decade of bungled polling and disconnected academic work creates an opportunity to Moffitt.  

Rhode Island would benefit from a serious academic public policy center.


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