NEW: Gist To Begin Contract Negotiations with Tulsa

Tuesday, February 03, 2015


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Education Commissioner Deborah Gist

In a statement released by Education Commissioner Deborah Gist on Tuesday night, she announced that she had agreed to enter into negotiations to become the Superintendent of Schools for the city of Tulsa, Oklahoma. Earlier in the evening, the Tulsa School Board voted to authorize contract negotiations with Gist. “I have enthusiastically agreed to begin these negotiations,” Gist stated. 

The full text of her statement follows: 

This was a difficult decision for me, as I am proud of all that we have accomplished together in Rhode Island over the past six years. I love this state and the people I've come to know, and I am excited about the opportunities that lie before us as we develop our next 5-year strategic plan. Nevertheless, inspired by the great work we've done, I welcome the opportunity to lead an urban school district – in particular the district in the city where I was raised and where my family resides. I know that Rhode Islanders can certainly recognize the attraction we have to our hometowns, and it would be a special honor for me to lead the district where I attended public school throughout my childhood. I would leave Rhode Island knowing that we have a great team in place at the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) and that we have strong support for improving student learning and achievement and for transforming education. Governor Raimondo has strongly supported our work and the entire RIDE team, and I have unwavering confidence in her leadership—including specifically on education. We have also enjoyed strong support from our legislators and from the Board of Education. I am grateful for this commitment and for the kind words and expressions of support I have received throughout my service as Commissioner of Education from so many Rhode Island students, parents, educators, and other friends of education.

I plan to spend the next few days in Tulsa, and I will return to Rhode Island before next week. Current Tulsa Superintendent Ballard retires at the end of June, so I will continue serving as Commissioner for the near future and I plan to work with Governor Raimondo, the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education and the Board of Education to develop a transition plan for new leadership at RIDE.

Gist has been Education Commissioner in Rhode Island since 2009. In 2010, she was named by Time magazine as one of the 100 who impact our world.

As GoLocalProv reported in December of 2014, her contract and future beyond June 30, 2015 was in doubt.  "By law, we can only do 3 year contracts," said Rhode Island Board of Education Chair Eva Mancuso (in a December interview with GoLocalProv).  "With the current contract, the sentiment from Chafee was he didn't want to extend contracts past his tenure, and it didn't make sense to do a year a and a half.  That was his philosophy.  Raimondo might feel that 3 years works.  As chair, we know enough about Gist, that you either give her three years, or nothing.  There's no in-between."


Related Slideshow: Who Could Be RI’s Next Education Commissioner?

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Clay Pell

The not-so-dark horse who might be in consideration for Gist's spot (or the Board of Education's Eva Mancuso's) could be Raimondo's primary opponent Clay Pell, who comes from the education policy world at the federal level -- he was Deputy Assistant Secretary at the Department of Education.

Given the millions Pell poured into his own campaign -- as well as how politics might have played out to give Gina the edge over opponent Allan Fung -- Pell might be well-positioned to maintain his profile in Rhode Island as he more than likely might be taking a look towards another run for higher offfice soon.

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Susan Lusi

Current Providence Schools Superintendent Susan Lusi has a resume that includes having been Superintendent in Portsmouth, Chief of Staff for the Providence Public Schools  -- and as Assistant Commissioner at the Rhode Island Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.  

Lusi has served as a consultant to RIDE, as well as groups such as the LAB at Brown, Education Resource Strategies, The Council of Chief State School Officers, and the Learning First Alliance.  Lusi has a Ph.D. and Master’s in Public Policy from Harvard University, as well as a MAT in social studies and an AB in economics from Brown University.  Lusi could well be considered for the call up to the state's top education post.

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Tom Brady

Lusi's predecessor in the Providence Public Schoools Brady the helm in 2011 after serving for three years, and has worked in education consulting and served as Director of the Department of Defense Educational Activity, over seeing all Defense Department K-12 schools, both stateside and overseas -- 191 schools in 14 districts, serving more than 82,000 students.  A return to RI to fill Gist's shoes would be step up the education ladder in the state should Brady be in consideration -- and have the interest returning to RI.  

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Angela Romans

Providence Mayor Taveras' former education advisor, who has been at Brown's Annenberg Institute, while in the city helped secure over $5 million in education grant funding from local, regional and national public and private sources for the city and served as a tri-chair of the Mayor’s Children and Youth Cabinet (CYC).

Prior to working in city government, Romans served as New England Network manager at Diploma Plus, Inc., a Boston-based, national organization that in partnership with school districts and communities, designs schools and programs to improve the academic results of predominately urban, African-American and/or Hispanic youth.

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Dave Abbott

As the Deputy Commissioner at RIDE, Abbott has had to fill the shoes of Gist at meetings and events many times -- and could probably quite easily make the move up given his working knowledge of the office.

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Jennifer Wood

Lt. Governor Roberts' Chief of Staff has an extensive background -- and interest -- in education, serving as Chief of Staff and legal counsel for RIDE for 9 years, and general counsel for NEARI before that.  Roberts was an instrumental supporter of Raimondo's during the campaign.  


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