NEW: Oliveira Blasts Elorza, Resigns from Providence School Board

Tuesday, January 05, 2016


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Keith Oliveira

President of the Providence School Board Keith Oliveira is quitting his post, and said Tuesday that he has a "complete lack of confidence" in the administration of Providence Mayor Jorge Elorza. 

"I thought long and hard about this.  I'd been considering this for a while, I took the holiday to reflect on what I wanted to do and how I wanted to do it," Oliveira told GoLocal on Tuesday. "I have a lack of confidence in the way the Admininstration governs -- I think it's inappropriate."

GoLocal reported on December 22 that school board member and top lobbyist Nick Hemond was in contention to take out Oliveira as President. 

Letter to Elorza

Oliveira sent the following letter to Elorza dated January 5, 2016. 

Dear Mayor Elorza:

I write to inform you of my decision to resign my position on the Providence School Board effective January 31, 2016. My final school board meeting will be Monday January 25, 2015.

As you know, I have a fundamental disagreement with your administration over the role of the Providence School Board and its relation to your office. I believe that the school board serves the public purpose of governing and overseeing the proper delivery of a quality education to all Providence students. In my view, service on the school board is a public service to the students and families of the Providence Public Schools.

As such, the school board should have independent latitude to make informed decisions that best serve the needs of our students and families absent from political interference from your office. Having served one year with your administration, I’ve come to understand that you consider the school board to essentially be an extension of your office and the school board’s role is to carry out decisions that are made and dictated by your office. I have never agreed to serve under such conditions and I will not serve under such conditions.

There are decisions that come before the school board that should be left to the school board to decide. While it is necessary for the school board to understand and consider your views before making its decisions, in the end they are school board decisions.

Over the past year, interference by your office on consequential school board decisions were, in my view, due to political considerations and were not necessarily in the best interest of the school district or its students. In my view, it was due to political interference by your office in several important school board decisions that contributed to the resignation of our previous superintendent. Our previous superintendent was widely considered one of the most respected superintendents in Rhode Island. Her abrupt and unexpected resignation had an adverse impact on the school district. Her loss was not in the best interest of our students and families and, in my view, was directly related to your political interference.

I also disagree with your office micro-managing the administrative and hiring decisions of the current superintendent. It is the superintendent’s responsibility to assemble his own team of qualified professionals to perform the critical functions of his office. Hiring of PPSD professionals are within the purview of the superintendent with the approval of the school board. The superintendent has the skill and expertise to identify and hire qualified professionals.

I find it inappropriate that your office has interfered in the superintendent’s hiring decisions and, in effect, have vetoed his hiring decisions for his senior staff. That is inappropriate interference by your office and demonstrates a lack of understanding of proper governance by your administration..
Serving on the Providence School Board is a public service to our students and families. It is not a political service to your administration. Policy, fiscal, and governance decisions before the school board should be made in the public interest of the school district not the political interests of your office. History tells us that when school department decisions are made out of city hall for political reasons, the students always lose. In my view, proper governance requires an appropriate distance between the best interests of the city schools and the political interests of city hall, including the mayor’s office.

That is a fundamental understanding of good governance where you and I disagree – one that I cannot reconcile.

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. I lack confidence in your administration’s governance and will no longer serve with it. Therefore, I resign my seat on the school board effective January 31, 2016.

That said, it has been an honor and a privilege to serve our students and families of Providence. It has been a blessing to serve as their champion and advocate for these past five years.


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