Providence is the only public school district in the state with a school board appointed by the mayor. It is the only district in Rhode Island where the mayor’s office negotiates the teachers’ contract with little or no input from the school board or the superintendent.
Some blame the school system’s profound dysfunction on an appointed School Board that owes its very existence to a mayor; others say it is a matter of developing clear lines of authority between the superintendent, the School Board, the City Council and the mayor.
Although the vast majority of school committees in the United States are elected, most large East Coast cities — including Boston — have appointed boards. Ken Wong, director of Brown University’s urban education policy, said that’s because school spending consumes such a large share of the budget that both the public and the elected officials want close collaboration between the city side and the schools. (In Providence, however, 87% of the school budget comes from the state).