PROVIDENCE — Hundreds of Hope High School students protested. They marched. They walked out of school. And Tuesday, they prevailed.
State Education Commissioner Deborah A. Gist ruled that the Providence School Department must maintain the original amount of time dedicated to teacher planning at Hope by restoring 84 minutes of “common planning time.”
“After some hard disappointments, after not being listened to, it’s really important that they experienced success,” said the students’ lawyer, Miriam Weizenbaum. “They wanted to make a difference. They are committed to their education and they used the process really well.”
“This shows you can be from an urban school and do something big,” said Jose Velasquez, a Hope senior and one of the organizers of the protest. “I’m really proud of Hope High School students. It taught me that change comes with numbers and that you need to be involved. It’s been an unforgettable experience.”
The School Department says it will appeal the commissioner’s ruling and has no further comment.
In their petition to the state Department of Education, several Hope students and their parents argued that the district violated a regulation adopted in 2008 by the Board of Regents for Elementary and Secondary Education.
Gist agreed. The Board of Regents’ regulation says that school districts “shall not reduce the number of sessions or the amount of time allotted to common planning time [as] currently practiced.” In its brief, the School Board acknowledged that common planning time at Hope would be reduced this fall from 87 minutes twice a week to one 90-minute period.
Based on the PPSD's reaction and RIDE's delay of this decision until three weeks into the new school year, it isn't over, but it is another round in the student's favor.