Well it was a long and troubled birth, and a snowstorm confined the keynote speaker to an electronic feed, but officials in Providence, R.I. on Monday finally launched the groundbreaking non-profit education management organization that will work to turn around the city’s lowest-performing public schools.
United Providence — or UP! — is a novel collaboration between the Providence Teachers Union (PTU) and the Providence Public School District (PPSD). Operating separately and independently from the union and the school board, it serves as a national model for student-centered cooperation between labor and management. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan, the keynote speaker at Tuesday’s launch breakfast, has called for more such partnerships.
United Providence is largely the work of two strange bedfellows, longtime union president Steve Smith and former district superintendent Tom Brady. Markedly different in both background and style, the two leaders worked for months to find common ground, only to see their efforts nearly collapse in the face of politics and other problems.
Education Sector profiled Brady and Smith and the beginnings of United Providence in a 2011 report called Unlikely Allies. And we chronicled the subsequent roadblocks — a financial crisis, a change of mayors, the departure of Brady — in 2012 in a revealing conversation with Smith, Brady, and former school board president Kathy Crain. Today, we applaud their achievement.
Photo Credit: Elena Silva