RI PowerPlayer: Keith Oliveira
Monday, January 27, 2014
Tell us about your current work at the R.I. Nurses Institute Middle College Charter School. What have been the best successes to date? And the hardest challenges?
I’m very proud of our work at the RINI Middle College. We started the school in 2011 as a first of its kind charter school in the country. We are the only charter school in United States dedicated to preparing students to pursue a higher education and a career in nursing. Our school provides our students a great opportunity to prepare for a future with tremendous career opportunities. Our greatest success thus far has been that we’ve successful closed the achievement gap in reading and writing. In 2012, our Black and Latino students outscored the statewide average of White students in Reading and Writing on the NECAP. Another success is in the number of college level credits that many of our students have already earned and will carry with them into college. Our math achievement is a significant challenge. However, we are seeing steady growth in our math scores. Our greatest challenge is in implementing the Middle College model itself. It is a unique model that not only provides a secondary education to students but also transitions them to a college experience.
You were recently re-elected as President of the Providence School Board. What are the biggest issues facing the board – and the students and families – currently? What would you like to see achieved this year?
The most immediate challenge before us is administering the waiver process as part of the NECAP high school graduation requirements. The district is putting a lot of resources and energy into ensuring that our students graduate despite our school board’s disagreement with the NECAP policy itself. Another important issue is our high school transportation policy. Too many high school students do not qualify to receive bus passes under the policy and we are a looking to find a way for more students to qualify for bus passes. We are also looking into revising our code of conduct policy to ensure that student discipline is fair and equitable for all students across the district.
Coming into the school-year, our board set an aggressive agenda. Among the things that we expect to achieve this year is to adopt a new strategic direction policy, which will allow schools to have greater autonomy and school-based decision-making authority. The school board has also been advocating for the need to make major upgrades to our school facilities. Mayor Taveras has been very receptive to the school board’s request for a school improvement bond and I’m hopeful that will happen this year. We are working on an arts education policy to expand the arts in our schools. I also expect action this year on the transportation policy to qualify more students for bus passes. So far this year, our board has already passed a new Health & Wellness policy, our high school graduation policy, and we also approved a new K-8 complex to open in West Broadway in September. We’ve been very busy and productive.
My early career actually began in urban public policy working on urban issues more broadly. I began to focus on urban public education out of the realization that the traditional model of urban public schools needed re-designing. From that realization, I began working to create new concepts and models of urban public schools. In 1995, I helped to create The Met School and I continue to serve on the Met School’s board of trustees. In 1999, I went to RIDE to become the first director of charter schools because charter schools offered a great opportunity to design new and innovative models of public schools. While at RIDE, I was responsible for the authorization and oversight of many of the highest performing and innovative urban schools in Rhode Island. Now, as school board president, my goal is to take the lessons and experiences that I’ve learned from developing innovative new schools and apply those lessons to re-designing our district schools in Providence. My entire career in education has been about creating new opportunities for students to receive a high quality education.
2014 is an election year for both Providence and the State of Rhode Island. What do you think will be the biggest factors in the Mayor’s race?
Each of the mayoral candidates will first need to speak to how they will maintain the fiscal stability that Mayor Taveras has established. Prudent management of the city’s finances is job one. The candidates will also have to speak to how they will expand economic opportunity in the city. That’s not only about creating more jobs in the city but also how to make those jobs accessible to community residents. I would like to hear the candidates speak about how we prepare our current Providence students to occupy the future jobs that will be created in the I-195 “Knowledge District”. This requires a long-term vision of public education as an investment in workforce development. That’s how we view our work at RINI. Each candidate must also speak seriously about how we invest more in our young people. Part of the answer to the youth violence we see today is in investing more in our schools, youth programs, and employment opportunities for young people.
Take us through a day in the life of Keith.
My day begins around 7:00am and I’m usually in my office a little after 8:00am. I start my day checking and returning emails before our students arrive for the start of school at 8:30am. Once our students arrive, I make it a point to interact with them either one-on-one as they visit my office, or I’ll make my rounds visiting classrooms. The most rewarding part of my day is interacting with our students. As Chief Operating Officer for RINI, the rest of my day varies depending upon the myriad of school operations issues that I’m responsible for. I oversee the maintenance and operations of our two school sites; coordinate student transportation, food service, technology, safety and security, and other operations issues. Every day is different in managing these responsibilities. RINI also provides me flexibility to manage my school board duties as well. Some days these may require me to go by the PPSD offices for meetings, visiting schools, or be at a PPSD event during the day. Monday evenings are dedicated to school board meetings, either full board meetings or committee meetings. Most school board nights end around 9:00pm or 9:30pm.
Tell us something nobody knows about you.
I recently started taking tap dancing lessons.
My father, Kenny Oliveira. He taught me how to be a good man. He taught me how to stand up and fight for what I believe. To mean what I say, have the courage of my convictions, yet still be humble. He taught me to have integrity. He taught me to be a leader not a follower. I live everyday by the values that my father taught me. I miss him.
Why Black People Tend to Shout by Ralph Wiley. I first read it when I was a young community advocate trying to find my voice to speak out on social justice issues and community issues. I still go back and read it from time to time. Ralph Wiley knew how to keep it real.
If you could have dinner with anyone in the world today, who would it be?
President Barack Obama. I would like to hear from him how he views his place in history being the first black President. What he really thinks about the Republican obstructionism that has plagued his presidency. And what he sees as his legacy. Beyond that, I just think he’d be a cool brother to talk to. I’m sure outside the public view he keeps it real as well. Perhaps Michelle could join us.
Related Slideshow: I-195 Redevelopment: Key Players
Below are the key players in the redevelopment of the former Interstate 195 land. Listed are the seven members of the special state-appointed commission overseeing the redevelopment, as well as the state and local officials who have backed the effort. In addition to top city and state leaders, nonprofits like Brown University and Johnson and Wales are also expected to have a hand in the redevelopment. (Note: bios of commission members are from the Governor’s office.)
Governor Lincoln Chafee
In 2011, Chafee signed into law a bill that established the process for the redevelopment of the Interstate 195 land. Chafee also appointed all members of the seven-member commission, with recommendations from Providence Mayor Angel Taveras and House Speaker Gordon Fox. Historically, the Governor’s support has been critical to the success of major development projects. Former Governor Bruce Sundlun spearheaded the construction of the new terminal at T.F. Green Airport and the support of both Sundlun and his successor Lincoln Almond was necessary in order for the Providence Place Mall development to get off the ground.
“The development of the 195 land in the heart of Providence has made tremendous progress specifically the work to prepare the land for development. All of the proper infrastructure is being put in place and has been aggressively pursued through state, city, federal and private partnerships. The permitting occurred because of quick work by DEM, RIDOT, DOA, NBC, CRMC and other government agencies and contributed to the fast pace in which we made the land pad ready,” Chafee told GoLocalProv this week.
House Speaker Gordon Fox
As House Speaker, Fox oversaw the approval of the legislation establishing the I-195 Redevelopment District Commission. The House, under the leadership of Fox, also approved state funding for the commission. Fox also could make recommendations for members to Chafee, who made the final appointments.
As Speaker, Fox has made economic growth and development one of his top priorities. At the end of the last legislative session, in July 2013, the House passed a series of economic initiatives, including an overhaul of the Economic Development Corporation (EDC), which was renamed and put under the authority of a Secretary of Commerce.
“We all want economic development strategies that look far down the road, policies that are coordinated across state government but without redundancy, and an economic development agency that has the power but also the oversight it needs to effectively support businesses in their efforts to grow and bring prosperity and jobs to Rhode Island,” Fox said at the time. Fox represents District 4, which encompasses the Mount Hope, Summit, and Blackstone neighborhoods of Providence.
Senate President M. Teresa Paiva Weed
The Senate, under the leadership of President M. Teresa Paiva Weed, confirmed Chafee’s nominees to the I-195 commission in October 2011. The commission began meeting immediately.
Paiva Weed, a Newport Democrat, has worked with Fox on a number of economic initiatives as well. “Economic development has been a Senate priority throughout the session. Working together with our partners in the House, the administration, and the private and nonprofit sectors, we have reshaped our approach to economic development in the state. This effort improves transparency and accountability, while focusing on the strategic economic and workforce development which is so essential to job growth in Rhode Island,” said Paiva Weed said last July, after the General Assembly overhauled the EDC.
Senate Majority Leader Dominick J. Ruggerio
Ruggerio, a Providence Democrat is widely regarded as one of the chief champions of the I-195 redevelopment legislation in the General Assembly. “The availability of this reclaimed land presents an exciting opportunity to attract new, high-quality jobs and bolster the economy of the city and the state,” said Leader Ruggerio. “This redevelopment district is a key advantage for our state. It bodes well for our ambitious goals that this collection of exceptional individuals will guide the development of this vital district,” Ruggerio said in October 2011, after the Senate confirmed the members of the commission. In a statement to GoLocalProv this week, he expressed confidence that the work was moving forward on the redevelopment project.
Providence Mayor Angel Taveras
As with the Governor, the support of the Mayor is critical to the success of a major redevelopment initiative. At least three members of the commission were Taveras’ picks, although Chafee made the final nominations to the Senate. The City of Providence remains an important player in the redevelopment process, approving a major re-zoning of the area in 2012 that grants flexibility to future development. As Mayor, Taveras also proposed—and successfully passed—a commercial tax property tax freeze. Taveras announced his run for Governor last October, ensuring that a new mayor will oversee the development of the former Interstate 195 land.
Colin P. Kane, I-195 Commission Chairman
Colin Kane is Principal of Peregrine Group LLC. Kane is Peregrine’s lead partner for project transactional activities, including structured workouts, payment settlements, deal origination, project planning, asset acquisition and sales, leasing, financial analysis, workout analysis, and debt/equity capitalization.
Prior to helping found Peregrine in 2001, Kane worked as a Development Manager for Gilbane Properties. Kane has broad experience in real estate development, including successful projects in Rhode Island, North Carolina, California, Maine, Nevada, Vermont, Virginia, Maryland, and Florida over the past 12 years. Projects include mixed-use campuses, historic rehabilitations, multi-family housing, hospitality venues, planned residential communities, large-scale corporate and institutional build-to-suits (including medical facilities), and brownfield redevelopment.
Kane is a combat veteran of Operation Desert Storm, a graduate of Harvard Business School (MBA), Georgetown University (MA), and the US Naval Academy (BS, with distinction), and serves on the Executive Committee of the RI Builder's Association. He is a resident of Wickford. (Nominated by Chafee.)
Barrett Bready, M.D. I-195 Commission Member
Barrett Bready, M.D., is President and CEO of NABsys, Inc., a start-up and an advanced DNA sequencing technology company located in the heart of the Knowledge District. Bready has headed NABsys since 2005, and has led the company’s acquisition of GeneSpectrum as well as the execution of its licensing deal with Brown University.
Bready has been named one of the top “30 under 30” in New England by Mass High Tech: The Journal of New England Technology and one of 25 “movers and shakers” in the State of Rhode Island by Rhode Island Monthly.
Bready teaches “Biotechnology Management” at Brown, where he holds the position of Adjunct Assistant Professor of Biotechnology. He received his M.D. from Brown Medical School and his Sc.B. in Physics from Brown. He co-chairs BioGroup, Rhode Island’s biotechnology industry organization, serves on the Board of Directors of the Brown Medical Alumni Association, and is a Trustee of the Providence Preservation Society and WaterFire. (Nominated by Chafee.)
Barbara A. Hunger, I-195 Commission Member
Barbara Hunger has been a registered nurse in the Labor and Delivery Unit at Women and Infants Hospital for 25 years. Prior to joining Women and Infants, Hunger worked as a nurse in hospitals throughout New England. She earned a BS from Southern Connecticut State University. Her civic involvement includes volunteerism with CityArts, Elmwood Neighborhood Housing, Community Music Works, and the Steel Yard. Hunger has been a resident of and homeowner in Providence’s Elmwood neighborhood for 25 years and raised two children who attended Providence Public Schools. (Recommended by Taveras.)
Diana L. Johnson, I-195 Commission Member
Diana Johnson is a self-employed art consultant. She served as Director of Brown University’s David Winton Bell Gallery and as Curator of Prints, Drawings and Photographs, Chief Curator, and Acting Director of the RISD Museum of Art.
Johnson also has served as Senior Vice President and City Executive with the Private Clients Group at Fleet National Bank-Bank of America, Senior Vice President and Portfolio Manager with the Providence Group Investment Advisory Company, and Vice President with the Trust and Investment Division of Fleet National Bank.
Johnson has served on the Boards of the RI Committee for the Humanities, Veterans Memorial Auditorium, and Trinity Repertory Company, and as Board Chairman of the RI State Council on the Arts, Travelers Aid Society of RI, and Planned Parenthood of RI. She received a BA in Government from Radcliffe College (Harvard University) and an MA in Art History from Brown. She is a resident of Providence. (Nominated by Governor Chafee.)
John M. Kelly, I-195 Commission Member
John Kelly has been the President and CEO of Meeting Street School for the last 14 years. Meeting Street serves over 3,000 Rhode Island children and families each year. During his tenure, Kelly has overseen the development of Meeting Street’s $25 million South Providence campus which resulted in over 180 jobs moving to South Providence (with an additional 40 jobs added since its relocation).
An attorney by training, Kelly previously focused his law practice in corporate and real estate law as a partner at Tillinghast, Collins & Graham. Kelly subsequently held a leadership position in a non-profit organization, The Coalition for Community Development, which was created to revitalize downtown Providence.
Kelly has served as Chair of the Board of Directors of The Genesis Center and the Providence Revolving Fund and has chaired four city boards and commissions: the Port Commission, the Zoning Board of Review, Adhoc Permitting Review and the Salary Review Commission. As Chair of the Adhoc Permitting Review group, he was tasked with streamlining Providence’s permitting process. To date, the city has implemented electronic plan review, concurrent plan review and launched of an expedited review process. He is a graduate of Franklin and Marshall College and earned a law degree from Boston College. Kelly is a resident of the city’s south side. (Recommended by Taveras and Fox.)
Mark T. Ryan, I-195 Commission Member
Mark Ryan is a principal at Moses and Afonso, Ltd., where he concentrates his practice in the areas of corporate and business law. Ryan has extensive business and business law experience.
Prior to joining Moses and Alfonso, he was with the Providence Journal Company for nearly 25 years, where he served as Executive Vice President and General Manager, Senior Vice President – Legal and Administration, and Vice President – Legal and Administration. During his time at the Journal, Ryan was also responsible for litigation management, environmental issues and labor and employment matters country wide, and oversaw digital operations.
Ryan is a Director and Member of the Nominating and Legislative Committees of the Greater Providence Chamber of Commerce, First Vice Chairman and Trustee of the Providence Performing Arts Center, a Member of the Rhode Island Commodores, and a Member of the Rhode Island Bar Association. Ryan is a graduate of the University of Rhode Island and New England School of Law. (Recommended by Taveras.)
Michael S. Van Leesten, I-195 Commission Member
Michael Van Leesten is CEO of OIC of Rhode Island, a non-profit that provides training, employment, and minority business development services. He also heads Van Leesten Group, LLC, a community development consulting firm.
Van Leesten has over 40 years of community and business development experience, including: Executive Director of the Providence Planning and Development Department, Director of Fleet National Bank, Chairman of the RI Home Mortgage & Finance Corporation, public affairs management with the Mashantucket Pequot Tribal Nation, and, currently, Chairman of the Providence Black Repertory Company. He has directly managed and developed various types of commercial and residential real estate projects in Rhode Island and Connecticut.
Van Leesten is a member of the RI Heritage Hall of Fame. A graduate of Rhode Island College with a degree in education, he has also completed the University of Pennsylvania’s Executive Management program and did course work in Community Planning at the University of Rhode Island. (Nominated by Chafee.)
Jan Brodie, Executive Director, I-195 Commission
Hired in May 2013, Jan Brodie serves as the executive director for the I-195 commission—one of just two staff positions on the commission. Brodie was hired after a six-month search in which over 200 candidates for the job were reviewed.
Prior to her appointment, Brodie has served as the Northeast Regional Director of The Community Builders, a real-estate development organization in Boston, Massachusetts. Previously, she was the Vice President of the Armory Revival Company in Providence.
Brodie received her MBA from The Wharton School, her masters in architecture from the University of Pennsylvania GSFA and her bachelors of arts degree from Williams College.
James S. Bennett, Providence Economic Development Director
As its Director of Economic Development, Bennett is the city’s point person for any economic development effort in Providence. Bennett was appointed by Taveras in August 2011, months before the commission was established. According to his official city bio, “In this position, Mr. Bennett oversees all economic development initiatives and leads efforts to support existing businesses, attract new businesses and create jobs in Rhode Island's capital city.”
Bennett previously was the chairman of the Rhode Island Convention Center from 1995 to 2001. He was reappointed as chairman in June 2011 by Chafee. “His leadership of the board has been credited with the Convention Center's successful efforts to market Providence as a national convention destination and increase convention business and tourism in the capital city,” his city bio states. Bennett has also launched three startup companies and run several large companies. He is a 1979 graduate of Brown University.
It’s hard to imagine Brown University—which opened its new medical school in the Jewelry District three years ago and is the sixth largest employer in the city—not playing a role in the redevelopment of the former Interstate 195 land. Brown is a critical partner in local and state officials’ vision for a new “Knowledge District” in Providence. In recent years, President Ruth Simmons was the university’s chief liaison to the community. That role now falls to new President Christina Paxson, who has a background in economics. Brown has already expressed an interest in the I-195 land, but no formal proposal has been submitted to the commission.
Johnson and Wales University
Johnson and Wales is also deeply involved in the redevelopment of the I-195 land. In November 2012, the university purchased two parcels from the former highway area to expand its downtown campus. “This area is integral to the future economic development of our city and state, and I am very pleased our plans for these parcels of land will bring jobs and activity to the old Route I-195 corridor and serve as a catalyst for other private development to follow,” said JWU Chancellor John Bowen, according to remarks reported in the Providence Business News. Johnson and Wales has expressed interest in buying up more land from the I-195 commission.
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