Longtime Education Columnist Returns

Writer Jill Davidson is back on the East Side education beat


More than 15 years ago, my family and I moved to the East Side in time for our oldest child to start kindergarten at Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. Elementary School. His younger brothers followed him at King, into middle school at Nathan Bishop, and onto Classical High School. Through it all, I’ve shown up whenever and however I could to celebrate our schools’ successes and advocate for systemic improvement.

I’ve also focused my professional energy on education. I have been a high school teacher and university instructor, researcher, policy analyst, editor, administrator, program planner, and more in schools and education-centered nonprofits. I’ve participated in many City public education-related committees as well as on the boards of charter schools. I’ve co-authored one book, published chapters in others, written for journals and magazines, and – if you have gotten to this point and are saying, hang on a second, this seems familiar – yes, I wrote this very education column for East Side Monthly from 2010-2016 and am delighted to return.

After participating in countless PTO and other community meetings, I have learned to listen, and I have learned that my own experience and those of my children represent a particular perspective in my case, that of a woman who is white, born in the United States, native English-speaking, descended from parents and grandparents who went to college, relatively financially secure, and in good health. As I write about education on the East Side and across Providence, I will always push myself to be aware of my privilege. I will listen carefully and shine a light on the diverse range of extraordinary students, educators, parents, and community leaders who learn, teach, and lead in our neighborhood and citywide.

I obsess and write about education to communicate that we are all responsible for ensuring investment in equitable, innovative, and fully-funded schools as the way to achieve a just and thriving society. Schools that change lives and strengthen communities are possible only with the systematic and meaningful participation of students, their families, and their communities. Inspired by the development of student leadership organizations such as the Providence Student Union, Young Voices, and ARISE, new organizations committed to amplifying parent and community voices have come on the scene. Parents Leading for Educational Equity (known as PLEERI) and ProvParents are organizing to ensure a seat at the table of power at this critical moment of the state takeover of the Providence Public Schools. It’s encouraging that as the first year of this process unfolds, many parents, community members, educators, and students are participating in community design teams to craft the plan for our school system’s next steps. 

The approximately 24,000 students enrolled in the Providence Public Schools represent nearly 17 percent of our state’s public school students. We succeed as a city and state in equal measure to the investments we make in their education and the adaptable, equity-focused systems we must build to ensure long-term success. As I return to the East Side education beat, I look forward to telling that story as well as sharing the vibrant teaching and learning that’s happening all around our neighborhood.


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