Harrison Peters, a member of the Chiefs for Change Future Chiefs program, has been selected as turnaround superintendent of the Providence Public School District (PPSD). Peters will work with state education officials to dramatically improve the quality of education in PPSD, which is under Rhode Island Department of Education control after years of failing to address chronically low-performing schools.
“As a senior education leader who has expanded opportunities for countless students and a distinguished military veteran, Harrison has spent his entire career serving his community,” said Rhode Island Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green, herself an alumna of the Future Chiefs program and a member of Chiefs for Change. “He has both the skills and the experience to lead the way forward in Providence: Growing up as a student of color from a low-income family, Harrison understands the transformative power of education and the need to ensure quality and equity throughout the system. I look forward to partnering with Harrison to give every child in Providence, at long last, the education they deserve.”
Chiefs for Change, a bipartisan network of state and district education chiefs, created the Future Chiefs program to address the lack of practical preparation for the complex job of overseeing state and large urban school systems. The program identifies talented, diverse emerging leaders and integrates them into a community of practice with current chiefs who provide coaching, mentorship, and other learning opportunities. Infante-Green was a member of the inaugural cohort of Future Chiefs and is the first person of color to lead Rhode Island’s Department of Education. Peters participated in the third cohort of Future Chiefs. His selection as PPSD superintendent marks the first time in the history of Rhode Island that a person of color has led the education systems at both the state level and in the capital city. PPSD serves approximately 24,000 students, 91 percent of whom are children of color.
“Harrison is a seasoned and highly effective leader who has improved outcomes for students in some of our nation’s largest and most challenging systems,” said Chiefs for Change Board Chair and San Antonio Independent School District Superintendent Pedro Martinez. “His own lived experience fuels an ironclad commitment to ensuring all children—especially those who need our support the most—receive an excellent education and have a path to success after high school. I know that Harrison will make a tremendous difference for children and families in Providence.”
Peters has been an educator for more than two decades. He began his career as an elementary school teacher and achieved success in leadership roles at major urban districts. As chief high school officer at Houston Independent School District, for example, Peters reduced out-of-school suspensions and increased the number of students who participated in advanced-level coursework, performed well on state exams, and received college scholarships and other financial aid. He also spent four years as chief of schools at Chicago Public Schools and is credited with significant gains in student proficiency, higher ACT scores, and increased graduation rates.
Peters will join PPSD after serving three years as deputy superintendent and chief of schools for Hillsborough County Public Schools in Florida, where he is responsible for the day-to-day operations of 250 school sites and the division of administration. During his tenure, Peters has overseen dramatic improvements in a range of areas including overall school performance, graduation rates, student discipline, academic achievement among students of color, and access to dual enrollment and high-quality career education.
“I am honored and humbled by the opportunity to lead Providence Public Schools and will stop at nothing to ensure we as educators deliver on our responsibility to students,” Peters said. “The future of our children is at stake. I look forward to partnering with Governor Raimondo, Commissioner Infante-Green, and the entire Providence community to build a system that gives every student the high-quality education and supports they need to learn, graduate, and achieve their dreams.”
Peters is a veteran of the United States Navy and has received a number of awards for excellence in education leadership.
For more information on the PPSD school turnaround effort, visit www.4PVDKids.com.
To learn more about the Future Chiefs program, click here.
About Chiefs for Change
Chiefs for Change is a nonprofit, bipartisan network of diverse state and district education chiefs dedicated to preparing all students for today’s world and tomorrow’s through deeply committed leadership. Chiefs for Change advocates for policies and practices that are making a difference today for students, and builds a pipeline of talented, diverse Future Chiefs ready to lead major school systems.