PROVIDENCE — A slate of more than three dozen parents, community members, and politicians are all hoping to be the next members of the Providence School Board, though it’s unclear how long they’ll be on the panel if appointed, since Providence is set to have its first-ever school board election next year.
The 42 applicants submitted their names to Mayor Brett Smiley by Friday’s deadline, and are required to participate in a public forum next week. The names include former City Council president David Salvatore (also a Providence schools parent), former school board member Jesus Nuñez, multiple other parents and other former political candidates. (The full list of applicants is below.)
Smiley is planning to fill three seats in the coming weeks: one open seat previously held by Mark Santow, who resigned, and two seats currently held by Muyideen Ibiyemi and Carolina Roberts-Santana, whose terms are expiring in January.
Ibiyemi applied for reappointment to his seat, but Roberts-Santana did not.
Smiley’s three picks, which require City Council confirmation, would technically be appointed for three-year terms ending in 2027. But it remains to be seen if those selected members will need to turn around and seek elective office just months into their term, if they want to remain on the board.
According to a charter change overwhelmingly approved by Providence voters last year, the new makeup of the hybrid school board on Jan. 1, 2025 will include five members appointed by the mayor and five members elected in November 2024. (Right now, there are nine members all appointed by the mayor.)
The five elected members will be picked by voters from five newly-created regional districts in the east, west, north, south and center of the city.
What has not yet been made clear is whether any existing members whose terms go beyond 2025 will be allowed to stay on the board, filling the appointed seats. Candidates running for election typically have to declare their intentions by June, and also need to open campaign finance accounts in order to raise money.
“At this time we do not have clarity on this process,” said Josh Estrella, the press secretary for Smiley. “The city will be reviewing what next steps are necessary for an election early next year which is the typical schedule for general elections.”
The five members appointed by the mayor will also have to live in different districts, according to the charter change language.
Ty’Relle Stephens, a school board member whose term expires on Jan. 31, 2025, said existing members do not know which of them will need to run for office in order to remain on the board.
“Anytime I ask the question, nobody has the answer,” Stephens said. “I really just don’t know.”
He noted that with districts three times the size of a city council ward, school board candidates would likely need to raise more money than a council candidate.
“Is it important that the community is aware of these positions,” Stephens said. “People are interested in running for the school board.”
Erlin Rogel, the chair of the board, also said he does not know whether he will be able to remain in his seat until his term expires in 2026, or if his term will end sooner because of the new hybrid school board.
“I haven’t been provided any clarification or guidance on what that means for my appointment,” Rogel said. “I assume it’s a conversation that we’ll all have soon, probably early in the new year.”
The Providence School Board currently lacks much power to make decisions in the city’s school district because of a state takeover initiated in 2019. But the new members selected next year could be the ones to oversee the return of the school district to city control, making the election critically important.
John Marion, the executive director of good-government group Common Cause Rhode Island, noted that the charter change language was silent on the transition process from the existing board.
“At the time this was adopted, the charter review commission did not provide very much information to the voters about what they were proposing,” Marion said. “So it’s no surprise that a year after this was adopted, there are still a lot of unanswered questions.”
Smiley opposed the effort to create a hybrid school board last year, which was overwhelmingly approved by 72 percent of voters. Former Mayor Jorge Elorza had also opposed the charter change, vetoing the question last summer before it went on the ballot for voters. The City Council overrode the veto.
The current council president, Rachel Miller, said Monday the council is also seeking clarity on the transition process for the new school board.
“I do not want confusion on this issue to deter potential applicants,” she told the Globe. “We need more people of good will who care about kids and schools to help on the school board, not less. I don’t have answers on the path now, but hope to before the end of the year.”
The public forum with the new school board applicants will be held on Tuesday, Nov. 28, at 5:30 p.m. at Providence Career and Technical Academy. Below is the list of applicants, as provided by the mayor’s office:
1. Katelyn Crudale
2. Suelem Rosalino
3. Terilye Guzman
4. Stewart Martin
5. Chanil Fana
6. Moses Oje
7. Joe Norris
8. Twaun Doyle
9. David Morrissette
10. Christopher Merritt
11. Talsirys Abreu
12. Christopher Samih-Rotundo
13. Everett Pope
14. Miche’le Fontes
15. Paula Hodges
16. Chavon Perry
17. David Salvatore
18. Meredith Marte
19. Muyideen Ibiyemi
20. David Talan
21. Andrew Poyant
22. Jesus Nunez
23. Rene Boudreault
24. Melissa Hughes
25. Tahon Ross
26. Cedric Russell
27. Nya Isom-Agazie
28. Ellen Viruleg
29. Melanea Vallejo
30. Menwon Mansuo
31. Candelaria Danicher
32. Ashley Newmann
33. Sheylon Burrell
34. Margherita Pryor
35. Mamadou Ndiaye
36. Ronald Bickham
37. David Tremblay
38. Ray Mathieu
39. Grizzel Clemetson
40. Nancy Xiong
41. Michael Nina
42. Stephanie Seigle
This story has been updated to add 3 additional applicants, which the mayor’s office said were added late due to technical difficulties at the time of the application deadline.