Brady named new Prov superintendent

Linda Borg's recent ProJo story, enumerating the reasons for Superintendent Donnie Evans's impending departure, told us a lot about the state of the Providence schools:

Mary Sylvia Harrison, executive director of the College Crusade of Rhode Island, worries that the change in leadership will further disrupt a district already roiled by stalled contract negotiations and successive years of budget cuts. When a leader leaves, institutional memory is lost, she said. Projects get delayed while everyone waits for a new superintendent.

“Old beliefs and attitudes resurface and cynicism begins to run rampant,” Harrison wrote in a letter to Cicilline last week. “If we remove Donnie or fix the ‘leadership’ problem, we are still left with the other parts of our school community that also need fixing. If Donnie is the problem, he isn’t the biggest or the only big problem we have and no new superintendent will be a panacea.”

While Harrison didn’t name names, she said that the Providence schools are controlled by a unique culture, one that she calls “potent, formidable and toxic.”

Now comes the word, via BeloBlog, that Tom Brady, interim superintendent in Philadelphia, has gotten the nod as Evans's successor.

Brady, 57, is a retired Army colonel with more than seven years experience in school administration, including top positions with the Washington, D.C., and Fairfax County, Va., school systems.

Brady spent 25 years in the Army, landing his first school administrative school position in 1999 in Fairfax County. He is married with five grown children and five grandchildren.

Brady will take over the state's largest school system, whose officials say is teetering on the edge of a financial crisis.

At a meeting last night, the district's financial officer Mark Dunham said that the $322.9 million proposed budget for 2008-9 includes a shortfall of $9.7 million -- which Dunham said he did not know how would be made up.

It's probably the understatement of the year to note that improving Providence's schools is a formidable challenge -- a vital one for the future of the state. Brady will need all the help he can get.

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