Portsmouth educator named to RIDE strategic plan team

The Council on Elementary and Secondary Education last night selected 26 Rhode Islanders to serve on the "Ambassador Design Team," which will develop and write the next strategic plan for elementary and secondary education in Rhode Island, according to a statement from the RI Dept. of Ed. Among those named is Portmouth resident Amy Mullen, who teaches in the Tiverton school district.

“I am very proud that we have selected such a diverse and talented group of people to develop and write the next strategic plan for Rhode Island public education,” said Eva-Marie Mancuso, Chair of the Board of Education. “I am so grateful to every single person who applied to join this team. The team has the balance, the talent, and the expertise we need to develop a great strategic plan. With this team in place and ready to begin work, I am confident that we will have a plan that will advance learning and achievement for all Rhode Island students.”

“The design team we have selected represents much of what is great about both our state and our educational system,” said Patrick A. Guida, Chair of the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education. “It is highly racially, ethnically, and linguistically diverse. It includes people with many different educational and professional experiences. It includes people who have been educated internationally and people who have received all of their education in our public institutions. It includes elected officials, business people, and representatives of postsecondary education. And, perhaps most important, it includes students, parents, and educators from throughout our state.”

About 300 Rhode Islanders submitted initial applications to join the Ambassador Design Team, with 156 people completing the application process.

“I want to thank everyone who applied to serve on the design team,” Chair Guida added. “Everyone who applied is going to be invited to join in the process in another meaningful capacity. We are going to do our best to keep this incredible pool of committed individuals involved in this process.”

“As many of us have said from the outset, we want our next strategic plan to be a plan that all Rhode Islanders can embrace and support,” said Deborah A. Gist, Commissioner of Elementary and Secondary Education. “The design team members whom the Council members have selected represent a wide range of views, but they share a commitment to our schools and to our students. We all have a role to play when it comes to improving our public schools, and the tremendous interest that Rhode Islanders have shown in the development of our strategic plan is very encouraging and heartening. I believe that the plan this team develops will guide our work and inspire us as we continue to transform education in Rhode Island.”

The members of the team will begin meeting this month, with the goal of presenting a plan to the Council for approval in June. The plan will guide public education in Rhode Island over the next five years.

The team will base its work in part on the results of the survey on public education, which is underway and will run through the end of the year. A link to the survey is here:


The survey is available in six languages in addition to English, and all Rhode Islanders are encouraged to participate.

The design team comprises two groups: a core team of 12 members, which will do the research and writing toward development of the strategic plan, and an extended team of 14 members, which will engage in school visits, outside research and readings, and other activities to support the thinking and the work of the core team.

David Moscarelli, the 2015 Rhode Island Teacher of the Year, and Jeremiah Newell, a doctoral student in education leadership at Harvard University doing a residency at RIDE, will facilitate the meetings of the design team.

A list of the members of the Ambassador Design Team (core team and extended team) follows.

The Members of the Ambassador Design Team – Core Team

Michael Barnes
Superintendent of Schools, Foster-Glocester Regional Schools
I hope to contribute to the creation of a strategic direction for RI schools that ensures each graduate is globally competitive, technologically fluent, and can demonstrate proficiency with 21st Century Skills and work habits needed for success in post-secondary education, careers, and life in a knowledge-based society. I hope to see a plan that strengthens, statewide, the focus on personalized, relevant, and collaborative digital learning experiences and the creation of flexible college and career pathways that purposefully prepare students for local and global labor markets.

Colleen Crotteau
Teacher of English Learners, Newport Public Schools
I am eager to contribute my 23 years of teaching experience to the Ambassador Design Team. Through my participation, I hope to help transform education in Rhode Island. As a parent and an educator, I think we can do better for our kids and I am 100 percent invested in Rhode Island schools.

Doris De Los Santos
Executive Director, Partnership, Development & Community Engagement, Providence Public Schools
It will be an honor to serve as an Ambassador Design Team to address one of the most important policy issues we face as a State and as a nation. As a mother of two, as a professional in the field, and as an active community advocate, I do not think there is a better way to affect systemic change than to be part of such a privileged team.

Adam Flynn
Assistant Director, Title I Coordinator, William M. Davies Jr., Career and Technical High School
As an administrator at Davies Career and Technical High School, a former classroom teacher, and more recently as a parent of a kindergarten student in the Cranston public schools I feel so

strongly about the need for a clear, well-articulated, ambitious, and attainable plan to continue the improvement of the public education system in Rhode Island. I look forward to the opportunity to work with others who are passionate about education and to have a collective positive impact on our students.

Mike Grey
Vice President of Operations, Northeast Region, Sodexho School Services, member of Governor’s Workforce Board
As a member of the Ambassador Design Team I hope to offer my support and skills to help create strategy for public education improvement. Our public education system is the best resource and most important lever for improving the quality of life and well-being of Rhode Islanders and Rhode Island communities.

Candace Harper
Family Engagement Coordinator, College Crusade of Rhode Island
Quality education is important to ensure a successful future for all children. Through my participation on this Ambassador Design Team, I will strive to help to shape an opportunity for generations of future students. It will be an opportunity to grow professionally and to connect with others in pursuit of a common goal that will have a lasting, positive impact on our community and state.

Yolanda Nazario
World-languages teacher, Lincoln Public Schools
I am eager to be part of creating a plan that promotes the success of both our students and teachers. Through my service, I hope to have meaningful and achievable goals that will inspire our teachers and students to strive for their best.

Brian Rowe
Student, North Smithfield High School
I look forward to contributing a strong and well-informed student voice to the strategic-planning process. Serving as a member of this team will also further prepare me to be an educated voice in my school community; I look forward to devoting my time and energy to improving public education in Rhode Island.

John Santangelo
Mathematics teacher and vice-president of the Cranston Teachers’ Alliance
I hope to bring the voice of practitioners to these very important deliberations; I’ve had a 25+ year career as a teacher, union leader, and parent, and I am committed to the successful implementation of the plan we will develop together.

Earl N. Smith III
Assistant Dean – Student Affairs, University of Rhode Island
I hope to share my experience of marginalization as a student and administrator so we do not continue to exclude and/or oppress others. More significantly, I expect to set an example by taking responsibility and not just complaining.

Lisa P. Tomasso
Served on Coventry School Committee, in House of Representatives, on Race to the Top Steering Committee
Fifteen years ago, I volunteered to help in my son’s kindergarten classroom; I fell in love with public education and discovered the importance of success for all of the students. As a member of the Ambassador Design Team, I hope to provide strategic input and guidance on issues facing our public schools, educators, and students. Our cooperative effort will ensure that all children will be prepared to lead successful and fulfilling lives as productive members of a global society.

One additional student member to be announced.

The Members of the Ambassador Design Team – Extended Team

Brian Baldizar
Assistant Principal, Classical High School Providence
As a member of the design team, I hope to help shape the future of Rhode Island public education. From my first-hand knowledge of youth and community engagement, my time as a teacher, my work transforming schools, and now as a school administrator, I am aware of how urgent and critical this work is for our young people, cities, towns, and our state as a whole.

Ana W. Barraza
Adult Basic Education instructor, Providence
I hope to gain a better understanding of Rhode Island’s vision for serving our Pre-K through grade-12 population and to impact that vision through my own knowledge and experience.

Dana Borelli-Murray
Executive Director, Highlander Institute
As a native Rhode Islander with deep family ties to the city, I hope to contribute my personal and professional expertise and passion to the Rhode Island educational landscape: creative thinking, innovative design, social justice, and a deep belief in dismantling convention in order to meet the changing needs of all learners in this digital information age.

S. Kai Cameron
Facilitator for Community Partnerships, Providence Public Schools
As a native Rhode Islander and long-time resident of the city of Providence, I believe that my personal and professional experiences with students and parents will offer insight that may be “missing” at the table. I strongly believe that each and every day is an opportunity to learn, grow, and contribute; participation on the Ambassador Design Team provides me a means for living this credo.

Christopher Haskins
Head of Paul Cuffee School
I hope to contribute my knowledge, experience, and vision for what a great public K-12 school system can do for Rhode Island students.

Robert Jones
North Kingstown School Committee, Director of Strategic Planning and Research at Bryant University
As an ambassador, I hope to play a part in developing a strategic plan for our state that reflects my passion and commitment to our public school system. I hope to learn from other team members and bring new expertise back to North Kingstown.

Piedade Lemos
World languages teachers, Providence Public Schools
Being part of the Ambassador Design Team will give me the opportunity to share the knowledge that I have accumulated these past years in my role as a teacher and parent, along with an understanding of the issues facing urban students. I hope to contribute to the creation of a cohesive plan with achievable, aggressive results and, at the same time, learn from others on the team.

Amy Mullen
President, Tiverton Teachers

Tyler Nettleton
Student, Chariho High School
As a current student, I hope to gain more knowledge about the public education system and the ways it can support students. As a Rhode Island high-school senior, I look forward to giving back to this system by contributing the knowledge I have as a student and to bring the voice of students to the team.

Jeannine Nota-Masse
Assistant Superintendent, Cranston School Department
I am completely invested in public education as both a parent and an educator. As a member of the Ambassador Design Team, I hope to contribute a tenacious work ethic, honest and thoughtful opinions, and the perspective that spans the full breadth of my experiences as an educator, and look forward to devoting my time to making education better for all children in our state.

Jo-Ann Schofield
Co-chair, The Mentoring Partnership
Now is the time to work toward creating a meaningful strategic plan for Rhode Island public schools. I will contribute my passion for and enthusiasm in the belief that every student is capable of success with the help and guidance of a positive adult in their lives. As a dedicated team member I will embrace the shared goal of an improved public education system that will build a brighter future for Rhode Island, its children, and its families.

Chris Semonelli
Co-director Newport County Mentor/Co-Op Group
I want to improve Rhode Island’s economy by supplying a well-trained and interested workforce that meets our business needs while at the same time providing a rich, rewarding, and fulfilling education for our students.

Andrea J. Spas
Assistant Director of Special Education, Chariho Regional School District
I want to be a part of a team that considers the unique and varying needs of all students and, in particular, students with disabilities. I look forward to helping craft a strategic plan that focuses on closing achievement gaps and providing all students with a rigorous educational experience.

Editorial note: Written from a press release.

Full disclosure: I was an applicant in this process, and while I wasn't selected for either of the core teams, I'm delighted to have been picked for the "Strategy Review Team" which will be reviewing the documents produced by the core team at several points.