Lam Facing Bruised Feelings (posted May 18, 2000)

Public officials say new Providence School Superintendent Diana Lam is facing bruised feelings on the Providence School Board and in the community at large. Hired out of a search that upset some community groups, who felt they were not adequately involved in the selection process, Superintendent Lam's early days have not been exactly smooth. First, there was controversy over hiring two top aides (both white) in lightning speed, which upset those used to a more deliberate hiring pace. Then she upset some members of the minority community by criticizing teacher's aides, who are about the only point of color in school teacher ranks that otherwise tend to be predominantly white. Most recently, the tight election for the presidency of the Providence Teacher's Union demonstrates uncertainty over whether teachers should move to a more confrontational stance vis a vis the superintendent, who is intent on bringing fundamental change to the district. All in all, the discontent shows why school reform, with its conflicting cleavages, is so difficult to pull off. It remains to be seen how much money the General Assembly will give to the beleaguered Providence School system.