Arriving among a number of press members, Governor Lincoln Chafee and Education Commissioner Deborah Gist visited our High School building on Elmwood Avenue. They were warmly greeted by Joop Nagtegaal, our board chair, David Burnham, our founding board chair, Maria Monteiro, a parent and board member, Julia Karahalis, our Director of Institutional Advancement, Michelle Bush, our Associate High School Principal, Becky Coustan, our High School Principal, and Michael C. Obel-Omia, Head of School.
After quick introductions, the Governor and Commissioner walked the halls of the School visiting an algebra mathematics class that was dealing with the mathematics surrounding calculating population decline, an humanities class focusing on writing a five paragraph essay, and a science class creating Rube Goldberg machines, complex apparatuses that perform surprisingly simple tasks in multifaceted fashion. Our visitors marveled as one such contraption was designed to explode a balloon and cause a volcanic explosion: it failed, but as Thomas Edison opined when creating the light bulb, “I have not failed; I have successfully discovered 1000 ways that do not work.” Ms. Coustan encouraged the crestfallen freshman by asking them, “So, what will you do to improve for next time,” and they eagerly shared their suggestions.
Governor Chafee and Commissioner Gist sat with four students and two teachers and heard directly from them what they are learning, what they like about the School, and how Paul Cuffee School differs from their previous schools They eloquently articulated their positions, even making profound connections between Arthur Miller’s The Crucible and Arizona’s Immigration laws. Governor Chafee easily interacted with the students, asking them good questions and hearing thoughtful, engaging responses.
The visit neared its end with a roundtable discussion with the administrative staff of the School sharing our mission, our philosophy, and our goals. The Governor’s handlers noted that time had expired, far too quickly for us, and the Governor and the Commissioner held a press conference on the first floor, before departing for their next appointment.
Both the Governor and the Commissioner wanted to see a public charter school that emphasizes academic, emotional, and social success, and we think that they saw a School that works hard to inculcate in the students a love of learning, a passion for causes, a desire to grow, a commitment to improve, and a belief that they can contribute richly and deeply to their chosen communities.
This video shares the Governor and the Commissioner’s visit to Paul Cuffee High School in Providence, Rhode Island.