TAMPA — While he campaigned to be Superintendent of the Hillsborough County Public Schools, Chief of Schools Harrison Peters was looking elsewhere as well.
Now two New England publications say Peters has been selected as superintendent in Providence, R.I.
The Providence Journal reported that Peters will begin his new job on Feb. 20. Rhode Island Education Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green announced his appointment Saturday at a meeting at a technical school to brainstorm about turnaround remedies. Peters is scheduled to take part in a meet-and-greet Monday evening in Rhode Island.
Peters interviewed for the job on Jan. 11, the Boston Globe reported. That was just five days before he made a pitch before the Hillsborough County School Board to replace Superintendent Jeff Eakins, who is retiring, effective June 30.
Peters joined the Hillsborough district in 2016 after a career that included jobs in Houston, Chicago and North Carolina. He was recruited by assistant superintendent Tricia McManus, who oversees the district’s Achievement Schools initiative for low-achieving schools. McManus recently disclosed she will leave the district at the end of the school year for a job in Winston-Salem, N.C.
In his Hillsborough application, Peters noted that he played an important part in lowering the number of "F" schools in the district by 60 percent, decreasing the student suspension rate by 35 points, adding 10 "A" schools and helping 15 schools improve from "D" to “C.”
Peters will walk into a tough job in the Providence district, which is now under state control.
Only 12 percent of Providence’s students in grades three through eight are proficient in math and only 17 percent are proficient in reading, the Globe reported. At four schools, at least 95 percent of students are below grade level in at least one subject.
Infante-Green told Chiefs for Change, an organization of school leaders that Peters “has both the skills and the experience to lead the way forward in Providence.”
In his email to Hillsborough officials, Peters wrote: “As you know, I feel deeply about going where I’m called to serve - and I really feel I can make a difference for these kids as the school system goes through a major turnaround.”
Peters’ candidacy to replace Eakins was a divisive factor for the Hillsborough County School Board and leaders of the African American community.
Six elected officials — four in the legislature, one on the Hillsborough County Commission and one on the Tampa City Council — signed letters urging the board to hire him, in part because he would make history as the district’s first superintendent of color.
Board member Tamara Shamburger, who is elected in the largely African American District 5, advocated for Peters as well, clashing at one point with board chairwoman Melissa Snively, who wanted to adhere more strictly to a consultant’s ranking system.
Peters was a semifinalist, but failed to make a strong enough impression on board members during his Jan. 16 interview. The board ultimately selected Clay County Superintendent Addison Davis, who is now negotiating his contract.