Top New York education official tapped to lead Rhode Island schools

Angelica Infante-Green, a chief New York state education official who once oversaw English language learners in New York City, has been tapped to lead Rhode Island’s state education department.

The departure of Infante-Green, who lost out on a top education job in Massachusetts last year, will leave a leadership hole in New York. She’s currently the department’s deputy commissioner overseeing instructional support for preschool through high school and has spearheaded numerous policy initiatives, including the integration of schools by race and class.

Infante-Green said part of what made the move attractive was going from being a deputy to the actual commissioner. “I’ll be overseeing all aspects of the process. It will give me the ability to set a very strong vision,” she said.

Rhode Island Gov. Gina M. Raimondo announced Monday that Infante-Green is her choice to head up the state education department, which must still be approved by Rhode Island’s state board of education. If she is, she will be the first Hispanic woman and person of color to fill the job, which is tentatively expected to start April 29.

“Rhode Island has an urgent need to improve schools and close achievement gaps for our students, and I believe that Angélica can help push our state forward,” Raimondo said in a press release. “Her passion for education and her commitment to equity as an educator, leader, Latina, and mother are unmatched, and I look forward to working with her to stay the course on a long-term, comprehensive education strategy that is focused on the needs of every student in Rhode Island.”

Infante-Green said she also liked Raimondo’s priorities. “The governor has put money in for English language learners, has made pre-K a priority — it just felt like we were in alignment.”

She visited the state last year to give the keynote address at a Dominican heritage event in Providence right after a report had come out showing Latinos in Rhode Island lag behind their peers across the nation.

“Reading this report the night before about [Hispanics] being dead last — that just can’t be. I felt very inspired to do something.” When the opportunity came her way, she said, “I didn’t think about it twice.” She also noted her own experience as the mother of a child with a disability, something she said gives her an important perspective.

This isn’t the first time Infante-Green, who started her career teaching in the South Bronx, has been considered for a post outside of New York. Last year, she was a finalist to lead Massachusetts public schools. And as she was being considered for that spot, advocates launched a petition to make Infante-Green the chancellor of New York City schools.