Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Empanels Rhode Island Trauma Informed Schools Commission

Published on Wednesday, February 22, 2023

Commission to review existing trauma-informed school and community-based resources and initiatives and inform development of school implementation plan

PROVIDENCE, R.I. – Today the Rhode Island Department of Education (RIDE) announced that the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education voted to empanel the Trauma Informed Schools Commission with 12 local community, education, and mental health professionals. The Trauma Informed Schools Act, which was signed into law in June 2022, requires the establishment of a Commission to assist the agency with the implementation of the statute.

“Ensuring good mental health and well-being in our school communities is a shared priority for the entire Council, and we’re pleased to welcome leading professionals to the Trauma Informed Schools Commission to support us with this critical work,” said Council on Elementary and Secondary Education Council Chair Patti DiCenso. “We know many of our students, families, and educators are grappling with serious trauma and there must be an all hands on deck response in our state. We are deeply appreciative of the community members who have stepped up to lend their expertise and insight to strengthen supports in Rhode Island.”

Per the legislation, the Commission will conduct a review and assessment of existing trauma-informed school and community-based resources and initiatives across the state; inform the development of a trauma-informed school implementation plan and supporting materials that will be submitted to the Council on Elementary and Secondary Education; and research, identify and catalogue state, federal and philanthropic sources that align with this work.

“For Rhode Island kids and school staff to thrive, we need to work collaboratively to address the social-emotional challenges that many are facing in the wake of the pandemic,” said Commissioner Angélica Infante-Green. “It is going to take the entire village to get our students the support they deserve and help them get ahead academically and mentally. I am thankful to count on the support of the distinguished professionals chosen to serve on Trauma Informed Schools Commission.”

To ensure a fair and equitable selection process for the Commission, RIDE launched an application for interested individuals on Friday November 18, 2022. The application window closed on December 14 and a total of 67 applications were received. Applicants were asked to:

  • Describe their current involvement in supporting trauma informed services in schools.
  • Illustrate the lived experiences (content knowledge, professional and/or personal) they have had that make them an ideal candidate for this Commission.
  • Express what they hope to accomplish by serving on the Trauma Informed Schools Commission.

Applicants were scored on their proximity to the work, diverse experience, experience with vulnerable and diverse populations, and their content knowledge. The group consists of appointed candidates based on categories specifically called out within the legislation and candidates scored within the categories enumerated in the bill.

Appointees include:

  • Sandra Lopes, RIDE Chief Equity and Diversity Officer (Appointee by Legislation - Commissioner)
  • Sarah Courtemanche, Pawtucket School Department, Chief of Teaching and Learning (Appointee by Legislation - Rhode Island School Superintendents Association)
  • Frank Flynn, President, RI American Federation of Teachers (Appointee by Legislation - State Teacher Union Leader)
  • Katelyn Medeiros, Esq., RI Office of the Child Advocate (Appointee by Legislation - Child Advocate)
  • Dr. Marge Paccione, Bradley Hospital & Brown University
  • Vivian Acevedo, Metropolitan Regional Career and Technical Center (Appointee by Legislation - Youth Serving Organization 1)
  • Kayla David, Family Service of Rhode Island (Appointee by Legislation - Youth Serving Organization 2)
  • Dale Folan, Providence Public Schools (Appointee by Legislation - LISCW)
  • Dr. Gregory Fox, Pediatric Associates (Appointee by Legislation - Rhode Island Chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics)
  • Darlene Allen, President, Adoption RI (Appointee by Legislation - Adoption RI)
  • Rebecca Boxx, Executive Director, Children and Youth Cabinet
  • Paige Clausius-Parks, Executive Director, RI Kids Count (Appointee by Legislation - RI KIDS COUNT)

To aid local education agencies in addressing mental health challenges in our school communities, RIDE’s Office of Student, Academic, and Community Supports has worked diligently to secure federal funding in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. In January, RIDE announced it has secured a $10 million grant to recruit and retain school mental health professionals (details here) and a $7.2 million grant to expand mental health awareness and support programs (details here). In December, RIDE received more than $3.8 million in federal funding to support trauma informed services in schools (details here). In September, the McKee Administration announced Bradley Hospital, in partnership with RIDE and DCYF, had secured an $8.6 million grant for school-based mental health services (details here). These announcements come in addition to various multi-year, on-the-ground efforts to support the mental health and wellbeing of Rhode Island’s students and educators.


Contact: Victor Morente

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