“A School in Trouble”: William Holland, RIC emeritus professor, publishes a book about Central Falls High School

William Holland
William Holland, former commissioner of higher education and professor emeritus of educational leadership at Rhode Island College, released his new book, “A School in Trouble: A Personal Story of Central Falls High School,” on July 1.

“I wrote the book to illustrate how complex and difficult it is to reform a school like Central Falls High School,” said Holland, who tackles tough questions about poor graduation rates and other problems affecting inner-city schools by tracking four students at the school who managed to succeed in an academic environment where less than half of the students graduate.

“It was meant to be a positive book, presenting successful urban students in order to analyze the keys to their success and share those findings,” said Holland.

The book is based on Holland’s experiences as interim superintendent in the district, which garnered national media attention earlier this year when current superintendent Frances Gallo ‘71 fired every teacher working at the high school as part of a major overhaul ordered by state education commissioner Deborah Gist.

The Central Falls High School teachers were fired after the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Allied Health Professionals union, failed to accept new conditions for the school’s reform without renegotiating pay for the extra hours.

The teachers were recently reinstated after they accepted the reform changes, which include eating lunch with the students, a longer school day and additional professional development requirements during the summer.

“The road I chronicle,” said Holland, “is the last four years, starting when I was interim [superintendent] in 2006, right up until now.”

“[Holland’s] book gives us an in-depth look into a school full of pride, fear, and hope, and to the complexities facing education in this century,” said Pablo Rodriguez, former chair of the Rhode Island Foundation and the president of Latino Public Radio, in an endorsement that appears on the cover of the book. “It is a sobering portrayal of a school whose problems are complex and solutions that don’t fit a bumper sticker or a three-minute report in the six o’clock news.”

Holland served as interim superintendent in 2006-07, taking the position temporarily a year after he retired from teaching at RIC.

During his time at the college, Holland taught hundreds of teachers earning master's degrees, and principal or superintendent certifications from 1988 until his retirement in 2005, except during a three-year term as Rhode Island higher education commissioner from 1999 until 2002.

As commissioner, his office was responsible for the unprecedented $500 million expansion and improvements projects of facilities at the three state colleges, and for initiating a K-16 collaborative effort to improve the quality of beginning teachers.

While serving as a professor at RIC, Holland was named the executive director of the Rhode Island Association of School Principals, a position he held for 10 years.

Since his retirement from RIC, Holland has authored “Selecting School Leaders – Guidelines for Making Tough Decisions” in 2006 and “The Making of a School Superintendent” in 2007.

Holland has served as president of the New England Association of Schools and Colleges, president of the Rhode Island Association of School Superintendents, president of the Worcester County Superintendent's Association, chair of the Committee of Professors for the National Association of Secondary School Principals and on the New England Board of Higher Education.