I sat down Saturday morning with Torey Edmonds, candidate to be 7th District School Board representative, at Buzzy’s, and in lieu of a proper interview, had a 2 1/2 hour conversation about the Richmond School system with Edmonds and a neighbor that had come out with her own questions. I was so engaged in the conversation that I didn’t really take any notes; any vagueness is probably my fault.
There is a forthrightness in speaking to Edmonds. She doesn’t shy away from potentially divisive issues and clearly states her view of the matter. While the conversation took on many of the big issues of urban education today, her view on things comes across as very grounded and solutions-oriented.
Folks have brought up the fact that, in contrast to other candidates, Edmonds’ own children have gone to out-of-zone schools and, at times, private schools. Edmonds’ direct response to this is that as a parent, she made the best choice that she could for her children. Saying that she “knows what a good education looks like” and that every child should have the opportunity to get a good education, Edmonds describes a need to “raise the bar”.
Edmonds ran for the 7th district school board seat 4 years ago but did not run in 2006 because she felt that West represented her needs as a parent. When asked which of the current school board she most respected, she in turn asked if she could name 3. She put forth Keith West for his push towards accountability, Carol Wolf for her emphasis on doing is what is right for the children, and Kimberly Bridges.
The neighbor brought up the fact that, as much as she personally is a supporter of Keith West, that any association with him could be to Edmonds’ detriment in this election. To this Edmonds’ replied that she wasn’t concerned with that type of thing, and that her positions are what they are.
Edmonds thinks that charter schools are viable, though they should be approached with care. She also stated that Bellevue should not be closed. She says that as long as Bellevue only has 32 students in its draw zone then it will be perpetually on the chopping block. A way to save the school would be to rezone so that the school has a healthy number of students in its zone.
In Edmonds opinion, the current school board should not choose the next superintendent. With so much potential change this time around and the new 4-year terms, the next board should have the say on this. She feels that the next superintendent should come from outside of Richmond Public Schools.
She lamented that our neighborhood middle school always has a police car parked right at the front door, questioning what kind of message that sends (or reinforces) about the school. So much of what is put forth about the schools emphasized the negatives of the system, the positives need more attention. She also said that steps needed to be taked to attract and retain qualified teachers.
Edmonds said that it is time to stop blaming the socioeconomics of the students or the lack of parental involvement for school performance. In her words, the schools need to take ownership of thier jobs and teach the kids that come in.
She ended the conversation by giving everyone a question to ask of herself or any of the other candidates when solutions/ideas are put forth: “What does that look like in real life?”. Hold the candidates accountable before and after the election, she urges.
Edmonds has been part of the East End community for quite a while. An example of her long roots in the community is the fact that Edmonds lives in the house that she herself was brougt home to from the hospital as an infant. She has been a community activist for many years, including a run for the school board 4 years ago and acting as 7th district community liaison for the Mayor’s Roundtable for the past 8 months or so.
Edmonds is a graduate of Virginia Commonwealth University, with a BS in Criminal Justice. In addition, she has participated in UVa’s prestigious Sorensen Institute of Political Leadership and the Virginia Collaborative Leadership Program. She is currently employed as a Community Liaison Specialist at VCU’s Clark-Hill Institute for Positive Youth Development, with previous stints at the Center for the Study and Prevention of Youth Violence and the Richmond East District Improvement Corporation.
Given The Mayor’s Award from the City of Richmond for Outstanding Community leadership in the 7th District in 1998, Edmonds was named a City of Richmond distinguished citizen for “providing leadership, fortitude and commitment to ensuring that the quality of life for residents of the East End in the city of Richmond maintains steady improvement” in 2002, and received a certificate of recognition from the Richmond Police Department for providing outstanding support and leadership to the Richmond Police Department in 2004, 2005 and 2006.