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Superintendent Kamras is coming to Church Hill to tell us to trust him. Some say we shouldn’t.

Letter to the Editor from local public education advocate Kristin Reed.

There is no question that the public has trust issues with our schools and with city government. I often-times hear residents refer to failed promises, mismanaged funds, and missed deadlines (Hello 17th St. Market).

No one I ever speak with disputes the fact that our schools need money and urgent attention. However, many residents doubt the city’s and the school administration’s ability to manage and address these needs.

Check out what Kristin has to say below. She definitely gives us some points to consider.


Superintendent Kamras is coming to Church Hill to tell us to trust him. We shouldn’t.

This past week, Superintendent Kamras wrote a guest editorial for the Richmond Times Dispatch to say he understands why Richmonders might not trust our public schools. The article comes in the context of Mr. Kamras promoting Mayor Levar Stoney’s proposed budget, and includes the announcement that he will host a “Trust Town Hall” at MLK Middle School this week.

East End residents have reason to be hesitant: our neighborhoods house some of the most distressed schools in the city. Following a wave of teacher protests at George Mason Elementary in 2017, Mayor Stoney and Superintendent Kamras chose George Mason as their site to unveil the Mayor’s proposal to tie school funding to a Tax Increment Financing funded coliseum redevelopment deal. That deal remains on hold while two residents to date have taken the city to court for the details. We are making hesitant steps toward the replacement of George Mason, but despite a December ground-breaking ceremony, the ground at that site remains unbroken and debate continues about the timeline and cost of those projects.

This week two news stories broke that have raised further questions about whether trust in our current school administration is warranted.

First, in our April 8th school board meeting, 3rd District School Board rep Kenya Gibson requested additional transparency in school construction costs and planning, saying “What I would like to ensure is that this process be as public as possible….I believe that we can do better:”

Letter to the CHPN Editor from Kristin Reed

With surprising anger, Superintendent Kamras chastised Gibson for her request, saying “the insinuation that something is happening at those meetings outside the view of the public is, frankly, offensive.” Following this outburst, WCVE reported on the matter, finding that the sessions are in violation of state law as “The meetings are not listed in monthly rundown of district meetings for March or April. They also aren’t posted under the ‘meeting notices’ heading on the district’s website.”

Second, an article dropped this week from The Richmond Free Press following up on an older, but essential news story from last year at this time. In late May of 2018 discussion emerged on social media in response to reports that RPS schools were operating without sufficient toilet paper. Parent advocates mobilized, collecting donations in support of student needs.  Superintendent Kamras responded quickly via Twitter, announcing “We don’t need folks to donate,” and asserting that the problem had been limited to only a couple of schools.

A subsequent Freedom of Information Act request by a parent for emails charting school supply needs reveals not only a much wider shortage, but also that staff had made repeated requests to administration for support with budget and supply shortfalls, leaving the whole of the system’s custodial budget at $1.18 on the date parents first made the public call for help. The details from the FOIA request are concerning, painting a picture not only of dysfunction within the system and inaction on the part of the Superintendent, but also an attempt to mislead parents and stop the delivery of much-needed supplies.

As a Trust Town Hall comes to the East End, it’s worth noting that the FOIA request that revealed the extent of the supply crisis in 2018 was submitted by a parent, someone whose trust was clearly violated at a moment she collaborated with other parents in support of the needs of RPS students and children. If Mr. Kamras is to be trusted, then he will also need to account for this week’s news cycle.

Letter to the CHPN Editor from Kristin Reed

If you want to attend the event trust event being hosted by Mr. Kamras:

  • What: RPS “Trust Town Hall”
  • When: Tuesday, April 23, 6 p.m.
  • Where: Martin Luther King Jr. Middle School

What do you think of the current administration and its leadership? Do you trust them? Whether you’re for or against the proposed plans for our school system we encourage everyone to get involved and to take an active role in our local schools.


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Kay
Kay
1 year ago

With both Kamras and Stoney advocating for the fleecing of every Richmond property owner by raising property taxes, it’s hard to believe they should be trusted as stewards of the people’s money. Trust is earned and these two have not taken the proper steps to manage the resources they currently have. There must not be any discussion of adding more money to a system that is bloated and horribly mismanaged. Arguably, Richmond City government and RPS fit this bill. Raising taxes is an easy solution for both Kamras and Stoney. That’s not why they’re in office. Both of these men… Read more »

Bill
Bill
1 year ago

RPS and the school board is a continuing criminal enterprise that has a long history of failing to educate students and throwing away money. The history is an indictment. It is time to lock them up.

jean Mcdaniel
jean Mcdaniel
1 year ago

When an institution operates under the table and attempts to hide issues and obfuscate truths, rest assured what DOES see the light of day is only the tip of the iceberg. First, the LOTTERY was going to “save our schools”, then the MEALS TAX was “going to save our schools” and now a tax increase on already overtaxed property owners. I do not and have never had children and frankly I am getting sick and tired of paying the bill for irresponsible people who do! For those parents that do put in the necessary hard work, you should be outraged… Read more »

Jen Law
Jen Law
1 year ago

This isn’t the first time Kamras is guilty of not being transparent. When he released the budget earlier this year that called for eliminating dozens of jobs, he refused to release the positions that were to be cut–a clear violation of the law.

Reed's axe needs sharpening
Reed's axe needs sharpening
1 year ago

Outburst? The fact that Ms. Reed characterized Mr. Kamras’ comments as an “outburst” with “surprising anger” calls into question Ms. Reed’s credibility. He was certainly strident in his statements, as would be expected when responding to insinuations of being opaque, underhanded, or seeking to shield details from public view. Should Kamras and Stoney be trusted? I don’t know. But I do know that I don’t trust Ms. Reed’s take on the matter, as she has engaged in character assassination with her hyperbolic statements. She obviously has an axe to grind with Kamras, so her comments warrant more than a grain… Read more »

Juanito
Juanito
1 year ago

This guy Kamras is a real jerk, How dare he, as an employee of the citizens of Richmond, undertake to insult and lecture persons who have a deep commitment to the education system and who’s goal is to see it improved?

We seem to have no problem pumping money into the system without any real return – better educations for our children. Now is the time to stop, look and listen to a blue ribbon group of educators that have had success within the system. No more bandaids.

mary
mary
1 year ago

Although the figure for being “rich” varies from state to state, the national threshold is $118.080. Richmond’s median income level, according to 2017 figures (the latest available), is $67,633.
Jason Kamras’ base salary as superintendent of Richmond’s public schools is $250,000, the highest ever paid to a superintendent here. To put this in another perspective, Governor Andrew Cuomo of New York state had to defend his “huge pay raise” enacted effective for 2019 that puts his base salary at $200,000.

There seems to be no real worries for the city’s superintendent if our real estate taxes get hiked.

https://www.richmond.com/news/local/new-richmond-schools-superintendent-to-be-highest-paid-in-division/article_946ee8e4-0cbe-5068-b30d-b2ffff7a5808.html

https://www.syracuse.com/state/2019/04/cuomo-could-become-highest-paid-us-governor-under-pay-hike-plan-approved-monday.html

Erin
Erin
1 year ago

I love how everything I ride deriding Kamras comes from people who don’t work for the school system. You should ask people who are in the schools everyday if they’ve seen any change since he took over. I think you would mostly hear yes. This is the third superintendent I’ve worked under in RPS. This is the first time I’ve seen anything change at all. Change takes time but this is the first time I’ve even slightly seen potential for it to happen. But the Richmond media loves to tear apart RPS at every opportunity, and I see CHPN is… Read more »

SA Chaplin
SA Chaplin
1 year ago

@jean McDaniel: Your letter is worth framing!

crd
crd
1 year ago

Well, one of the reasons I would not trust Kamras, or many others involved with the RPS system, is that they allowed $350,000 of Monroe Park renovations to be charged to the school construction budget – and nobody noticed it until an audit uncovered it.

I went to the Town Hall meeting a month ago that Stoney had, and it was disgusting – packed with city and school employees, they clapped and cheered at the idea of increasing real estate taxes to ‘fix the schools.’ Our own School Board rep was yelling amen loudly as she applauded.

Juanito
Juanito
1 year ago

@Erin

Let’s face it – most Richmonders don’t work in the school system. But that doesn’t mean they aren’t serious about their schools and can contribute in positive ways.

It would help if the Superintendent realized this and got into the mode of high lighting positive aspects and strides made instead of taking on constituents. Might help Richmond to move forward from the real problems that exist now. And improve the press reporting as well.

Juanito
Juanito
1 year ago

@Crd

Your second paragraph sums it all up. It’s as though it’s a one ring circus and all the tickets were given to those who support a dying art and have no interest in moving forward and providing a meaningful experience to our children

Kay
Kay
1 year ago

@10 crd…the 7th district councilperson cheers and claps for increased property taxes because she isn’t paying any…she lives in Henrico. Where is the media on this? Angelesto resigned because of the lawsuits brought on by not living in his district. Come on people…start reporting on this. Get this woman in front of a mike and start asking her the tough questions.

Bill
Bill
1 year ago

Kay, Angelesto is the wrong color.

ray
ray
1 year ago

Kay #13 –

Why don’t you file a lawsuit yourself if you are so certain Newbille really lives in Henrico?

Mark
Mark
1 year ago

A very good article from the RTD showing why we should “trust” this administration as displayed in the Wednesday night Council budget meeting. And #13, it does make one wonder why.

https://www.richmond.com/news/local/city-of-richmond/richmond-city-council-moves-to-hire-legal-counsel-for-potential/article_8476c033-de35-55f8-8f51-aabf86154463.html

mary
mary
1 year ago

Agelasto is not the only council member who can choose where to sleep at night. By January 19, 2009 Newbille had been a resident of Richmond and the 7th District for all of 18 days after moving to town from Henrico:

https://chpn.net/2009/01/19/newbille-a-7th-district-resident-for-the-past-18-days/

She and Robert W. Evans are the listed owners, separately or together, of other properties both in Richmond and in Henrico. This link shows the joint and current ownership of a property in Henrico:

https://realestate.henrico.us/pls/htmldbcamprod/f?p=101:1:::NO:::

Kay, it do make one wonder, don’t it

crd
crd
1 year ago

While I agree with everyone regarding the council person, and I would cheer if someone filed some sort of suit, it was the school board rep. who cheered at the town hall meeting, not Newbille.

BAF
BAF
1 year ago

Trust is earned, not given on demand or something to be assumed. Kamras has to earn the trust of the taxpayers who fund his salary and pay for a school system that has long-failed many of the children it is meant to serve. Kamras would be well-served to highlight the positive changes he is responsible for, be transparent about any planned reforms and otherwise demonstrate that he is worthy of our trust. I want proof that he has a real plan, that he is implementing it well, that he is a good steward of the money he currently receives to… Read more »

Bill
Bill
1 year ago

Lock them up.

crd
crd
1 year ago

Okay, this too is another old story – but it reminds me – DID THIS HAPPEN? WHAT WENT ON? COULD WE HAVE SOME FOLLOW-UP HERE? Thanks.

Church Hill People's News
Admin
Church Hill People's News
1 year ago
Reply to  crd

@crd you most certainly can ask. This was written as an opinion piece from a neighbor, right before the project began. We will follow up as soon as we’re done fixing the site.

crd
crd
1 year ago

Actually someone else recently asked me about this, and I had to answer that I did not have a clue if it happened or not. So there are two of us who are somewhat interested, and thanks in advance for following up.

crd
crd
1 year ago

Okay it has been two months since CHPN said they would follow up, “We will follow up as soon as we’re done fixing the site.” Are you still fixing the site? I notice that it is not being updated much – or are people not commenting? At this point, I’m not sure if I’m interested in an event from four months ago, but it would have been nice to find out if it really happened.

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