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.
Letter to the CHPN Editor from Kristin Reed
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:”
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.”Letter to the CHPN Editor from Kristin Reed
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.
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.