Action, Fast Action on Facilities

RTD's Justin Mattingly, our School Board sherpa.  

RTD's Justin Mattingly, our School Board sherpa.  

Action on Facilities!

After a slow moving process, we’ve experienced a rush of action and stand today with an approved facilities plan by the School Board! Like all things in life, the story is complicated. A big thanks to the RTD’s Justin Mattingly for covering this process with serious detail; we will be referencing his work frequently in this recap.  He’ll help us along the journey.

November 30th

This was a school facilities specific School Board work session. The meeting started with Interim Superintendent Kranz passing out 4” ring binders, stacked with facilities information. As Justin Mattingly noted, this information was not made publicly available (until now, see below).

In this compelling 2 hours and 40 minutes of video, the school board spent a majority of the time discussing who gets what first under Plan A. Talk of consolidation and cost savings of Plan B was short and discussion turned back to phasing under Plan A.  

The general consensus was that December 4th is too soon for voting on the facilities plan, therefore a special meeting for December 12th would be scheduled. In Justin Mattingly’s recap, he quoted Chairwoman Dawn Page, “This is a major undertaking, and it needs to be taken seriously. It has to be well thought out.”

December 1st

I’m guessing Justin has all his holiday shopping complete, because on Friday, December 1st, he wrote this article detailing the impact to every RPS facility under Plan A vs. Plan B.

December 4th

This was a regularly scheduled School Board meeting with “receive action from the Facilities Plan” on the action agenda.

In this compelling 4 hours and 18 minutes of video, the School Board had a lengthy discussion on facilities that left one member, Doerr, who left early, thinking there would be additional discussion and a vote on December 12th. Towards the end of the night, a motion was made to vote and with a 5 to 3 vote, Plan A of Phase I was approved.

Justin Mattingly provided a meeting recap and the list of schools in Plan A Phase I.

December 5th

School Board Chair Dawn Page sent this letter to Mayor Stoney requesting a meeting to discuss funding Phase I ($224M) and cited this list of closed schools as reason why consolidation is not necessary.

Hot Take Corner

This is where things get complicated.

Justin Mattingly’s take the next day and input from open government folks was not positive on how the December 12th date was communicated, then scrapped. Mayor Stoney made his displeasure with public engagement thoughts known on twitter. Ross Catrow reminds us that a week of public engagement isn’t very engaging. Then, Richmond’s hot take machine Michael Paul Williams, placed this in line with past School Board’s decisions (e.g. firing and hiring of the Superintendent), all with a lack of quality community input and transparency.

Transparency

Since the November 30th meeting, the 4” ring binder of facilities data has not been made public (see RPS facilities page), until now!

Housed on the Richmond Forward “Resources” page, is the full report along with the following individual sections:

Fellow PDF lovers, enjoy!

Next Steps

December 11th

At 9am the School Board, City Council, and the Mayor will fulfill their Compact commitment by holding their quarterly meeting at the Richmond Police Training Academy (1202 West Graham Road). No public comment will be taken. I’m expecting this to be mostly cordial and ceremonial, but things could get “drunk Uncle” heated if funding or facilities coordination is debated.

Two quotes below from Michael Paul Williams’ article highlight upcoming debates:

Funding

“Board Chairwoman Dawn Page, in a letter to Mayor Levar Stoney, said the plan “is essentially a variation of the previous Option 5 plan” — an assertion disputed not only by City Councilwoman Kim Gray, a former School Board member who co-headed its Facilities Task Force, but by the sitting board in a statement last month.” - Michael Paul Williams

This quote previews THE question for facilities, how will it get funded? With the Mayor and City Council members controlling funding, it’s almost impossible to see them writing an open check to RPS without including some consolidation (especially years 5 to 20). It looks like we’re headed into the Compact for debate, which will act similar to a Congressional reconciliation, where any compromise agreed to on facilities and funding will then have to be passed by School Board (actions) and City Council (funding).

Facilities Coordination

“Facilities should be a priority, but a holistic approach is also needed, looking at staffing and programming that meets the student needs, as well as allows for authentic parent engagement,” said Tanya Gonzalez, executive director of the Sacred Heart Center, which serves Richmond’s Latino community. “When it comes to schools in South Richmond, like Greene Elementary School that is approximately 90 percent Latino, getting bilingual and bicultural staff in the building should also be a priority, in addition to facilities issues.” - Michael Paul Williams

Tanya Gonzalez speaks to the heart of the issue with new facilities, what will make them effective? Devoid from discussion the past few weeks has been coordination with city-wide neighborhood revitalization plans or successful programming.

To best leverage new facilities into successful schools, the Facilities Task Force included the following recommendations to inform new school construction:

  1. School within a school design to create close knit relationships between student groups and teachers. Read this research article for more information.

  2. Community schools commitment to locate a service provider, on school grounds, who works with the principal to coordinate partnerships. These could include specialized workforce partnerships at the high school level, or neighborhood-level services at an elementary or middle school. Read this article for more information or go to the National Center for Community Schools.

  3. Diversity, economic and racially, should be valued when making rezoning decisions. Read this article from Genevieve Siegel-Hawley on Richmond school integration for more information.

Your Voice

Apply to be on the Compact! The application is open until December 15th. Submit the application online (English or Español), and any questions and resumes can be sent to rvaeducationcompact@gmail.com.

Contact City Council, School Board, or the Mayor (one-click RF homepage) with your thoughts on the facilities process, the newly adopted plan, or how we can have a successful Compact negotiation.