The Compact Revisited

Moderate quality drawing of The Compact

Moderate quality drawing of The Compact

Richmond Forward’s current goal is to get an education facilities plan passed and funded. Mayor Stoney’s proposed Compact could be the central vehicle to achieve this goal by “getting our house in order” by improving transparency, cooperation, and efficiency between the Mayor, School Board, and City Council.

Since it’s been awhile (2 months) since our analysis post, let’s quickly revisit the Compact, where it’s been, what’s missing, and what needs to happen next.

Huge thanks to Blaine Lay (of Two People podcast fame) for providing us a concise summary we’re using to answer these questions.

What is the Compact?

The proposed Compact outlines a set of practical ways that The Mayor’s Office, School Board and City Council can work better together. The public education needs in Richmond are great and we need to a long-term plan to address them. The Compact outlines a collaborative way of working for the good of our city’s children.

The Education Compact articulates three key areas of focus:

  • Regular collaboration: Proposes a standing quarterly meeting between the Mayor, City Council, and School Board
  • Support services + academic performance: Better education outcomes require support for students outside of the classroom. It’s a shared effort between: the city provides support services for poverty reduction, enabling the schools to focus on academic improvement.
  • Sharing resources: Establishes a goal to share resources between the city and schools, including early childhood education, out-of-school time, workforce development, and multicultural services.

For further more details on how the Compact would address school operational needs and school facility (capital needs) click here.

Where has it been?

On the community meeting circuit! The Richmond Times-Dispatch and Style Weekly provided us reactions and coverage of the meetings, while RVADirt pushed calendar updates and recorded an entire meeting! Press went as far as the Washington Post editorial with Rich Meagher’s RVA Politics post.

From City administration, Mayor Stoney’s blogpost, Thad Williamson’s WCVE interview, and this FAQ document give us further background.

What’s missing from the Compact?

The outline of the Compact is a good start. But some added clarity is needed. Below are the four issues Richmond Forward is focusing on to make a good plan even better. There’s a brief description for each, along with some questions for consideration:

1.   Composition: The Compact is currently composed of individuals from school and city administration including a RPS student, a RPS staff member, a RPS parent, and representatives from the business, philanthropic, nonprofit community.

  • How will non-elected or staff representatives be selected?
  • How will it be ensured that the composition will not include those who will try to dominate or bully the group?

2.   Staffing: The Compact will be staffed by City administration, but that doesn’t mean it will be one individual’s full-time job. We believe having a dedicated city role is critical.

  • Will there be a full-time staff position to support the committee?
  • If not, who will be personally accountable for the success and progress of the compact?

3.   Transparency: The Compact states that data will be shared and that meetings will be public. It also states that public comment won’t be normally included and closed sessions will sometimes happen.

  • How will transparency actually happen? How will decisions be made?
  • How will information be shared, and alternatives explored and vetted?

4.   Timeline: Activating a group by setting a timeline for future goals is essential to gaining momentum by measuring and achieving progress. Establishing key milestones helps us to gain clarity on our timeline, and enables us to make adjustments as we go.

  • What is the timeline for deliverables on key policy documents? (AIP, RPS Facilities Plan, a long-term CIP and operating budget for RPS)

For a snapshot of what a proposal timeline might look like, click here.

What happens next?

Mayor Stoney will present the Compact to School Board and City Council for adoption in June. If adopted in June, the Education Compact committee would be formed in July.

Due to the extreme nature of our failing school facilities, it is Richmond Forward’s recommendation that before School Board and City Council adopt the Compact, a timeline with expectations on addressing these needs be included. In a best-case scenario, by November 1st, the Education Compact would have accomplished the following:

  1.   Review the facilities plan with updated data.
  2.   Identify immediate needs and present CIP amendments to fund new construction and a list of School Board actions to meet these needs.
  3.   Present options on a 10-year overhaul of the system with future alternatives identified for each school. These alternatives (with associated costs) will be finalized in summer 2018 in coordination with city-wide master plan update.

Not only is this the right thing to do, but politically, the time is now. With the 6-3 City Council budget vote, Mayor Stoney needs to break through this barrier, and including specific goals for school facilities could go a long way to garner support from Kim Gray and Kristen Larson whose deep connection to this issue is well noted. Additionally, pressure is building with Paul Goldman’s proposed charter amendment, which gained support from Crusade for Voters, that would force the Mayor to present a school facilities solution.

We need you to join us and contact (email or call) the School Board and City Council and request that school facilities be specifically addressed in the Compact! For Mayor Stoney, email, call (804-646-7970), or visit this friendly contact page.