Bonus School Board Recap - February 21, 2017

Highlights

Awards and Recognitions

The School board recognized and awarded the School Board clerk a certificate of appreciation in honor of her hard work for public education.

Public Information

Keri Treadway, a RPS school teacher of 14 years and co-founder of Support Richmond Public Schools, called for a needs-based budget from the School Board. “You are not to blame for the lack of of money, but you will be part of the problem if you refuse to submit a needs-based budget that truly reflects our needs,” she said, citing that the state code requires them to submit a needs-based budget. She asked School Board members to sympathize with students without resources while also acknowledging some of the good shifts in the School Board system.

Charlotte Hayer, president of the Richmond Education Association, also called on the School Board to submit a needs-based budget rather than a budget based on what the Board believes they will receive. “Don’t we have enough GoFundMe accounts already?” she said, referring to teachers trying to raise money to buy classroom supplies.

Tom Hardman, speaking as an individual, expressed disappointment that the previous strategic plan was shelved by the last School Board. He said he found that plan to be defective, as many of its components, which were already semi-coherent, from community members were discarded. “Democracy is great, but only if very well-structured,” he said. The strategic plan should be formulated by the School Board and administration with public input but not public control, he said.

Stephanie Priddy, a senior at Thomas Jefferson High School, said that RPS had violated her rights after she was arrested for trespassing at the school despite having a pass to attend class. She said that all of her time was now dedicated to trying to get back to school and complete her senior year with her friends and boyfriend. She requested that the School Board allow her to go back and to have a good senior year, which up to to then had been “heartbreaking,” she said.

Kandise Lucas, an advocate for equity in schools, also spoke on Priddy’s behalf and accused the School Board of having the same indifference as the previous School Board regarding the violation of Priddy’s civil rights. Priddy missed nine weeks of school because an administrator falsified attendance records, Lucas said. “Shame on you,” she said several times during her time.

NOTE: More details about her complaints with RPS can be found on the following GoFundMe account fighting for her case: https://www.gofundme.com/Justiceforstephanie

A resident from the 8th district, who came to the meeting with her daughter, also encouraged the School Board to be bold and submit a needs-based budget.

Chris Lombardi, a general education teacher who has been with RPS for 14 years, also pushed for a needs-based budget, particularly in light of its RPS’s historic underfunding. Lombardi also asked for increased transparency in the decision making process and no showdowns between the city and RPS over funding (even if the School Board does not receive the requested amount). He also made a third point that without a needs-based budget, state legislators would incorrectly assume Richmond had all of its education funding met and would impede legislators fighting for fair funding practices in the General Assembly.

Tonya from Youth for RISE, who came to the meeting with two students, Doug and Maurice, also supported a needs-based budget. She urged the School Board to fully examine the needs of the schools.

Latrese Younger, an instruction assessment and data analyst for two schools, proposed that the School Board hire more data analysts because currently only three are spread across seven schools.

Danica Millner, who is also an instruction assessment and data analyst, reiterated the need for more analysts.”In order to make the work we are trying to accomplish actually mean something, we need more people to help us do what we do,” she said.

Ms. Daniels asked the School Board to go to schools in Richmond and assess them. “You’ll be very surprised at what’s going on,” she said. She said that cursing and fighting was present in schools, including violence from staff and faculty.

John Barclay, a teacher, advocated for a needs-based budget. Barclay said that the School Board could create a needs-based budget that also prioritizes certain items. He also argued for reduced centralized control of the district to save money, as some teachers may be restricted in buying certain supplies because of certain contracts between schools and vendors.

Melissa Peskin, a homeowner in the fourth district, emphasized the importance of RPS.

Brianna Nomi also advocated for a needs-based budget and for the School Board to set a precedent for democratic conversation. “Please demonstrate your support for teachers and students work but also please demonstrate your commitment to transparent discussion and the public’s voice by adopting a needs-based budget,” she said.

Legislative Update

The School Board received a legislative update about two bills currently being considered in the General Assembly regarding student discipline and long-term student suspension. The two bills vary in time frame: one sets the cap on suspension to 90 days and the other sets it to no longer than 60 days without good reason. The bill from the House of Delegates passed the House and Senate is currently on their third reading of the bill and the bill from the Senate failed to pass.

The School Board also received an update about two bills being considered on the state level that address suspension and expulsion of students in preschool through 3rd grade. The bill in the House of Delegates prevents students from being suspended for more than five days, with exceptions for certain offenses, and the bill in the Senate would not allow students to get suspended for more than 10 days, except for certain offenses. The House bill passed the House and Senate and is currently in the Committee of Conference and the Senate bill failed to pass.

The School Board also received an update about another bill which would allow students not enrolled in public schools to participate in public school activities, such as sports, was just vetoed by Governor McAuliffe for the third time.

The Richmond residency program gained more funding, partially because it can gain unused funds from another program.

Budgetary Items

The financial statement focused on closely monitoring non-controlled salaries and trying to find a way to increase teachers’ salaries.

Board Action Items

Three options regarding the budget plans were proposed during the meeting.

Option one requested an additional $8.5 million funding request and included support for partnering with the multicultural center for the arts, language and arts, middle schools athletics, and nursing.

Option two was a revised version of option one that also included two actual funding items, as opposed to partnering, for the multicultural center for the arts and team 4 and 5.

Option three, which had been revised from the last meeting, was a needs-based budget.

Elizabeth Doerr articulated some challenges with the budgeting process, as the School Board still did not have a strategic plan and her commitment to collaborating for a long term funding plan. She then put for support for option one or option three, if adjusted to be more accurate to the School Board’s funding needs.

Jonathan Young then described his proposed changes to option three. He proposed removing option D from option three, professional development funding, from the plan, saying that most teachers considered it a waste of time. James Barlow expanded on Young’s point, saying that what would be removed would be providing laptops to teachers and online training for software, not the six days of professional development for teachers. Option D also included upgrading of school security systems. However, this amendment did not pass.

Young also proposed several more amendments:

  • To increase tuition payments for four students to attend Appomattox Regional Governor's School

  • To increase funding to $61,000 for empowerment principals fund (which provides for principals highest priority needs)

  • To increase funding by $5,000 to address issues in cafeterias

  • To allocate $500,000 to provide teachers a stipend for teachers to pursue professional development goals, such as taking classes to earn a degree

  • To decrease expenditures from the professional development office and reappropriate the money to the resources department

Doerr praised Young’s plan as out of the box but did not support it because she said the School Board required a better framework before addressing these smaller requests. Barlow also saw merit in some of the approaches but said there would be better time later on in the budgeting process to address these concerns. Nadine Carter expressed similar sentiments, highlighting the need for a strategic plan. Therefore, none of these amendments were passed.

Young ended up voting against option 3, saying it constituted an unbalanced budget. Barlow said that while they may disagree on how to approach the budget, option three best articulated the RPS’s needs. Ultimately the Board voted for option three 7-1.

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