School Board Recap - October 2, 2017

Highlights

The RPS School Board meeting took place on Monday evening in the crowded 17th Floor School Board room. Ten (10) candidates for the 7th district vacancy were be interviewed for the position, followed by a public hearing on the candidates.

It was asked that audience members refrain from using social media to ensure fairness to all candidates. Candidates who were not being interviewed at the moment by the Board were asked to wait to be called upon in the glass overflow room across the hall.

Each candidate was given three (3) minutes to give a brief introduction about themselves, three (3) minutes to respond to each question, and two (2) minutes to give any final remarks.

Candidate Interviews

SHARON BURTON

The first to be interviewed was Sharon Burton. Sharon Burton is a resident of the 7th District, a product of Richmond Public Schools, an educator for twenty-five (25) years in the Richmond Public School system (including Bellevue, Chimborazo, and others), and a parent of RPS students. Ms. Burton has served both inside and outside of Richmond Public Schools, working with Peter Paul Development Center, serving on governing boards, and working with millennials. Ms. Burton asserts that she knows about the challenges and knows about the policy process.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

“Representing the constituents in the 7th District and serving as a voice in choosing a new superintendent,” Ms. Burton replied. “I will listen to what the community says.”

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Ms. Burton said that having experienced Richmond Public Schools in different capacities allowed her to have a better understanding of the challenges. She’s stated that she’s been able to see the challenges from both the “dance floor” and the “balcony,” which gives her a unique perspective to bring to the Board.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Ms. Burton says that every day she meets with parents, asking them what they need and helping them get resources. She has played the role of a mentor and a volunteer, and has also helped students obtain opportunities outside of the school district.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Ms. Burton stated that she decided to run because she was asked to. “I have dabbled in policy before,” she noted. She noted further that her variety of experiences influenced her to run for the position as well.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

“We need to think differently about how we educate,” Ms. Burton said. “We need a different way of delivering instruction, as the 18th century model is not working.” She explained that the schools should be pushing for economic development – encouraging students to go into the workforce, into college, or into the military. She also addressed the problem of the SOLs, noting how students have been struggling to make the scores.

“I hope you give me the opportunity to sit among you,” Ms. Burton said in her closing statement. “I am known as a person who builds bridges, who is not afraid to try new things, and who is not afraid to take risks.”

HARRISON HAYES

The second candidate was Harrison Hayes, an RPS graduate who graduated from Richmond Community High School in 2009 and went on to attend Howard University in Washington, D.C. He grew up in the 7th District. Mr. Hayes has worked for Google, as well as in the State Department with Senator Kerry. He expressed that he did not think he would return to Richmond after his time in D.C. but later realized the need to help his community after looking at the statistics. He worked with Peter Paul Development Center and noted that he was “touched to have an impact on young people” and to help students and parents. Mr. Hayes received his graduate degree from Virginia Commonwealth University (VCU), and after working as a financial aid counselor, learned more about student struggles. He then moved into VCU’s educational opportunity department. Mr. Hayes has worked with low-income individuals and with individuals in correctional facilities, and has encouraged them to pursue further education. Mr. Hayes said that he “hoped to help community by aiding in furthering education, bringing in a sense of community, and benefiting students.”

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

“Schools are failing and that is an issue,” Mr. Hayes responded, noting that there are currently only two fully accredited high schools. “Resources are there but they are not being maximized.” He stated that outcomes need to be looked at: “accredited students are going into unaccredited schools.” He suggested that there needs to partnerships with and among the elementary, middle, and high schools.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. Hayes stated that he has been around the city and has built connections. “Even though I am young, it does not mean I don’t have the experience,” he said. He stated that he has been able to forge consistent and sustainable relationships with the community and post-secondary education.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Mr. Hayes stated that he has advanced public education by going into facilities where the most vulnerable and forgotten about individuals are. “One in four (1 in 4) adults have no high school diploma,” he noted. “Adult – parents – need education as well.” He stated that he’s been trying to solve these problems.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Mr. Hayes explained that he had voted for Ms. Marsh-Carter because of her community connections. Since he also has community connections, he thought he could be a benefit to the community by helping both students and adults. “We have all the resources and connections,” he noted. “But there is still failure in the schools.” He said that he saw this as an opportunity to make a difference.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

My. Hayes stressed the importance of engaging the parents, and pushed for the utilization of social media and technology to engage them. “There is a lack of participation of the parents,” he said. “We must take into consideration generational changes…parents are different. We need to connect with them differently. Use social media to show them how their children and learning and succeeding.”

In his closing remarks, Mr. Hayes shared the story of his friend, who he had briefly encountered when visiting Richmond from D.C. on a break. The friend had told Hayes that he was proud of him for what he had done. This conversation was something that inspired Mr. Hayes to give back to the community. Sometime later, Mr. Hayes was visiting Richmond Correctional Facility, where he encountered his friend, who was now incarcerated. After this encounter, Mr. Hayes sought to understand how both he, as a friend, and the schools, as an educational institution, had failed his friend. “Was it because I lived in a better neighborhood, even though we went to the same schools?” he asked. “Was it because I went to college and he didn’t?” Mr. Hayes noted that he and this friend speak with each other every week. “We need to look both inside and outside of the schools in order to ensure success,” Mr. Hayes said. He thanked the Board for giving him the opportunity to apply for the vacancy.

CHARLES NANCE

Charles Nance, the third candidate, acknowledged that “there is a difficult road ahead.” Mr. Nance has worked on the School Board before, and noted that the work is important. He said that it might be helpful for him to come in with previous information, as he knows about the budget process and knows how to help move priorities along.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

“We need to work together,” Mr. Nance stated. He said that some of the facilities in RPS are in “crisis.” He stressed the need to look outside to legislatures and other partners for help, and also the need to work with the new superintendent and establish a good working relationship with him or her. He also stated that the Board should get ahead on the budget process instead of waiting.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. Nance noted that his strongest asset was the fact that he has “been around the track before.” He has worked on several boards, so he knows how to influence administration.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Mr. Nance said that he has influence public school education as a student, as a parent, and as a citizen advocate. He referred to himself as a “reformed politician.” When he ran for Mayor in the past, he noted that education was his top priority. He has worked with both K-12 and post-secondary education. He wishes that after completing school in Richmond, RPS students would have “a chance to move, but a desire to stay.”

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

“I thought I could be useful,” Mr. Nance replied. He stated that he cares about education and has lived all around Richmond. “We must serve all children, not just some,” he said, emphasizing the need to look at gifted children and those outside of the district as well. “A child bored is just as crucial as a child ignored,” he explained. “I will advocate for all children’s needs.”

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Mr. Nance proposed focusing on driving resources into the classroom. “We need to put achievement and academics first,” he said.

He told the Board that he appreciated the chance and thanked them for using a transparent process in making the appointment for the vacancy. He noted that he is available to help as he can as a citizen leader. “I will help you all move the system forward.”

CHERYL BURKE

Cheryl Burke was fourth to speak and she said that she wanted to share her vision and how she could help the schools in the 7th District. Ms. Burke has had a thirty-eight (38) year career in public education, working as substitute teacher, a teacher, an education specialist, and a principal. She noted that she has “conquered many challenges” in her career, but contended that “failure is not an option.” She talked about how has worked students who have lacked belief in themselves and emphasized that “belief is power.” Ms. Burke has also worked hard to move the schools and the students from the bottom to the top and to create changes in the neighborhood. “No one wants to be at the bottom,” she said. Even after retiring from her job as principal at Chimborazo Elementary, she continues to volunteer in the school and in the neighborhood. She stated that she has a “Just Do It” mindset and that reform, rather than the determination of fault, are essential in moving the schools forward.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Ms. Burke cited student achievement as a top priority. She stressed the need for a “great curriculum” and the need for a culture within the schools that are grounded in a “community of caring and collaboration.”

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Ms. Burke stated that both her love for children and her experience are her strongest assets. She is a public educator who has come from four (4) generations of educators. She further stated that she has both passion and commitment. “If I say I’m going to do something, then I’m going to do it…and I’m going to do it right,” she said.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Ms. Burke replied that she has received training in high school curriculum at the University of Michigan. She has encouraged active learning and hands on experience in the classrooms. She has done work both in the homes and in the communities of students. “I’ve knocked on doors and gone into the homes to find out and model what is needed, and then worked to maintain those needs,” she said. She has worked to create a strong reading program, as she believes that there is a need for children to start reading while young. Ms. Burke believes that good technology, combined with learning-by-doing and global experiences, will advance public school education.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

“Why not?” she returned. “I’m retired, but I’m not dead.” Ms. Burke noted that she has never stopped working with the school system. “I still teach, I still love children, and I still volunteer,” she said. “I am here because I want to be,” she continued. “I am confident that I have much to offer.”

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Ms. Burke noted that she has worked under ten (10) superintendents. She understands policy. She mentioned that in her conversations, there have been positive words about the School Board team, and she said that she too will be positive and will believe in Richmond’s children. “You have to inspect what you expect,” she said. She also added that her “personal touch” will help improve the schools as well.

Ms. Burke stated that she was excited by the opportunity to serve on the Board, but expressed that even if she is not appointed, she will still continue to work with children. “It’s about extending yourself to the community,” she said. “It’s about commitment to a safe and nurturing environment for the children.”

BRYCE ROBERTSON

The fifth candidate to speak was Bryce Robertson, a product of Richmond Public School who is now an attorney in the Commonwealth of Virginia. Mr. Robertson said that his love for the community drives his passion to continue to further student achievement. He stated that there are issues to be addressed, a need for better communication, and a need for bold and innovative policies. He also noted the need to engage stakeholders in the area to establish both public and private partnerships, and to encourage entrepreneurship and mentorship. Furthermore, Mr. Robertson stated that ESL needs to be expanded and that accessibility and inclusivity needs to be promoted in the schools.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Mr. Robertson replied that “All of the issues are top priorities,” and that big decisions will have to be made. He highlighted facility issues that both the Board and the community need to work to improve. He also mentioned that it is essential that communication be transparent, open, and accessible. Furthermore, Mr. Robertson said that inclusiveness is a priority, and stressed the need for bilingual resources so that non-English speakers can be a part of the conversation as well.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. Robertson identified his communication skills as his strongest asset. “I speak five languages,” he noted. This has allowed him to transcend cultures and promote inclusiveness, as well as be an effective advocate. “I listen to and understand the needs of others,” he said. “I know how to reach out the entire community and include everyone in the conversation.”

What have you done to advance public school education?

“Public education is near and dear to me,” Mr. Robertson said. He has worked as both a leader and mentor, working with the Passport to Education program as well as on education policy with Virginia’s Attorney General. He has worked to advance students into higher education or to provide them with skills for the workforce. Additionally, he has worked with DREAMERS and those affected by DACA, noting that RPS has “Ten percent (10%) of students with a Hispanic/Latino(a) background.” He has been back to his old schools and has spoken with students. “I’m surrounded by education,” he said. “It is a core part of who I am.”

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Mr. Robertson answered that he applied because “Richmond is home.” He stated that he loves the city, cares about what is going on, and feels that it is incumbent upon him to give back to the community. He believes that his experience and skills as an attorney, an advocate, and a board member of the Chesterfield Innovative School for Girls will serve him well should he be appointed to the Board. He also noted that his mother was an educator. Mr. Robertson wants to inspire young people to take action and stated that to serve on Richmond’s School Board would be both an honor and a pleasure.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Mr. Robertson states that he would engage the community in larger discussions, focus on mentorship, forge a public and private connection, promote programs to bring role models into the schools, serve all students, strengthen ESL, and target teachers who educate diverse students.

In closing, Mr. Robertson said it would be an honor to join the School Board and contribute his experience to it. He has worked with the schools and has worked with stakeholders to advance education. “We cannot rely on the old ways of thinking,” he said. “We need to think about innovation.”

GARRY CALLIS

Garry Callis, the sixth candidate, is a proud resident of Richmond, a product of Richmond Public Schools, and a father of seven children, six of which have attended Richmond Public Schools. “Great things come from the city,” he said. He identified his goal as making sure that “students have everything they need to be successful.” He stated that his unique upbringing will allow him to be an effective member of the Board. He further acknowledged that he would help ensure that there is accessible representation for the residents of the 7th District.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Mr. Callis stated that he is an advocate who has worked in the schools and with children for a long time. He shared that his experience as one of seventy-two (72) foster children has allowed him to see the abuse and neglect that many students face and the outcomes for those students in their futures. In 1996, he started a program to teach kids manners, respect, and responsible decision making. Mr. Callis identified providing job fitness training to young adults as a priority. He also stated that teach time is an issue that needs to be prioritized. “We need to help teachers maintain control of their classrooms so that they can do their job and deliver quality education to the students,” he said. “We need to support teachers when there are disciplinary issues.” In addition, he noted that the facilities are a big issue. “We can’t bring in cutting-edge, space-age technology into an old school that is a hundred (100) years old or older,” he explained. Furthermore, he stressed the need for parents to get behind their children and be engaged so that the children come to school “prepared, ready to learn, and with the right attitude.”

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. Callis described himself as a visionary and as someone who thinks outside of the box. “I don’t just see the picture…I see the frame around the picture, and I see the wall that it is on.” He knows how to consider precipitating factors. His experiences in foster care, in fatherhood, in being involved in the community, and in being a part of the PTA, have all driven him. He described himself as a hands-on, hard-working, accessible, and tenacious man with a power voice that he will bring to the RPS School Board.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Mr. Callis has served as the PTA president at Elkhardt, where he created a parent resource center to help parents feel welcome in place that was not previously welcoming to them. When coming to the school to handle disciplinary issues, this resource center provided parents a place where they could get coffee and a donut and diffuse a little bit before having to deal with the school’s administration. Furthermore, his push to teach manners, respect, and responsible decision-making was a step in advancing public school education. “The three R’s are great, but discipline is also important,” he noted. “A lot of teach time is lost when teachers have to pause due to disciplinary issues.” Mr. Callis stated that he has worked to bring the stability, encouragement, and leadership needed for students.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Mr. Callis stated that he applied because the position was open and available. “It was something I had to do,” he said, emphasizing his passion.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

“We have to work together as a team,” Mr. Callis declared. “Our school system needs to be Tier One.” He acknowledged that the decision made in this day and time will affect the system forty (40) years down the line. He also stressed the importance of working with parents, as he noted that poor parents often lead to unsuccessful children.

“I appreciate this opportunity to be a part of the team,” he said in his closing statement. “This is real, not a game. I have been an advocate and leader for thirty-five (35) years. As long as I can serve our community, I will be there to do it.”

TIM MAY

The seventh candidate to speak was Tim May, who expressed that he was “happy to be here” and answer the Board’s questions.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Mr. May cited community and parent engagement as a top priority. As an RPS graduate, Mr. May stated that there are “good students and good teachers in all of the schools.” He believes that parents need to be encouraged to take advantage of the programs in place to advance public school education.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. May described himself as a decision-maker. His experience as a business owner has taught him how to take in all information and listen to multiple points-of-view before making a decision or coming to a consensus.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Mr. May noted that he spends twenty to twenty-five (20-25) hours volunteering with CHAT (Church Hill Activities and Tutoring). He explained how he has taken on a leadership with young men to help them with life schools like getting a job, conduction one’s self properly, and developing soft skills.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Mr. May said that he’s “already got his feet on the ground in the community.” He applied to the position because he wants to come onto the policy side and make an impact there as well.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Mr. May envisions a fast track to the community and the schools. He wants to bridge the gap and eliminate the disconnect between the two. He emphasized the importance of communication, accessibility, availability, and flexibility. He wants to see increased engagement and the development of a civic association.

Mr. May identified his faith and the youth as two things that are very important to him. “I am going to do as much as I can,” he said, adding that even if not appointed, “I will continue to do so.” He concluded that he is invested in the community and is there to stay.

CORRISSE JORDAN

Corrisse Jordan was eighth to speak. She is a Richmond native who has been away for twenty (20) years working as a federal auditor for the Department of Defense in Northern Virginia. She has returned now as a resident of the 7th District and is excited for the opportunity to serve the community.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Ms. Jordan said that “making sure students have the same opportunities and tools to be competitive as they transition into the workforce and become effective members of society” is a top priority. She noted that she has mentored students at the collegiate level and would like to expand that passion to younger students. “It is important that students have a fair advantage,” she said, explaining the differences in resources that she saw when she moved away. She stated that access to the top resources is essential to students being successful.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Ms. Jordan characterized herself as a resourceful person individual and a person to go to for information. “Even if I do not know something, I’ll find out,” she said. Furthermore, she noted that she is able to identify root causes, stating that “It is easy to identify problems, but not as easy to identify the root cause or causes of those problems.” This has helped in the process of finding solutions and resolutions to stop the problems. She said that RPS needs “not a Band-Aid or a quick fix, but something that will stick.”

What have you done to advance public school education?

Ms. Jordan acknowledged that since she has been away for a while, she is somewhat new to the area. However, she said that she has been involved in the local community schools as a mentor and advocate to ensure that the students reach their potential. She stated that she has a passion for the neighborhood’s students and their success, doing her best to encourage them directly and allow them to believe in themselves. She says she has told many of the students that “You make the most with what you have.”

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Ms. Jordan shared that when she was little girl, she wanted to be a politician. Working as a federal employee, she cannot hold a partisan position. The School Board position is a nonpartisan position, and as such, she believes she can finally fulfill her dream to be involved in a process, have a say, serve the community, and be a public servant. She applied to the position to further to her desire to help the community and improve the conditions of the schools.

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Ms. Jordan cited communication as an issue. “A lot of things are missed due to inadequate communication,” she explained. Her proposal was for the school system to utilize all available channels to quickly and effectively disseminate information. She pointed out that many people are connected to technology, so there are various means of communication that can be used to connect with parents, students, and individuals and relay necessary information. “This way, everyone knows what’s going on and takes an active interest.”

In closing, Ms. Jordan said that she was excited for the opportunity to express her desire to serve in this capacity. She believes that students have a special gift and wants to advocate and believe in them. Her father was an educator in the 7th District and she went to school in the 7th District up until her high school years. She noted that she has seen the changes over the years in the 7th and wants to help to further positive change.

RODERYCK BULLOCK

The ninth candidate to speak was Roderyck Bullock, who was born and raised in the 7th District and has continued to reside in the 7th District all of his life. Mr. Bullock has done a lot for the community. He is a former board member of the Central Virginia Legal Aid Society and the Legal Aid Justice Center, as well as the former president of the Crusade for Voters. Mr. Bullock has been a child advocate for Just Children, a volunteer in the community for years, and served as a coach at Armstrong High School for twelve (12) years. As a coach, he helped to shape athletic policy by fighting vigorously for night games and the Athletic Hall of Fame. He said that he has spent his adult life “dedicated to children and helping them to be educated” and has “Put in a lot of time for the School Board.”

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

“Quality education,” Mr. Bullock replied. “All children need to be educated.” Mr. Bullock proposed a whole audit of exceptionally education to determine what can be done to fix the problems. “We need to examine the nuts and bolts of exceptional education so that we know what to do,” he said. He also suggested involving agencies, non-profits, and churches to foment mentorship within the schools. Furthermore, Mr. Bullock emphasized that the high percentage of students with IEPs needs to be addressed.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Mr. Bullock said that his strongest asset is his ability to be fair. He described himself as a “bridge builder” who knows how to use resources and agencies when needed. Mr. Bullock says that he knows every elected official in the city and has built strong personal relationships with all of them.

What have you done to advance public school education?

Mr. Bullock has been a champion for Richmond Public Schools. “I come to the School Board and let you all know what’s going on and what needs to be fixed,” he explained. Additionally, Mr. Bullock said that he has worked to bridge the gaps between the community, the parents, and the schools.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

“For years we have not had good representation,” Mr. Bullock answered, referring to the 7th District as a “the neglected and forgotten district.” He applied to the position because he “Knows who to go to and how to get things done.”

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Mr. Bullock stated that he has several ideas, one being getting more community involvement in the schools. He also proposed the creation of an office that would bring in corporations to help in the schools. “Partnerships aren’t as strong,” he noted. He stated that a strong partnership between the School Board, City Council, Mayor, and community are necessary for a strong school system.

“I will be the best representative I could possibly be,” Mr. Bullock said in his closing remarks. “I will not take a dime – I will donate the salary to the schools – I will do it for free.” Mr. Bullock said that he knows the community, knows the political arena, and is an everyday common person. “I know how it is,” he explained. “I am a community person.”

KAI BANKS

Kai Banks was the tenth and final candidate to be interviewed for the position. She is a mother of three boys, one of which is a student in Richmond Public Schools. She describes herself as a community and youth advocate and has worked with eight (8) schools on the middle school level. She has focused on development, healthy relationships, entrepreneurship, and social justice in her career. She is an office fiscal coordinator at Virginia Commonwealth University’s (VCU) Center for Teacher Leadership, an office that provides development for teachers and houses the teacher residency program. Ms. Banks stated that her position with VCU requires her to manage the budget, the office details, and logistics.

What do you see as a top priority for Richmond Public Schools and what steps will you take to address the priority you have identified?

Ms. Banks stated that parent engagement is a top priority. “Richmond needs more of a streamlined process where parents could get involved and feel heard,” she explained. She noted that id mote parents understood what was going on, there would be more support. Ms. Banks state that he believes in education and in supporting her children and the community. “It takes a village,” she noted. She emphasized that there are organizations that could be assets to Richmond Public Schools. “I would like to see more transparency and use of assets,” she said.

Describe your strongest asset and how you will use that asset to strengthen our team and help us be an effective Board.

Ms. Banks said that her strongest asset is her resilience. She explained that she has “a background of challenges and obstacles” but has been able to handle them. She also described herself as being resourceful and trustworthy, noting that “the community trusts me.”

What have you done to advance public school education?

Ms. Banks said that she has built strong relationships with the schools, working with teachers and students over the last five or six (5 or 6) years. She stated that she was there when needed.

Why did you decide to apply to the position?

Ms. Banks shared that her father used to always root for the underdog, and that has influenced her. She said that she wanted to help in a different capacity, as she has been working with students in and staff for the last four to five (4 to 5) years. She noted that both the City of Richmond and Richmond Public Schools have a lot of assets. Once there was a vacancy, she asked herself “Why not?”

What ideas do you have to improve the schools and move RPS farther?

Ms. Banks talked about how she looks at numbers all days. She hopes to dig into the budget and find ways to manipulate it so that there are savings and resources for the benefit of RPS. She also proposed more awareness of the assets in Richmond Public Schools so that resources could be utilized in order to assist families and the schools. “I want to promote progress,” she said.

In closing, Ms. Banks stated that she wants to “be the change you want to see.” She said that she has a lot to bring to the table having worked heavily in RPS. “I want to assist in a new capacity,” she expressed. “I am excited for the opportunity.”

Public Hearing

Mr. Gary Flowers, a product of RPS, came forward to support Ms. Cheryl Burke. He stated that she has competence, training, compassion, and commitment to go the extra mile. “You can’t speak for people you never spoke to,” Mr. Flowers noted. “She does very well.” Mr. Flowers described Ms. Burke as having the courage to say the uncomfortable things that may need to be said on behalf of the students. “She thinks outside the box and digs deep,” he said. “Her passion differentiates her.” He then added that “You can’t give off heat if you’re not on fire; Cheryl Burke’s fire will be a catalyst that will take RPS to newer and higher heights.”

The Reverend Marilyn A. Heckstall of Asbury United Methodist Church also came to speak on the behalf of Ms. Cheryl Burke, who she has been friends with for twelve (12) years. She characterized Ms. Burke as a dedicated community partner who is phenomenal, gifted, generous, and intentional about what is best for students and parents. She shared an anecdote about how Ms. Burke encouraged staff to have a prayer with a student whose parent was suffering with cancer. “She helps to take care of the immediate needs of children,” Rev Heckstall said. “She is intentional and invests in the lives of all children.”

Panther Whiting, a graduate of Open High School and the grandmother of a granddaughter in RPS, also supported Ms. Cheryl Burke for this position. “She has a wealth of experience I education and communication,” she said. She explained that Ms. Burke has assets, serving on the Board of Trustees for the Richmond Ballet as well as Big Brothers, Big Sisters of Greater Richmond. “I have worked with and observed Ms. Burke,” Ms. Whiting continued. “She has the knowledge and passion to see Richmond Public Schools succeed now and in the future.” She concluded that Ms. Cheryl Burke is truly what the students, staff, and families of RPS need.

Alex Mejias, a seven-year (7 year) resident of Church Hall and a parent of students at Chimborazo, came to the podium to represent Ms. Sharon Burton. “She has not only experience,” Mr. Mejias stated, “but also a blend of on the ground work and policy expertise.” He shared how Ms. Burton worked to get the Patrick Henry Charter School off the ground, as well as the International Baccalaureate Program. She also has worked closely with the Peter Paul Development Center. Mr. Mejias said that she has a presence with kids and has shown leadership and longevity as both a teacher and a policy-maker.

Mr. John Barday did not speak on the behalf of any candidate, but instead addressed the Board directly. Mr. Barday is a resident and a teacher in the 7th District, and wanted to “advocate and implore” to the Board to take seriously the spirit of democracy. “Twenty percent (20%) of this Board has been appointed, not elected,” he explained. He encouraged the Board to consider candidates who were committed to service rather than trying to her into an office via a non-democratic means. He noted how the incumbency advantage would allow any new candidates a “springboard to higher office.” He asked the Board to cautiously and carefully keep this in mind when making the appointment.

Murray Withrow came to the podium to advocate for Tim May. He has been a resident of the East End for eleven (11) years, has been investing in the community for fifteen (15) years, and a parent of three (3) boys, two (2) of which are in RPS. He says he has been good friends with Mr. May for fifteen (15) years; they met at the University of Richmond. “I want to speak to his character and competency,” Mr. Withrow said. “He has great integrity and invests in the community.” He spoke on Mr. May’s service with CHAT and how he served as a volunteer coach of a basketball team for boys. “Mr. May cares about youth,” Mr. Withrow noted. He stated furthermore that Mr. May would continue to have the same commitment and dependability if appointed to the School Board. Additionally, he stated that Mr. May’s cross-cultural experiences allows him to navigate many cultures and contexts very well.

Ms. Barbara Brown, who had worked on the campaign of Nadine Marsh Carter, came forward on behalf of Ms. Cheryl L. Burke. “Not only is she caring and humanistic,” Ms. Brown explained. “But she has four (4) decades of experience working effectively with students and parents in at least five (5) different schools.” She said that Ms. Burke has made a professional impact as an instructional leader for nineteen (19) years. “She worked to give students the best academic experience,” she told the Board. “Her fun and learning was highlighted in local newspapers and on local news stations.” She asserted that Ms. Burke’s impact continues to resonate today. “Ms. Burke has a thorough understanding of the academic, physical, and emotional needs of students from pre-K to High School,” Ms. Brown concluded.

Mr. Jerome Legions, president of the Carver Civic Association, spoke to the Board on the behalf of Bryce Robertson. “Bryce is the kind of young man I’d like in my neighborhood,” he said. “My objective has been to steal Bryce and get him on the PTA over at Carver.” He described Mr. Robertson as being “amazing.” He’s worked with Mr. Robertson on other projects and stated that Mr. Robertson’s intelligence, insight, and vision are awe-inspiring. “They say it takes a village to raise a child,” Mr. Legions said, “but it takes participation to build a village.” He told the School Board that his “loss” is their “gain.”

Jimmie Lee Javis, a former 7th District resident, also spoke in favor of Bryce Robertson, emphasizing that Mr. Robertson’s communication and skills with languages are obvious assets. “Mr. Robertson is an immigration attorney who works night and day with the most vulnerable and at-risk members of the community, which include non-English speakers, undocumented immigrants, and DREAMERS,” Mr. Javis noted. “Bryce has a day to day commitment to these people in the community. Mr. Javis said that Mr. Robertson will bring “ideas, energy, and a vision” to RPS, and also that Mr. Robertson has been an advocate both on his job and in his service to the schools.

Ms. Lisa Byrd came forward to express her “enthusiastic support” for Ms. Cheryl Burke. Ms. Byrd is President of Links Inc., one of the oldest and largest national service organizations of African American women. Members of this organization put in over 500,000 hours of community service. Ms. Byrd called Ms. Burke “a champion for children,” who suggests programs for children with a holistic approach. “Ms. Burke knows how address needs, knows that we must work with the family in addition to the child, and recognizes the importance of health and nutrition,” she said. “She will bring vision, expertise, and dedication.” She concluded by stating that Ms. Burke is an excellent public servant and educator.

Ms. Catherine Illian came forward to state that “Sharon Burton is my choice for the sake of all children.” Ms. Illian lived in the 7th District, has three (3) children in Richmond Public Schools, is a community volunteer, and has experience with the PTA. “I want someone with experience, competence, and knowledge,” she explained. “I want someone who is a team player, and who is doing this for the good of the children.” She affirmed that Sharon Burton is the candidate she believes could best fill the 7th District vacancy.

Ms. Debra Calla also spoke in favor of Sharon Burton. She has known Ms. Burton for ten (10) years, having met her through the Patrick Henry Charter School. “She has been a teacher for eight (8) years at John B. Cary, twenty-five (25) years at Bellevue, and two at Chimborazo as a math specialist,” Ms. Calla shared. “She continues to nurture students through her work with Peter Paul Development Center.” She described Ms. Burton as a proponent of visual learning and one of the best at doing research. She also described Ms. Burton as a woman of great faith. “You will often hear her say, ‘I will pray on it,’” Ms. Calla quipped. She concluded that “Ms. Burton will strengthen the Board and challenge the Board to do its best.”

Malaysia Browder, a sixth-grader at Martin Luther King Middle School, took to the podium to express support in Ms. Cheryl Burke. “She will be good because she loves kids,” Malaysia told the Board. “She gives hugs to everyone every morning.” Malaysia said that Ms. Burke “always tells us to do our best.” She noted that even when people yell at Ms. Burke, she still speaks nicely to them. She believes that Ms. Burke will be good for the 7th District because she helps everyone. “I know she will help all of the school in the 7th District,” Malaysia concluded.

John Murray, the grandson of a former RPS teacher, spoke in support of Bryce Robertson. He stated that Mr. Robertson has deep roots in the city and described him as someone “young and dynamic who can move the city and the school system forward.” He believes that Mr. Robertson can unite the City of Richmond and RVA, as he is “extremely bright and has the city in his heart.” He added that Mr. Robertson, “could have gone anywhere, but chose to come here to Richmond.”

Dr. Crawford, a product of Richmond Public Schools, came forward, expressing that while it was not her intention to speak at first, she decided to come forward objectively and not based on popularity. She gave support to Mr. Callis, who she said has “the passion, foundation, commitment, and understanding for parent engagement.” She went on to say that, “He came to you as someone truly invested in the outcome for our children,” noting the strong presence that Mr. Callis had when speaking. She stated that he was there not based on his popularity – “who he knows and or who knows him.” She told the Board that they need to be conscious.

Mr. Charles Willis spoke on the behalf of Cheryl Burke, who he quipped was a “bad, bold, anointed, and determined young lady.” However, he noted that he “had a problem” with Ms. Burke for several reasons:

“I have a problem with Ms. Burke because she is not selfish and doesn’t know how to say ‘no’ to kids and parents,” he said. “I have a problem with Ms. Burke because she doesn’t know how to leave her jobs undone. I have a problem with her because she doesn’t know how to shut her door – her door is always open. I have a problem with her because she hasn’t learned to wait to make a call – she always expeditiously returns a call. I have a problem with her because she doesn’t know how to watch the clock – she starts working early in the morning and stops working late in the evening. I have a problem with Ms. Burke because she doesn’t know how to turn down community assistance – she is there to help always.” He told the Board, “You’re going to have a problem, a big problem – if you appoint Ms. Burke. But she’s the only one.”

Amira Vines was the last to speak and she spoke on the behalf of Bryce Robertson. “I never imagined that a quick ‘Hi!’ would turn into a friendship,” she said. She described Mr. Robertson as having dedication, doing everything with a smile, and always asking questions. She said that whenever he is stumped, Mr. Robertson says, “Ok…alright…ok…We can do this.” She worked with him at the Inspire Youth at Work Summer Youth Fair, noting that the summer time is the most likely time for youth to get into trouble. This fair’s goal was to summer job for youth aged 13 to 16 years old. She called Mr. Robertson late at night, two days before the event, asking him if he would help out, and he was there bright and early on the morning of the event. “He’s an inspiration,” she said. “He can do it all; he puts the time in and does it with a smile.”

Featured Posts
Recent Posts
Archive
Search By Tags