School Board Recap - November 20, 2017

Highlights

Monday evening’s School Board meeting was an unusual one, to say the least. There was a lot of going and coming in the Council Chamber.

The meeting commenced with a closed session, in which . The School Board departed for about half-an-hour before returning. Upon return, the School Board Chair, Ms. Dawn Page, announced that there would be a ten-minute press conference to welcome the new superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, Mr. Jason Kamras, and formally introduce him to the community.

Press Conference

“We are so excited that the hard work of our superintendent search committee paid off,” Ms. Page said. “Now the real work begins! We are so pleased to announce the new superintendent of RPS: Jason Kamras!”

Mr. Kamras has had a twenty-year (20-year) career working urban public schools in the Washington, D.C. school system. According to Channel 8 News, Kamras currently serves as the Transitional Chief of the Office of Equity at DC Public Schools (DCPS). He has also served as Chief of Instructional Practice and Chief of Human Capital for DCPS.

He is an award-winning educator, who in 2005 won the award for National Teacher of the Year. He has focused on equity and has made innovative efforts to improve schools. Ms. Page described Mr. Kamras as the perfect candidate for RPS because of his numerous groundbreaking initiatives.

Before turning the microphone over to Mr. Kamras, Ms. Page thanked Mr. Thomas Kranz for his work as Interim Superintendent. She praised his leadership and unwavering dedication to students and staff in RPS.

Mr. Kamras expressed that he was “extremely excited to be here.”

“Thank you so much for believeing in me and welcoming me,” he said. He also thanked the teachers, principals, and support staff for all they do. He also thanked the families and the students for their hard work as well. He affirmed that he will work tirelessly to ensure that all students are loved and nurtured and that receive a rich and rigorous education.

He shared with the room his three core beliefs:

  • That all children have the inherent capacity for greatness;

  • That we the adults have to be excellent in all we do; and

  • That the work of public education must be done with families and the community

The School Board recognized the many members of the Superintendent Search Committee by presenting each member with a certificate thanking them for their dedication and commitment to selecting a new RPS superintendent.

The Board also recognized the Teachers Exchange Program, thanking two teachers from Richmond’s sister city in Saitama City, Japan. These teachers have been hands on this classroom, interacting with students and even performing for them. The exchange teachers gave a very eloquent thank you speech both in English and in Japanese to Mr. Kranz and the rest of the Board.

Public Information

Ramon Moore, President of the Richmond branch of the Virginia Education Association, came forward to introduce Ms. Chandra Smith as the new UniServ Director. Ms. Smith, who has a MA/BS in Education, thanked the Board for the opportunity. “I come to this position with earnest,” she said. “Thank you in advance for your support. Change is coming and we are going to do it together!”

Shelly Bautista, an AP Literature teacher at Armstrong High School, brought up some issues regarding data, which she defined as a national issue. “Data defines the strains,” she said. “But data cannot tell us whether the kids can read or not.” With an SOL pass rate only slightly above 50%, Ms. Bautista stated that students are being shorted due to data. “Data does not represent and quantify,” she explained. “Data keeps secrets.”

Ainsley Perkins implored the Board to do an emergency facilities plan at the December 4th School Board meeting. “There are numerous issues,” she said. “We need a thoughtful and comprehensive plan.” She asked that the “cycle of inaction” be ended and that the Board “stop with the BandAids and reactive responses.” She stressed rezoning and consolidation as major necessities. “We cannot enter another budget cycle without a facilities plan in place,” she declared.

Garet Prior of Richmond Forward came to the podium as a resource for the School Board to utilize. He has worked with the facilities taskforce and knows that the taskforce can be of valuable help to the Board. “Please use us as a resource,” he entreated.

Board Business

Legislative Package

Mr. Barlow and Dr. Sapini serve as representatives for the legislative committee. Mr. Barlow presented to his colleagues some guiding principles and policy issues to help the School Board’s lobbyists be able to efficiently and effectively lobby during the General Assembly for its policy objectives. He presented the document to his colleagues for suggestions, comments, and potential amendments.

Ms. Cosby asked whether some language about additional funding regarding discipline and the school-to-prison pipeline could be included, as that is a critical issue, especially with regards to providing alternatives to suspension.

Mr. Barlow noted that they would be happy to amend.

Mr. Young also had some concerns about language, noting that there were some edits that he thought had been made that had not. It was noted that due some of Mr. Young’s suggestions differing with those of the rest of the Board, his edits were not yet added to the papers. This edits, however, were discussed, and a motion to approve the legislative package as amended was made.

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