Public Schools at a Crossroads
Editors Note: While Bobby's entry refers to specifics of Richmond Public Schools, it also touches on a variety of issues being discussed in public schools more broadly.
One of the highest priorities for The Community Foundation and its donors is education, and there has been a plethora of news about the Richmond Public Schools of late. Change most certainly is coming. Will change be for the better? What form will it take? Consider these facts.
· Two years ago, Richmond Mayor Douglas L. Wilder proposed a City of the Future plan to build 15 new public schools and to make other needed improvements to Richmond's schools.
· More recently, Mayor Wilder requested an audit of the Richmond Public Schools, which revealed waste on a broad scale.
· In the past month, a search committee has been named to seek a replacement for the superintendent, who has announced she is leaving, and five of her top six administrators will also be vacant.
· Ten new principals will be hired.
· A first-ever charter school in Richmond is a real possibility.
· The Richmond Public Schools Education Foundation, which was established to facilitate corporate support and has reputedly been under-utilized, has received a clean audit and is getting new board members, per a private conversation I had this past week.
So, Richmond Public Schools is at a crossroads. Will new leaders bring a bold new vision? Will fiscal management become sounder? Will new ideas like charter schools be embraced? Will vouchers be introduced to enable inner city children to choose alternative private education? Will facilities be significantly upgraded as promised? Will business leaders invest new capital? Most important, will we begin to see results in terms such as lower truancy and higher graduation rates?
For three years, Mayor Wilder has pressed for change. He rightly made education a priority. There are a wealth of options before him and the School Board, which has front line authority over many of these issues.
Will Mayor Wilder and the School Board work effectively together? The Mayor fought for change and now has his opportunity. We shall see what he and the School Board can do with it.