by James C. Sherlock
I have been a reader of the Richmond Free Press (RFP) for a while now.
I became a fan in 2017 when I came across the story. “Former NASA ‘hidden figure’ advises students to chart own course.” Brilliant stuff.
The RFP provides an irreplaceable window into the Black experience in Richmond. I just read an op-ed in that paper by Julienne Malveaux. It is titled No vacation from Education.
As you have surmised, it recommends year-round schooling.
She nails it. And, by extension, the board of Richmond Public Schools.
From the opening of that article:
Students everywhere are anticipating, or already experiencing, their summer vacation. It means freedom from daily classes and the opportunity to break, “chill” and perhaps attend a summer program for many. We know, however, that there is knowledge erosion over the summer, especially for students who don’t continue to read or learn.
Race matters here. Lower-income parents often can’t afford summer programs. In other cases, they count on older children to be caretakers for their younger siblings, which means they may have to forego opportunities for continued learning.
… we need to reconsider this notion of summer without learning. Some schools assign summer reading lists, but to the extent that learning is interactive, reading in a vacuum may not be optimal for enhancing education. It’s better than nothing, but why such a low bar? Why aren’t school districts more forcefully providing summer opportunities?
I was motivated to comment:
Ms. Malveaux is correct.
I have dedicated the past 15 years of my writing and political lobbying efforts to attempts to improve both public health and education in Virginia’s poorest communities.
While often a critic of the City of Richmond Public Schools and its superintendent, I have supported him publicly both in his push for year-round schools and his initiative to produce more Black male teachers through partnerships with HBCUs.
Superintendent Kamras’ initiative for year-round schooling in Richmond should not be controversial, but the RPS school board has pushed back.
It should act immediately to support him on this.
Moreover, year-round school in Richmond should not depend upon federal grants. It should be funded with state and local tax money.
Elected officials representing the state’s poorest performing school districts should present legislation to fund, as example, the ten worst performing of those school districts (out of 132) for year-round schooling. To my knowledge they have not done so. I recommend that their constituents ask them why.
I suspect it may be because teachers unions that control the RPS school board don’t support year-round school. My experience has shown me that RPS is run more for the adults than the children. Thus the instant agreement by that school board to support collective bargaining by their employees.
But why not year-round schools?
Make the elected officials from Richmond and other desperately underperforming school divisions answer the question.
If they respond there is not enough money, ask them where the money will come from to support collective bargaining concessions.
If my Republican friends balk, I will ask them to offer their own alternatives.
Year-round school is of life-altering importance to the futures of the children attending Richmond Public Schools and other districts that have been performing terribly for decades.
RPS kids suffered disproportionately from the school-board-thus teacher-driven, longest-in-Virginia COVID shutdowns. They need more help than RPS is offering.
Yet many RPS teachers have fought extended school, even for the 20% of the highest-need students as requested by Superintendent Kamras.
From a November 2021 Richmond Times Dispatch (RTD) article “Richmond School Board revisiting year-round school”
… many of the district’s teachers who wrote into public comment ahead of Monday night’s (school board) meeting don’t agree, most citing concerns about why the intersessions were useful and worries of teacher burnout.
RPS families, students, and teachers are exhausted. The racial academic achievement gap is widening and students of color are being left behind,” said Michael Thompson, a teacher at Thomas Jefferson High School. We are still in the middle of a public health pandemic, we are not yet back to normal, and RPS is struggling to retain and support current teachers. Year round school for RPS is a bad idea and a suggestion of year round school for RPS is out of touch with families and students. (emphasis added)
The RTD did not point out in this article that Kamras requested extended schooling for only the highest-need students.
The board voted 8-1 to abandon the implementation with Jonathan Young, the 4th District representative, “the lone dissenting vote, concerned about poor proficiency levels for the majority Black and Latino district on various state tests.”
That’s one member.
The rest caved.
They didn’t ask any knowledgeable public voice on year-round schooling to testify in support of Mr. Kamras. That is just an objectively bad way to run a board.
It means they already knew how they were going — had been directed — to vote and did not want to listen to a divergent opinion.
They took the trouble to claim there is not enough money for year-round school, even though Mr. Kamras had shown them the way to accomplish it. The budget he submitted included year-round school for 5,000 high-needs students, which was expected to cost about $8 million.
A $381 million budget submission. Eight million dollars of that for extended schooling for the 20% of RPS students he designated as high-needs. Two percent But teachers opposed it.
Not going to happen.
The same school board then voted one month later to support collective bargaining by their employees. Cost? They do not care.
They have publicly declared their priorities. And they do not include the children.
Updated 11 June at 8 PM