Faction calls for Superintendent Kamras’ job

Feb 21, 2024 | by

In a move that sparked a quick assessing of “who stands where” in Richmond politics, the Richmond Crusade for Voters released a statement condemning the state of the city’s public schools and calling for the replacement of Superintendent Kamras:

“It starts and stops at the top,” Garry Callis, the group’s education committee chair, said in an interview Tuesday. “It’s a matter of accountability. It’s a matter of transparency. It’s a matter of, if we want something different, you can’t keep going with the same old, same old.”

A year and a half after RCV declared an “educational crisis” amid the release of poor Standards of Learning (SOL) test scores among Richmond Public Schools students, the organization said it determined through its own research that Kamras has failed to achieve the goals he set when he was first hired by the school board in 2017.

The School Board’s 5th District representative Stephanie Rizzi responded yesterday on Facebook, calling the situation more nuanced than that:

Though there is undoubtedly more work to be done and a need for growth and change, there are conditions beyond RPS’ control that disproportionately impact our students. The increase in housing and food insecurity, inflation and the fact that in many cases wages for our families have not kept up with increases in living expenses, generational trauma that has been left unaddressed, mental health struggles, increased access to weapons and synthetic drugs, issues with transportation and access to quality health care, etc. are all factors that impact student achievement.

Though concerns regarding leadership are valid, let’s not ignore the fact that there are thousands of RPS employees who show up everyday giving their all to address our students’ many needs.

Perhaps the original strategic plan did not take all of this into account and did not do enough to acknowledge that addressing the inequities our students face necessitates an all hands on deck effort and that assigning blame without recognizing the complexities of our challenges is not a constructive approach.

The School Board’s 4th District representative Jonathan Young basically said YES BUT:

“The Richmond Crusade for Voters in their assessment as it relates to where we’re at as a school district is spot on. We’ve earned an F,” Young said in an interview.

However, Young disagreed with who was to blame. He said the full responsibility does not completely fall on Kamras and encouraged his colleagues on the school board to look in the mirror.

The School Board’s 6th District representative Shonda Harris-Muhammed echoes the Crusade’s call for change :

I am appreciative that the RCV has continued to follow the Richmond Public Schools instructional outcomes and operational disconfirguations that have negatively impacted our student outcomes and teacher retention. I am fully supportive of the Richmond Crusade for Voters and the work they have done and continue to do for our communities.

No word from the School Board’s 8th or 9th District representatives Dawn Page or Shavonda Dixon. Page has supported Kamras in the past.

The Richmond City Council’s Education and Human Services Standing Committee send out a statement yesterday, too, basically calling bunk on the Crusade’s take. The Committee is 5th District representative Stephanie Lynch, the 7th District’s Cynthia Newbille, and the 9th District’s Nicole Jones who served on the School Board until December.

“We echo the sentiments of our colleague, School Board Chair Rizzi and agree that the issues that ail Richmond Public Schools do not lay on any one person’s feet. We recognize the tremendous challenges that public education systems face everyday, particularly in a post-pandemic era. In a city that has seen an increase in families experiencing homelessness, continued gaps in our mental health system and an ever-widening wealth disparity. These challenges are intertwined with classroom management issues, teacher retention rates, academic, and absenteeism outcomes.

These are not easy problems to solve, and it is often our most vulnerable community members, our children, who pay the highest price for what adults, on every level of policy making, fail to fix. This is why we remain committed to advocating for increased funding and better policies at the state and federal level. Further, we remain steadfast in our mission to collaborate with our School Board Colleagues, the Superintendent, city administration and our stakeholders to make continuous strides towards improving our school district and the lives of RPS families and students across the city.”

If you’re counting, it doesn’t look like the School Board has the votes necessary to make a move. This being an election year and with the 3rd District’s Kenya Gibson, a dependable anti-Kamras voice, giving up her seat to run for City Council, who knows what the School Board will look like in 10 months but this feels like a last chance lashing out more than anything with traction.

HT Ross Catrow at Good Morning RVA

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