Dear Friends ... Help Our Kids and their Teachers Deliver a 21st-Century Education

CodeVA needs our help. In this the season of giving, I write to ask you to consider a cause I am passionate about, a cause that will not only give back to the community, but one which will give equally to ALL our children and allow us to invest in a brighter future for ALL our entire children. 

I ask that you to join me in giving the gift of knowledge. Your support -- no matter how small -- will help CodeVA, a nonprofit education and advocacy organization dedicated to promoting Computer Science – coding – literacy in our schools, to train teachers and students.  One of my grandsons, who just turned 8,  took a coding class this past summer and he and his mother each had high praise and enthusiasm for what he learned.  He wants to do it again next summer.

Many of you already give generously to causes promoting literacy in our public schools, or to causes that seek to improve educational outcomes for children in at-risk communities. But even as we’ve all worked diligently on this issue, Computer Science literacy remains a looming education literacy crisis facing our schools and our children.

Computer science literacy is not just the ability to be a digital consumer, but to be a digital creator with know-how to make that technology do new things. 

It is a literacy that desperately needs our attention to ensure prosperity for our children, our economy and for Virginia. 

Why give now? 
  • Currently, less than one percent of Virginia’s children are taught this essential literacy in our schools.
  • Meanwhile, more than 70 percent of jobs in fields like science, banking, technology, engineering – even jobs in that arts and retail sectors – are computer science jobs.
  • These jobs are nearly unattainable without computer science literacy. Currently in Virginia, there are tens of thousands of jobs in all sectors of our economy left unfilled – or filled by foreign workers imported from other countries. 
  •  Other nations, like England, much of Europe, India and China, where computer science literacy is taught from kindergarten through graduation. 
CodeVA is a new nonprofit that I firmly believe in. Founded just last year, but already registered as 501c3 nonprofit organization, CodeVA already is having a profound impact on statewide education policy, and on doing the hard work of putting teachers in our classrooms with the knowledge to teach computer science.

At the heart of this organization are my friends, Chris and Rebecca Dovi. Chris and Rebecca both come from backgrounds where they’ve established their commitment to making education better for our kids. Rebecca served as a Computer Science teacher and national expert on Computer Science curriculum for nearly two decades before co-founding CodeVA.

Last year, CodeVA partnered with Richmond Public Schools and other area school districts, committing to training 28 new high school computer science teachers. Remarkably, that number adds more than half again to the number of high school computer science teachers that existed statewide the previous year.

As of this school year, there are now computer science classes available at ALL of Richmond Public Schools’ comprehensive high schools. And by next year, Henrico County will boast the same. Also coming next year – with your support – CodeVA will train dozens more teachers to teach a new Advanced Placement computer science course.

And this is not just about high school literacy. Bellevue Elementary, an at-risk school in Richmond’s Church Hill, where the majority of students live at or below the poverty level, partnered with CodeVA last year in a single classroom. 

When Ms. Richardson, the 2nd classroom teacher who piloted the program compared her end-of-year scores with other teachers at the school, she discovered something remarkable: double-digit gains in math and science scores. Two students never before testing as anything more than average had moved up into the Gifted and Talented program. And most remarkable of all, Ms. Richardson says her students, on average, showed 20-percent gains in Language Arts.

Why? The answer is that Computer Science is about more than computers. Computer Science is computational thinking – it is logical thinking. It teaches processing and problem solving – and comprehension.

These amazing results and statistics are just some of the reasons why I support CodeVA.  I am not alone in this regard.  President Barack Obama, Senators Tim Kaine and Mark Warner, Gov. Terry McAuliffe and Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton all support computer science education.  

CodeVA is the only organization of its kind in Virginia, doing the hard work of making computer science more than an after-school or summer program accessible to only a few.

CodeVa believes anyone can code and every Virginia child should.  As the December 31st deadline for non-profit 501-C3 tax credits for charitable contributions draws nearer, please consider making a gift – the gift that will keep giving for years to come, and to all children of Central Virginia and across the Commonwealth – to CodeVA.

Sincerely yours,
Carol A.O. Wolf

Open Letter to Dr. Dana Bedden, Richmond Public School Superintendent

Dear Dr. Bedden,

As you approach the first anniversary of your hire as Richmond Public School (RPS) Superintendent, I must thank you for your hard work and that of your staff. 

By now, I am sure you have realized that you have not only "stepped up," but also "stepped into" what can be most kindly described as a "hot mess."  It is a sad fact of human nature that folks love to talk about the need for change and accountability, but once it starts happening, they get afraid and invariably some start screaming like weenies roasting over an open fire.  Sometimes these people even make up stories and sling mud in order to cover up their fears and insecurities.

You, and the top-notch staff you have assembled, deserve high praise.  Despite the many frustrations and distractions of the past year, you have remained focused and managed to bring some much-needed change to our city schools.  

With the help of a majority of the members of School Board, "Team Bedden," and former interim Superintendent Jonathan Lewis, you have cleaned house and brought increased professionalism, transparency and accountability to our school system.  You have listened to parents, teachers and community members and invited all to be a part of fixing our badly broken school system.  

Despite the progress, there remains much to be done. No realistic person can honestly expect that our schools will be made right in just one year.  But you, your staff and a majority of your board have truly made significant and substantive progress.  

For the first time in 32 years I have lived in Richmond,  I hear my friends, neighbors and citizens throughout the city expressing real hope that with your leadership and our community support, our public schools can (at last) be made right.  

A few of the noteworthy accomplishments of your freshman year include:

   aligning and updating the curriculum plan with Virginia Department of Education guidelines when it was discovered that the prior superintendent and her staff inexplicably never bothered to update the academic plan;
   placing the RPS check registry online for all to see exactly where the money is going;
   tackling the facilities issue;
   adopting a zero-based budget;
   working with Richmond's growing Hispanic community not only to improve academic performance, but to address issues of bullying in our schools;
   working with people in the disabilities community to improve educational outcomes for ALL children;
   bringing a new hiring method for administrators that involves a panel process as opposed to simply hiring someone to placate someone's cousin, uncle, brother or sister (CUBS) request;
   insisting that the budget include money for musical instruments, band uniforms and arts equipment.

In conclusion, allow me to share with you a true story about a classic campaign dirty trick that happened during my first election campaign. I do so hoping that you, "Team Bedden" and a majority of the School Board members won't -- but just might have occasion to appreciate it. 
I can see now that it was a tried and true classic.  My opponent and a couple of his friends started making telephone calls to various African-American leaders who had endorsed my campaign.  They left messages on answering machines all around town that falsely accused me of being a racist, a redneck and someone who did not care for black children.  

One of my campaign supporters played the message back for me on a quiet Sunday morning in her kitchen and urged me to take out an advertisement refuting the baseless accusations.  Being new to the grime and grit of Richmond politics, I was unsure of what I needed to do.  Consequently, I sought the advice of Oliver W. Hill, my good friend, mentor and Civil Rights lawyer and legend who helped win the landmark Brown vs. Board of Education case. 

Mr. Hill said that I should feel flattered that my opponent and his friends were spreading these wild accusations and slinging mud at me.  When I asked why I should feel "flattered" as opposed to angry and frustrated, he explained it was proof that my "opponent had realized he could not defeat me with the truth, therefore he was making up lies." 

So, I say to you what Mr. Hill said to me: "Keep your eyes on the prize and never, ever lower yourself to address their concerns."  I did exactly as he instructed.  And with his endorsements each time I ran, the support of voters in the 3rd-District and citizens throughout the city, I was elected three times and served from 2002 to 2008. 

Thank you once again for your hard work and best wishes to you and your family this holiday season.


Carol A.O. Wolf

Per Pupil Cost at Richmond's Binford Middle School is $18,223


From: Westbay, Ralph [address deleted]
Date: Monday, December 15, 2014
Subject: Binford cost per pupil
To: [deleted]
I was asked what the cost per pupil runs at Binford.  [link added]
Based on the FY15 Adopted Budget of $3,936,231 and 216 students currently enrolled, that yields a per pupil cost of $18,223 which is about 50% higher than our division wide per pupil average of $12,850.  
This includes all funds, such as Title I federal funding as well. 
Ralph L. Westbay
Assistant Superintendent for Financial Services
Richmond Public Schools
301 N. 9th St 17th FL
Richmond, VA  23219
o (804) 780-7657
c (804) 640-0119

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