With each day that passes, the City of Richmond School Board becomes ever more ineffectual and irrelevant. More's the pity then that the members of the school board have no one but themselves to blame for the fine mess they and the city's schools are in.
As a former member and chairman of the City of Richmond School Board and a former member of the Virginia General Assembly, current Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones certainly knows that the school board is vested by the Virginia Constitution with the authority to decide when, where, by whom and how much will be spent building new schools and fixing old ones. But, since no one on the School Board, within RPS administration or even the board's highly paid lawyers, publicly dared to challenge his blatant taking of this authority, Jones is "the man" in charge of the building of the new schools in the city.*
Perhaps, the school board members thought that by ignoring the duties they swore oaths to uphold and further by quietly allowing Jones and his administration to usurp the School Board's authority, that when it came time to plug the $23.8 million hole in the School Board's budget, that with a simple wink and nod, the Mayor would take care of the budget deficit.
On the third time they appeared before the Mayor's staff with their budget -- after ignoring two previous warnings to cut the budget -- they were essentially told that the Mayor did not appreciate their obstinate and outright refusal to even try to meet the city half-way. Rather than ask them a third time to do their duty, Jones informed them not to bother and that he had decided to appoint a panel of citizens to make recommendations to him concerning where the SB budget could be cut.
"They got greedy," explained an advisor close to the Mayor. "They saw that $60 million-plus of RMA money sitting there and they thought they could bully us into handing it over to them. Instead, we looked at them and we told'em -- 'It's on.'"
And, just in case the School Board didn't fully grasp the intensity of the public smack-down delivered by the Mayor and his staff, Jones followed up with an appearance before the parents of the Patrick Henry School for Science and the Arts (PHSSA), the first and only elementary charter school in Virginia.
Since RPS administrators and members of the SB (with the notable exception of Second District member Kim B. Gray) have neglected their other duties and made it seemingly their sole mission for the past three years to make life as difficult as possible for the little charter school, this action by the Mayor is akin to breaking up with your long-standing girlfriend and going out with the one girl at school that you know your girlfriend just can't stand. See here, here and here for details.
By promising his support and publicly offering his encouragement and praise to Patrick Henry, the Mayor indeed made it crystal clear to the SB that, "It's on."
Given their lack of any substantive accomplishments since they took office, the possibility that this School Board can save itself from utter and absolute irrelevancy by Election Day is a remote long-shot at best.
* (This is not necessarily a bad thing considering that it took the RPS School Board, administrators and lawyers more than 12 years to secure water-tight roofs on the last three new schools built in the city -- Holton, Miles Jones and Blackwell Elementary Schools).