Although his name is not on next Tuesday's ballot, the future of Richmond Public Schools (RPS) Superintendent Dana Bedden is at stake as surely as the political futures of the members of the School Board who hired him two years ago and that of a school system desperately in need of stability and vision.
As one who has observed this school system for 35 years, as a parent and now grandparent of RPS students, and as a veteran of six years of service as an elected School Board member, I urge voters to support Bedden and elect board members who are invested in the long-term future of our schools and this city.
To those who criticize Bedden because Richmond's most recent dismal and disappointing test scores rival those of Petersburg for last place in the Commonwealth, I offer this: two years is not nearly enough time to turnaround a school system that was as broken as ours was when Bedden and his team walked in the door.
These dreadful numbers show that Bedden and the School Board have eliminated the ways that previous RPS administrations artificially boosted test scores (basically cheated) on Virginia's Standard of Learning (SOLS) tests. This administrative cooking of the books did a great disservice to the morale of our teachers and students who did not need such trickery since they are clearly capable of greatness.
Never known as a patient policy-maker during my tenure as a board member, I do know what real change looks like and I have faith that given four more years, Bedden will be able to work with a School Board, a City Council and a Mayor who all understand that the number one priority for the people of the City of Richmond is that we get our schools right.
Common sense tells us that we do not hire a new General to win a war and then tell him and his soldiers that they will have to "make do"with less funding and rely on bake sales. And while I am solidly impressed by the truly heroic dedication of the "Support Our Schools" group in our city and their repeated demonstrations of strength during the last budget cycle, our parents, teachers and students should not be subjected to shameful, annual "begging for dollars" spectacles at City Hall.
Classroom teachers tell me that they have confidence in Bedden and that he and his team are truly focused on supporting their efforts and those of the students in RPS to raise achievement.
They deserve the room to show us what they can do.
Our students and families deserve a school system focused on academic achievement that is supported by elected leaders who understand that our schools need support -- not political grandstanding to placate those in the business community who prefer to spend tax dollars on "shiny things" like a $10 million-plus training camp for The Redskins, baseball stadiums and studies ad nauseam.
Therefore, based on the public statements of the following School Board Candidates, I urge that when Richmond citizens vote next Tuesday, that we elect the following:
District 1 -- Liz Doerr
District 2 -- Scott Barlow
District 3 -- Jeff Bourne
District 4 -- Irvine Lee Reaves, Jr.
District 5-- Patrick Sapini
District 6 -- Shonda Harris-Muhammed
District 7 -- Kirsten Gray
District 8 -- Tia Redd
District 9 -- Linda Owen