board votes YES to Patrick Henry Initiative

The Richmond School Board met this evening at 6PM to consider a host of what looked to be rather typical items and also to receive and vote upon a recomendation from the Charter School Review Committee (SR07-08-72)(agenda). Dispatched to the back corner of a room adjacent to where the schoolboard meeting was taking place, part […]

The Richmond School Board met this evening at 6PM to consider a host of what looked to be rather typical items and also to receive and vote upon a recomendation from the Charter School Review Committee (SR07-08-72)(agenda). Dispatched to the back corner of a room adjacent to where the schoolboard meeting was taking place, part of the overflow crowd, the obvious draw was the Patrick Henry Initiative vote.

crowded school board meeting

After discussion of unrelated issues, an hour of public comment, and interminable discussion amongst themselves, the Richmond School Board voted to approve the application of the Patrick Henry Initiative to open a charter school in the former Patrick Henry Elementary school building.

Voting in favor of the application were Dawson, Bridges, Carr, West, and Braxton. Voting against were Smith and Wilson. Wolf abstained.

From the back room, we could hear but not see the meeting. I caught glimpses of a few of the board members, and the seated and standing-room crowd was heavy with RPS administration and many many PHCSI supporters (with stickers!).

The meeting began with the pledge of allegiance and a moment of silence. Two George Wyth students were then recognized as Comcast Scholarship recipients. Principals from all of the secondary schools were awarded certificates to give to their students that had received perfect SOL scores. Huguenot HS, Henderson MS, and Stuart ES were lauded for their recognition by the National Council for Urban School Transformation. Students from many schools were recognized for their participation in Law Day and the Oliver Hill essay contest.

The meeting then opened up to public comment, all of which concerned the Patrick Henry Initiative. Originally set for 30 minutes, the window for comments was opened to an hour. The comments are summarized below, unless actually quoted. Names may very well be mangled.

Wade Elligood (president of the REA): “We are not opposed to the public charter school.” The school needs to meet state standards. There are concerns about exceptional education, transportaion, enrollment, and funding. “If the school can do the job, then let them do it”.

Warren Kennedy: Charter schools were a bad idea 10 years ago. It is an off-shoot of the voucher system, itself a product of extreme conservatism, and first introduced in the years after Brown vs. Board of Education. People that want private schools should have private schools and not use public money.

Khalfina: The NAACP is adamantly opposed to the granting of a charter for the Patrick Henry Initiative. The board has been approached by people from every community in the city asking for neighborhood schools and inovative curriculum, and have been turned away. He basically called the PHI a white supremacist conspiracy, and implied that the board members were involved and “dirty”. There is a conflict of interest with some members of the board.

Melvin Law (former schoolboard representative): The Richmond Branch of the NAACP voted this week to oppose charter schools. It is unfair to open the school for a group of students that, had they been enrolled at the original Patrick Henry, might have prevented it from closing in the first place.

name? (woman 1): From the Patrick Henry Initiative. “I can assure you, from the bottom of my soul, that our intentions come from a place of unity and love for ourr children and your children.” We believe in unity, creativity, diversity, work ethic. We have worked diligently to ensure that the application meets state standards. The school is not for a special group of children, it for children from all over the city.

name? (man 2): The application is sound and has been well-researched. This is grassroots and from the ground up. I am a liberal and take offense at the attempted linking between the PHI and vouchers.

Rosemary Barnes: Early exposure to environmental curricula can have a life-long impact on children. PHI will be open to all students and will promote diversity. I like that the students will wear uniforms. Don’t be afraid to embrace change and innovation.

Dr.Brown: I have been teaching for decades. My children attend RPS. We have worked staedily to improve the application. Students with all abilities, with all learning styles, from all over Richmond will receive a good education. PHI is not segregationist. The planning committee is diverse, as will be the school. We have a proposal for a transportation plan, and we can work together on any other issues. If you vote against this, you are voting for the satus quo. If you vote in favor of this, you are voting in favor of partnering with Richmond’s communitees and parents.

name? (man 3): I am opposed to the PHI. A lot of people have students in private schools, but now that they find that they can get some money… “might’ve well stand on the corner and get robbed”. I spoke to Patrick Henry in a dream last night… The board should not vote on this, they should let it wait for the next board after the November election. “There are some bears running around out there.”

Art Burton (Richmond Council of PTAs): We have stood for the communities of Norrell and Whitcomb, we have stood for inovative curricula, and uniforms (and more), only to be denied. We stood for Fulton when they wanted an innovative unique cutting-edge Montessori school — denied. Do for the greatest good and not for the few. Give them their school, but we have pressing needs that you (the board) have not met.

Doug Smith Jr: My son attended the old Patrick Henry. It was closed after we were told that the building cost too much to heat, too much to cool, and too much to make disability compliant. This should not be a public school, sell them the building.

Robin Lowry: Woodlands Heights resident in support of the school. I hear a lot of fear and anger about the past. Our group is paying for the sins committed before us. We ask for a neutral ground and the chance.

Charles Howell: Former NY schoolboard member 1965-1967. A charter school will not settle our problems. Why don’t the people that want a new school come in and improve the system? If we’re going to make the city that we want, people have to join in and work on the sytem — not work around the periphery.

Daniel Lawrence: This is a gift staring at you.

Clarence Kinney: I am opposed to the charter school, at least for right now. My community does not know what is going on with the PHI. We should have had public meetings. The time is not right with the election coming up in November. What you are proposing is a good idea – why can’t you do this within the system?

Charlie Schmidt: There is no conflict of interest. Our legal representation is a man who lives in the neighborhood and offered his services. There is a transportation plan, we are working on this.

Gary (last name): I’m not against the school. We need to ensure that everybody has the opportunity to attend. Make sure that the building is ADA compliant.

Rev.Lewis (last name): I am in support of the initiative. This is a time for change where we can bring forth something good. History does not have to repeat itself, a precedent can be set. We, as African-Americans, have a voice here. Don’t look over our shoulders at what was, but look at what can be.

Susan Martin: Vote yes and give the school a chance to succeed. We have expressed throughout the process our desire to partner with RPS. The school is open to the entire city with no open slots for anyone. Our application and budget are on our website.

Ernest Ford: I am in favor of the PHI. It sickens me that people oppose this because of history. Race is not an issue, that area of Semmes is very diverse. Why do we keep playing second to Henrico/Chesterfield?

John Richmond: RPS teacher, former host of WRIR “Richmond Education Today”. There is no greater opportunity than having a park next to school to really allow being able to teach to all kinds of learning styles. The school needs to mirror the make-up of the children of city.

name? (woman 2): This is a well-intentioned community. Hope and change is needed on a local level; show progressive thinking.

Angela Dews: There are issues that have not been addressed. How will the exceptional education students have their needs met? The application does not address this.

Dawn Page: PHI should not happen at the expense at the rest of the system. Let’s change RPS and provide for all students in Richmond Public Schools.

Sheryl Marcus: Westover Hills residents. Families are moving out of the neighborhood because of the schools. I love the city and do not want to leave. I would like a great neighborhood school, but do not see this happening soon. PHI is an opportunity to get a great school going – this will attract residents.

Antoine Green (president – Richmond Crusade for Voters): We have heard arguments on both sides of the issue. Because PHI does not have the suppot of the NAACP, REA — we can not support this. Let this be an opportunity to begin the dialog towards fixing the entire system.

Kirsten Grey – I support this charter, it gives me hope. It will spur innovative programs at other schools.

Jessica Hoffa – with Patrick Henry Initiative. When is the last time that you saw this many people at a schoolboard meeting? I wasn’t here when Patrick Henry was open before;I am here now and very involved.

Charles Willis – We have heard concerns about race, about whether or not certain children will be allowed to attend the school. Has the board considered that the school will be needed as a zoned school? I am not going to say that I am opposed or against.

After the public comment, the Superintendent’s Report first received rcomendations on human resources actions, received an updated on the New Direction (personalized education plans for each student, etiquette training), and then got the recomendation from the Charter School Review Committee.

The committee cited 6 items of concern, including curriculum, enrollment, accontability, budget, facilty and exceptional education issues. With one exception, the committe recommended that the application be denied, saying that the application is still not complete. The board then discussed this for_fucking_ever, finally getting the vote in after 10PM.

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