I’ve received some questions about this site and occasional editorializing, and its relationship with RPS and the PH School Initiative. So I’ll take a potentially long-winded moment to clarify things below the fold. First, for those who don’t know, your humble proprietor works for a local private school and his significant other is wrapping up her […]
I’ve received some questions about this site and occasional editorializing, and its relationship with RPS and the PH School Initiative. So I’ll take a potentially long-winded moment to clarify things below the fold.
First, for those who don’t know, your humble proprietor works for a local private school and his significant other is wrapping up her 5th year teaching for Richmond Public Schools. As such, education is a subject that hits pretty close to home. The general intention on H&H is to remain as neutral as possible when relaying news items, but education, particularly when RPS is involved, tends to get us going. Whereas the prevailing opinions around town seem to be that a particular entity (School Board, RPS central administration, the Mayor, etc) is mostly at fault for the failings of RPS, we hold the opinion that all of the above (and others as well) are at fault to some degree. A new superintendent and a couple of new school board members will not, in and of themselves, change things; it’s going to take a large degree of personnel turnover at the top (and, frankly, in the schools themselves). There are still a large number of good, dedicated teachers left, but the conditions under which they have to teach are ridiculous. Take your author’s significant other, for example: she teaches roughly 130 students on every academic level- AP-level down through Exceptional Ed- and is expected to cover the same amount of material over the same period of time with all of those students. Never mind the fact that an Exceptional Ed student cannot learn as fast as an AP student, she’s got to find a way to make it happen because there’s a citywide standardized test every 9 weeks (not to mention the joke that is the end-of-year SOL testing). This might not be so bad if the classroom wasn’t overcrowded, but with 30+ students per class jammed into a relatively small space, maintaining control of the classroom and teaching a meaningful lesson is a daunting task (of course, The Mayor and certain school board members have advocated closing schools and cutting teachers because of under enrollment, yet her class sizes have increased every year. Go figure). On top of this, all of the building’s copiers are frequently broken (making it difficult to provide handouts to students), the internet connection is slow or non-functioning (making it difficult to have paperless lessons to circumvent the broken copiers), and the restrooms typically lack soap and hand towels. And this is at what is generally considered one of the best schools.
The point to the above rant is to show just how broken some of the fundamentals are. It’s clear to anyone who’s not trying to protect a cushy job/paycheck that things have to change. And this brings us to the Patrick Henry School Initiative. Hills and Heights is not affiliated with the Patrick Henry folks in any way. We are not, as one email suggested, their PR arm. We are simply Richmond citizens who are concerned with the state of Richmond schools; as such, we fully support their efforts and do what we can to get the word out. Are there problems with their approach/procedures/etc? Perhaps. Is their proposal perfect? Probably not. And, frankly, we’ve typically been wary of charter schools as a whole (which is another discussion for another time). But at this point, RPS desperately needs some out-of-the-box thinking from someone who’s truly acting in the best interest of the kids, and that’s precisely what this effort is. It’s concerned parents & citizens doing something, which is more than can be said for most of the folks in charge of Richmond’s schools. It may succeed and become the new model for public education in the Richmond area, or it may fail and be quickly forgotten. But if it’s shot down before it even gets a chance, that’s a failure for the entire city.
If you read all of that, you deserve a medal. And probably a drink!