Style Weekly cover story on the state of Richmond Schools

Caving In shines a light on the dark forgotten corners of RPS.

Earlier this morning RVANews posted a smattering of a larger collection of amazing photos from VCU’s new digital exhibit of over 250 photos taken during nonviolent civil rights protests in Farmville. Those photos made me proud to think how far we’ve come as a city and a nation. Then I read  Caving In by Style Weekly which reports on the deplorable state of public education in our city and realize how far we still have to go.

The mayor, city council, school board, and Richmond residents all talk about education being a priority. It could be argued that all that talk can be summed up in one photo.

None of the school staff members accompanying Gray, Larson and Style on the school tours are willing to be identified by name. They cited fear of retribution, an indictment of the district and political culture at City Hall.

“The political environment in this city is a blood sport,” says School Board member Tichi Pinkney-Eppes, who represents the South Side’s 9th District. “I can stand on truth, but then I have to consider how this is going to come back to bite me.”

Although the system has a new School Board and a new superintendent, Gray says, much remains unchanged. School officials, whom she declines to identify by name, might punish those who speak out of turn, she says: “We can’t fire some of these people quickly enough.”

School Board Chairman Don Coleman says he has a good relationship with Fairfield Court’s principal, which is why he was surprised he never got a call about its leaking roof. “Somewhere he was thinking, ‘Oh, I better not say something.'”

“Where is this still coming from?” Coleman asks, answering: “People don’t believe change is happening.”

Image: Safeway set of Freedom NowStyle Weekly

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Richard Hayes

When Richard isn’t rounding up neighborhood news, he’s likely watching soccer or chasing down the latest and greatest craft beer.

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