Patrick Henry School: Gubernatorial support

If any question remains regarding Gov. Bob McDonnell’s commitment to Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, his plan to personally host a fundraiser for the city’s first charter school should dispel all doubts.

If any question remains regarding Gov. Bob McDonnell’s commitment to Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, his plan to personally host a fundraiser for the city’s first charter school should dispel all doubts.

Officials with the school confirm that McDonnell, along with delegates John M. O’Bannon (R-Henrico) and Joe Morrissey (D-Henrico), have committed to hosting an invite-only event on March 30.

“As of right now the details are still being worked out,” says Antione Green, chief executive officer for Patrick Henry. “It will be a community fundraiser. People will have the opportunity to demonstrate their financial support for Patrick Henry and at the same time get an opportunity to meet the governor.”

Among details remaining to be decided are where the event will be held. Plans are currently being made to hold the event at the Patrick Henry school building on Semmes Avenue.

A call to the governor’s press office was not returned by time of publication.

Political support for the school has been strong. In addition to McDonnell making Patrick Henry a central character in his broader legislative plan to encourage new Virginia charter schools, a host of state and local politicians have indicated their support for the school, including former governors Tim Kaine and George Allen. President Barack Obama also has made charters an important component for states interested in securing new federal education grant funding.

This past Saturday, Richmond City Councilman Marty Jewell sent an email to School Board Chairwoman Kimberly Bridges in which he reiterated a previously stated “deep concern that RPS needs to urgently embrace fundamental change in educational delivery.” Jewell offered to act as a mediator in ongoing issues between the School Board and Patrick Henry leaders.

Those issues are myriad, but largely come back to a single Catch 22 issue daunting Patrick Henry leaders: A lease.

The Patrick Henry charter is tied to the Patrick Henry building, which must be renovated in accordance with federal Americans with Disabilities Act requirements and basic safety standards, but funding to do those renovations cannot be secured without a lease to the building. The School Board so far has not signed that lease, citing Patrick Henry’s lack of funding to meet its renovation obligations.

Jewell’s letter lays bare the reality of the problem.

“There has been a new development: Paul Goldman has secured $100,000 in pledges from some very prominent members of the business community who want to help,” he writes. “But due to the current [lease] situation, he can’t nor could anyone else, answer for them the most basic of questions that any person willing to write a $50,000 [check] would, indeed, should, want answered.”

At a February 1 School Board meeting, Patrick Henry leaders acknowledged that local fundraising remained an issue, and that it had not yet secured a construction loan necessary to do renovations at the 80-year-old facility. While there, Green indicated a new fundraising initiative that aimed to raise $300,000 by March 1.

That deadline, says Patrick Henry spokeswoman Kristen Larson, has since been pushed back to the end of March.

“I think a lot of our supporters feel they need some resolution on the lease, on the budget, on some other key items” before writing checks, Larson says. “I know there are a lot of pledges out there in addition to Paul Goldman’s [pledges]. As far as big money is concerned, we’re still in this holding pattern.”

The school already has secured more than $500,000 in various federal grants, in addition to various local donations that have yet to total much more than $50,000.

According to Larson, the lag in local fundraising does not yet hamper the school’s timeline for renovation and opening. Actual construction, she says, does not need to start on the building until April 15.

The school is slated to open this July.

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Chris Dovi

Notice: Comments that are not conducive to an interesting and thoughtful conversation may be removed at the editor’s discretion.

  1. Jeff E. on said:

    It’s encouraging to read that Marty Jewell actually “gets it”. The School Board seems to fear that a group of citizens can do a better job of teaching than they have done or that poor minority children will somehow be left behind by this process. If this works, why couldn’t RPS take that example of success and use it as a model to reshape the rest of the school system? This shouldn’t be about latching onto the status quo, it should be about giving the children of Richmond the best education they can get.

  2. Scott Burger on said:

    I wish PHCSI well. I hope they succeed.

    But someone should remind Goldman, Jewell, and all the “prominent members of the business community” that there is a small, historic school on the other side of the river, one that has already been recognized as ‘one of the most successful high schools in the country’, that needs its building updated for ADA and other improvements.

    The Patrick Henry story is not happening in a vaccum and its certainly not the only thing that needs attention.

    Personally, I think Center Stage should be cut off from all public monies until operating Richmond school buildings are updated and LEGAL.

  3. Scott Burger on said:
  4. Glad to see the Gov. supporting this and putting his actions where his rhetoric is…

  5. Am I missing something on said:

    Why would PHSSA have to pay for a lease when the Virginia Code states here

    § 22.1-212.6. Establishment and operation of public charter schools; requirements.

    D. In no event shall a public charter school be required to pay rent for space which is deemed available, as negotiated by contract, in school division facilities. All other costs for the operation and maintenance of the facilities used by the public charter school shall be subject to negotiation between the public charter school and the school division or, in the case of a regional public charter school, between the regional public charter school and the relevant school divisions.

  6. R Day on said:

    There was an interesting piece on Morning Edition yesterday about education, and charters specifically. One criticism that is rarely mentioned is the lack of transparency that many charters are allowed to get away with. In this regard, RPS, and Richmonders can take comfort, and in fact be proud of the fact that PHSSA has since day one, committed to a policy of transparency. When it comes to what is going on in the building, in the classroom, with the budget, with successes, renovations, innovations, and so on, they have committed to a policy of transparency. They want all concerned to know how the school works, and why it will work. This one simple principle should counter much criticism by the opposition that there is something evil afoot with charter schools, and that they will usurp valuable resources from the public system. A) They will not; as this charter is a public school, so how can one bleed oneself?; and B) the transparency will allow everyone see what is really happening, and why the school is so important.

  7. @#5: Even if there is no cost, the school still needs to enter into a lease, which includes agreements on more than rent. Like utilities, maintenance, etc. As the article also references, donors would like to know how long PHSSA will be able to access that building (especially if the donated funds are going to building improvements). The lease would establish that timeline as well.

  8. Kate Falcon on said:

    Go, Dovi! Go RVA! Thanks for giving Dovi the forum he needs to report what is going on our community and why it matters. This story not only beat the RT-D, but all the television news channels as well. It is laughable that the RT-D squeezed the news about McDonnell hosting a fund-raiser into the very end of an article about Marty Jewell supporting Patrick Henry. What a slap! What a City Councilman has to say has more news value that what a governor is doing. Hmmm….

    I am sure there are issues on both sides of the aisle with RPS and Patrick Henry. But, it is time for the grown-ups to start acting their age. I am sick of reading about how the School Board is allowing the administration to jerk these people around. Play nice, people. Or somebody’s going to end up crying and I don’t think it will be the Patrick Henry people.

  9. Carol A.O. Wolf on said:

    In basketball parlance, it appears RPS is playing a game of “stall ball” with them.

    As most folks know, The University of North Carolina made the “stall ball/four corners offense” tactic (in)famous by using it repeatedly to retain a lead by holding onto the ball until the clock ran out.

    But, this isn’t a basketball game. This about working together as a community for the betterment of all. And, it is just plain disrespectful and politically tone-deaf for RPS to drag this thing out ceaselessly ad nauseum. Surely, the Board members know that Obama, Arne Duncan and Bob McDonnell are all proponents of charter schools.

    The School Board and administration need either to give the Patrick Henry group the lease as was voted and agreed to in December 2008 — or tell them why they won’t give them the lease. Something has gotta give.

    If they can’t bring themselves to resolve this matter in a professional manner, and given the myriad other issues and problems the school system has, then maybe it is time for the Double-Dribblers on the School Board and in RPS administration to foul out.

    What can they be hoping to gain by continuing to play this game?

  10. gray on said:

    “Glad to see the Gov. supporting this and putting his actions where his rhetoric is…”

    Unfortunately his actions also go against women, victims of domestic violence, gays, public schools, science, health care, the elderly, the arts; and he supports gun proliferation. Seems he has stuck with his thesis after all.

    Please Patrick Henry Charter keep, if all possible, keep your distance from McDonnell. You had and still have citizen support; it is your base. Stick with your original intentions and beliefs and don’t be hijacked by the GOP and their agenda.

  11. AreaMan on said:

    I’ll thrown in another reason PH should be wary of McDonnell: he may seem to be your friend now, but how long ’til he “suggests” you adopt the curriculum provided by K12, Inc?

    Careful what you wish for, folks.

  12. Kate Falcon on said:

    I just read that Virginia didn’t receive any of the “Race to the Top” (think “Bail-Out Bucks”) money from the federal government — despite the best effort of Obama’s BFF in Virginia — Tim Kaine.

    D’ya suppose that the denial of money has anything to do with the fact that Obama, Duncan, Kaine, Warner, Webb and McDonnell all support charter schools and Virginia is still living in the past?

    Wary and angry as I am of McDonnell and all the ways he disappoints all Virginians with his misplaced priorities, I can understand why the Patrick Henry people have turned to him for help. RPS is no help and Dwight Jones has never been any help to education in this city. Where else can they turn?

  13. Am I missing something on said:

    I had posted earlier an excerpt of the copyright information from PHSSA’s Charter School application, which clearly stated that nothing from it may be reprinted at all anywhere except for you to print for yourself. If this isn’t a sign of their total lack of transparency and misunderstanding of the law of public documents, I don’t know what is. I can understand RVANews’ choice not to print that excerpt as self-protection, so I submit this statement instead.

    I hereby authorize you to reprint what I have written here in any way shape or form and to misquote it as you please, because transparency is meaningful, especially when the law mandates a charter school application, once submitted to the school board, is a public document; and the truth is best when it comes from the horse’s mouth anyway.

  14. VaSpirit on said:

    Hey, Carol,

    Check it out, 1 year delay (asked for by Patrick Henry then President Mr. Day) they still can’t show the “money for the 3 year plan” Also,what about transportation for all students (RPS has to take care of any with IEP, 504 etc.) A year later and its the school board fault? Carol you were there..hmmm

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