Patrick Henry School: Looking back (and forward)

In October of 2007, an application was submitted to the Richmond City School Board to open a year-round charter school with a focus on science and the arts. Today, after over two-and-a-half years of many ups and some major downs, the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts will open its doors.

In October of 2007, an application was submitted to the Richmond City School Board to open a year-round charter school with a focus on science and the arts — an alternative to the education provided by existing city public schools. Today, after over two-and-a-half years of many ups and downs, the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts will open its doors.

To commemorate this occasion — because, after all, it is the first charter school to open in the City of Richmond — we thought it only appropriate to take a look back at some previous coverage of Patrick Henry School (PHS). Some of it comes directly from us, the rest was contributed by a few of the community news sites. Hopefully the articles (and especially the comments they generated) will give you not only an understanding of what it took to get Patrick Henry School up and running, but also a clear picture of the community’s perception of it.

Join us for a walk down memory lane, won’t you?

April 2008
Patrick Henry School Initiative: Yes? No? Maybe? — In the Fall of 2007, the Patrick Henry School Initiative submits an application to the Richmond School Board, requesting permission to start a charter school housed in Patrick Henry Elementary. After making some revisions, they resubmit their application in mid-March of 2008. Come April, they hit a round of road blocks: additional application revision requests and little-to-no access to the School Board members key in making the school happen… and people start to wonder if PHS will be helpful or detrimental to Richmond Public Schools as a whole.

May 2008
School board to discuss Patrick Henry at 4:30pm — Challenges (and trust issues) grow as the School Board opts to hold a discussion about PHS at their 4:30pm meeting, rather than their 6pm meeting when a better sampling of concerned community members can attend. (See notes from the meeting here.)

Patrick Henry School given the tentative ok
— In a 5 to 2 vote, the School Board gives PHS 90 days to iron out details so they can open… in July 2009. (Obviously that didn’t work out.)

August 2008
School board candidate says “read the contract” — Then-School-Board-candidate Art Burton shares his thoughts about how School Board members should probably have access to the PHS contract before voting on it… and expresses concerns over what he sees as a lack of transparency going on with the high-ups.

September 2008
Patrick Henry Charter School not to be? — School Board members are unable to agree on whether to sign the contract with PHS (great comments in this one).

Patrick Henry Charter School contract — Speaking of that contract, here it is (or there it was… then… oh, you know what we mean).

PHI president responds — Take a look at the PHS Initiative’s president’s thoughts about said contract.

October 2008
Will It or Won’t It? — A revised contract is presented to the School Board, amended to require a diversity plan. Three board members excuse themselves from the vote, and the school is authorized, 5 to 0.


The next year saw monthly progress meetings, curriculum planning, lots and lots of fundraising (and a few grant bestowals), and staff recruitment as PHS started to find its footing. The student application process began in January 2010, and the school even got a mention in Gov. Bob McDonnell’s inauguration speech.

But 2010 also brought with it questions regarding PHS’s ability to comply with the Americans with Disabilities act (considering their plans to set up shop in such an old building), relocation plans, admission questions, transportation challenges, and general growing pains.


February 2010
Patrick Henry Open House & Presentation to RPS — Antione Greene (whose name will come again) makes a presentation to the School Board regarding PHS’s finances and their plans to meet ADA requirements.

More on Patrick Henry Budget & ADA Compliance — Details are revealed on PHS’s cost per pupil, as determined by Richmond Public Schools.

March 2010
Patrick Henry School: Gubernatorial support — Gov. McDonnell solidifies his support of the school by hosting a fundraiser.

Cuccinelli weighs in on Patrick Henry School — Del. Joe Morrissey asks Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli to review the aforementioned contract, suggesting that Richmond’s own procrastination in meeting ADA requirements should provide some leniency to PHS. Cuccinelli doesn’t agree.

Patrick Henry lottery an emotional night for parents — PHS’s holds a lottery to determine who will make up its first group of students. And just because the parents might have helped start the school doesn’t mean their kids get in.

Is the RPS School Board Willfully Delaying Patrick Henry School? — Unlike other schools in the city with open enrollment, admission into PHS for one child does not guarantee admission for his/her siblings.

Crusade for Voters president and VP step down — Antione Greene, CEO of PHS leaves his position as President of the Richmond Crusade for Voters after what was labeled a “misstep” before a Virginia General Assembly education committee examining proposed changes to the state’s charter school laws.

Patrick Henry picks principal — Pamela L. Boyd, a teacher at Fairfield Middle School, is appointed principal of PHS, pending approval from the School Board.

Patrick Henry School finds a new home (for now) — Tricky construction deadlines lead PHS to find a (temporary) new home.

School Board Rejects Patrick Henry Admissions Changes & Doesn’t Sign Lease — Still no siblings, still no lease at original building. New digs it is! Well, if the School Board approves that.

April 2010
Patrick Henry updates: funds, friends, and foes — A cocktail party hosted by Gov. McDonnell raises some interesting questions about finances and what PHS means for the rest of Richmond Public Schools.

May 2010
New lease on life — The promise of a lease gives PHS leaders renewed hope for their school.

An investor steps up for Patrick Henry — with a catch — Even though the School Board is about to vote on whether PHS can open in an alternate location, local pundit Paul Goldman says he has lined up a willing investor ready to step forward and renovate the Patrick Henry Elementary School building for free.

Charter school votes offer unprecedented insight — In a 5 to 4 vote, the School Board approves the charter school’s use of a temporary location at Woodland Heights Baptist Church.

June 2010
Patrick Henry School’s fate in question… again — The School Board says they won’t approve Pamela Boyd as principal unless PHS signs a lease requiring the charter to provide proof that it has full funding to complete nearly $1 million in renovations to the Patrick Henry Elementary building.

School Board hires Richmond Public Schools CFO, approves Patrick Henry principal — After meeting in closed session for more than three hours earlier in the afternoon, the School Board approves PHS’s new principal, Pamela Boyd.

July 2010
Patrick Henry Looking for Bus Help — After a proposed plan with To The Bottom And Back falls through, PHS looks for solutions to provide transportation for about 20 students that need it. The issue raises the concern, “If the school system provides out-of-zone transportation for Patrick Henry students, the same should be done for all students attending out-of-zone schools.”


Quite a trip, eh?

Undoubtedly, the process of taking the Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts from an idea to a bona fide (and open) charter school has been… involved. But it’s also been enlightening, touching on some major hot button issues in this city: education (obviously), race, socioeconomics, ADA compliance, transparency from elected officials, you name it. Regardless of where you stand on the school (or charter schools in general) those are topics of conversation to which we should all be paying attention. Meanwhile, what does this entire process say about our city? How will this historic event (which it, in fact, is) affect Richmond’s educational system as a while? We’d love to hear your thoughts on both questions when you have a minute.

And to those 150 kids starting at PHS this morning…


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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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