Patrick Henry School given the tentative ok

The school board voted in 5 to 2 in favor of the Patrick Henry School Initiative last night. The school is scheduled to open July 2009, if they can get certain details ironed out within the next 90 days. Head over to Hill and Heights for the full story, including summaries of comments from the […]

The school board voted in 5 to 2 in favor of the Patrick Henry School Initiative last night. The school is scheduled to open July 2009, if they can get certain details ironed out within the next 90 days.

Head over to Hill and Heights for the full story, including summaries of comments from the public.

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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.

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

  1. Big thanks to John for compiling the notes from last night’s meeting!

  2. I’m really interested in this NAACP fervor. I’m kind of astounded that they would be so up in arms against the charter school on grounds of it causing racial segregation. Let’s look at some stats (and charts!) of RPS’s current demographics and such.

    First the enrollment of students in RPS by race.

    For a comparison, here is the racial break down of Richmond taken from the 2000 census.

    Here is the break down of the percentage of black students and white students over the last couple years.

    Here is the enrollment of students with a bar for each elementary school. The bars near the left have the most white kids and the bars at the right have the fewest. Note there are five elementary schools with no white kids. Oh PS, height of the bar is number of students at the school.

    Finally, for fun, here is a chart that measures each school’s SOL Average (school wide math and english) versus its diversity. Low diversity schools are on the left, high diversity schools (with Fox being the highest) are on the right. Size of the dot is a measure of the size of the school.

  3. Yeah, as I sat in the back (3rd) room during the hearing, it seemed that all those that spoke out against the school wanted to make it a race issue…

  4. I’d like to point out that:

    A) RPS are *already* incredibly segregated.
    B) Diverse schools perform well
    C) Diversity is not necessary for good academic performance
    D) Either black families have far far more children than white families (possible) or white families do not send their children to public schools.

    These are points I meant to bring up after wasting my entire morning making sweet graphs.

  5. C) Diversity is not necessary for good academic performance? For who?

  6. Angela on said:

    Diversity is not limited to race. I’m tired of hearing about diversity as a race issue. Diversity is all factors (religion, sex, income, race, nationality, etc.). Diversity is something that society chases and will never achieve because as diversity is achieved, the diverse population as a group begins to embrace it’s own characteristics, becomes homogeneous and thus seeks diversity once again. It’s a process evolution, not an accomplishment.

  7. Gray on said:

    Schools with greater economic diversity, for the most part, score higher and have better programs such as the Accelerated Reader, drama clubs, dance, music, poetry, etc. I believe the schools with poorer populations need more assistance from the RPS system. RPS should place innovative programs like the IB or different methods of instruction like the reggio emilia into the schools. This could draw in the middle classes.

    My children attend their district school(and it is not Fox or Munford) and it is predominately poor and black. And it is the poorer schools that suffer the most from the policies coming from downtown and Washington. The staff, parents, and students at our neighborhood school are great.

  8. I’m just going by the Average of a schools 2k7 English and Mathematics SOL scores. As you can see by the graph, there are plenty schools with zero diversity that score quite well — better than Fox — on their SOL’s.

    Not that SOL’s are the end all of “this is a good school” indicator. I just thought it was interesting.

  9. Ultimately I think Richmond, these days, has more of a class problem than a race problem. It’s just that, unfortunately, the class groups are roughly analogous to the race groups.

    I’d love to see some of the above data compared to income, but I’m not sure how to go about getting that data.

  10. Gray on said:

    Check out stats on free and reduced lunches and that will give you a little idea regarding incomes: .

    And you are right here about the SOl’s: “Not that SOL’s are the end all of “this is a good school” indicator.” Sometimes high scores can mean that the children were over tested and some of those schools have scary suspension rates. Put it this way, kids today can be suspended for things we did as children everyday in class, like clowning around. Everything now in public schools is about the test. Even the field trips have to cover a SOL topic or the class can’t go. It is really sad.

  11. Here is a similar chart but replacing “diversity” with “% not receiving free or reduced lunch.” There is a bit of trickeration going on here, but not too much. It is a bit confusing but on the X axis you have more free lunches (in Richmond’s case less “diversity”) on the left and less on the right.

  12. GetRealRichmond on said:


    If you like charts, John Butcher’s website (above) is a marvel to behold, accurate and should be read by one-and-all. Check it out!

  13. I want to thank everyone that has commented on this site, and especially Ross Catrow for the great data. We won the vote, but now the real work begins. I will be proposing a large, all supporters meeting in the next couple of weeks, to take in all input and ideas from the masses. The application is done, and is solid, but there are a lot of other logistical items that have to be worked out. Also, we have to begin the process of nominating our board. The board should be diverse, just like the school will be. Lots of things to work on: fundraising, principle search, building anaylsis, furniture, school supplies, transporation, family contract, admissions process, community outreach, and on and on and on… Come one come all. We need all hands on deck.

  14. Scott Burger on said:

    I appreciate and respect this discussion on race and diversity.

    However, I am most interested in getting ALL RPS buildings renovated and upgraded. Solar panels, computers, elevators for ADA, new learning tools, etc.

    This is not a slap at PHSI in one bit. My point is that I am glad that this discussion and others are keeping the big picture in mind. We have a long way to go, and some parameters are easier to track then others.

  15. Ry on said:

    The only diversity that matters is income diversity. Numerous studies have shown that schools with high levels (above 50% +/-) of children on free or reduced lunch are a great deal less likely to have success in school – with success based on test scores, graduation rates, college acceptance, etc. We should spend more time trying to solve that and less worrying about race…

  16. here, here..

  17. Gray on said:

    In a post above I commented on economic diversity and higher scores. I also posted a link to the stats on free lunch.

    Check out to see who is eligible for free and reduced lunches. Teacher’s children would be eligible in some cases.

    One way to encourage economic diversity is for people to stop being scared of their neighborhood schools and the poor. Most of the problems I’ve run up against in RPS is do to the corrupt policies coming from downtown and Washington that loom like a dark cloud over the poorer schools. Let’s pressure RPS to implement innovative programs into the lower income schools to attract the neighbors and continue to protest NCLB, repetitive testing and the neo-conservative ultimate plan to “starve the beast,” i.e. close down schools and privatize education.

    With high gas prices, wars over oil, and impending enviromental disaster, we should consider our neighborhood schools.

  18. Gray on said:

    Sorry about the horrible grammar in the post above…I’m still on my first cup of coffee.

  19. About the last few comments, especially the income diversity vs. racial diversity, please note that all that aside, we would have never gotten approval on a neighborhood school, and the fact that there is still not a cohesive transportation plan, could have killed it in the end. But approval of the charter school, though it will address a lot of education ills, if successful, the big win here is the OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE. This window is now cracked open for something “fresh and new and so much more. So let us all shove it open, and climb through, and pave the way for MORE opportunities down the road. Yes, I agree that income disparity is a bigger problem for all the obvious reasons. Cheers.

  20. So Mr. Day…how does your everyday normal guy (and girl) help to make the school successful?

  21. Gray on said:

    “…big win here is the OPPORTUNITY FOR CHANGE” is exactly how I see it. When every end of town has a good public school, we know we have done right by our kids and all of Richmond will benefit.

    Bopst, advocate for your child and volunteer in the school. That is where I would start.

  22. Gray on said:

    Mr. Day,

    Although the Patrick Henry Charter will be a city wide open enrollment school, it will do wonders for the Woodland Heights area and for all of Richmond. It is a great start. My hope is we’ll one day see innovative programs popping up everywhere.

  23. GetRealRichmond on said:

    There are a lot of questions throughout the city from people who want to know just how the “Board of Directors/Advisors” for the Patrick Henry School will be chosen. This is of critical importance to many people so I urge you to please inform the public as soon as possible concerning the process you intend to use to achieve the diversity everyone agrees is necessary.

    Ninety days may seem like a long time, but it really isn’t. At the most recent Crusade for Voters meeting, the leadership extended an invitation to the Patrick Henry people to come before the Crusade and discuss both the school and the plans for making it reflective of not only the Fourth District, but the city as a whole. Your group should definitely heed the advice that School Board member Carol Wolf gave during one of the recent meetings when she said emphatically that if you hope to be successful, you needed to reach out to — the Crusade, the NAACP, various sororities, fraternities, various African-American professional groups. If you don’t, you risk blowing it big-time.

  24. I agree with Ms. Wolf. However, I don’t think at this point the Crusade for Voters, NAACP, and the like are who PHI needs to reach out. I tried to reach out to them, and I was pushed away. Antoine Green, head of the Crusade for Voters was the most accessible, and though I attended a meeting before the vote, was not given any kind of voice to answer questions and concerns. Mr. Green was very open to working together after the vote, but he was the only one. I thank him for wanting to work to make sure that this school will become everything that we hope it will for all children. However, I was disgusted to hear very caustic language thrown at school board member Betsy Carr at last Tuesdays meeting, especially from folks like Marty Jewell, whom I also met with as well. She does not deserve to have falsehoods used to verbally abuse her. Truthfully to reach across racial lines, there are other more significant individuals and civic leaders that we are reaching out to, and that will help a lot. Frankly rather than civic activists, whom we really need to reach are parents, for thier voices are the most important.

    If you want to help, and on the email list, messages will be broadcasts soon about upcoming planning meetings. Please, please, please come to those. That is the best we can ask right now.

    The 90 days thing is just to iron out the contract with the city. We will be working super hard for the next 13 months to get the school open on schedule. Come one come all, we need the man power.

  25. Sorry about the sloppy grammar on that last post. To get on the email list, email me at… Not case sensitive.

  26. Gray on said:

    Go to and click on the online “Take the Superintendent Search – Public Hearing Community Survey.” It only takes a few minutes.

  27. edg on said:

    So far, I have not been against the PHSI. However, I was horrified to find out the conservative/libertarian think tank the Lexington Institute is involved with this effort.

    What is the extent of their involvement? It really gives me pause and helps me understand why some folks are against the effort.

  28. edg on said:

    Does anyone know anymore about the Lexington Institute and in what way they are involved with PHSI?

  29. that is a tad bit disconcerting…the man to ask would be Mr. Day…

  30. S. Martin on said:

    The ONLY imvolvement has been as a resource very early on to ask about charter schools nationwide and in Virginia. In fact if you google ‘charter schools Virginia’ it’s one of the first listings that come up. Early on we were searching for any resource at all. As you might now realize, the charter law in Virginia is not favorable to charter schools. There is no involvement in the application or vision of the school whatsoever.

  31. edg on said:

    It is disconcerting, especially with some of their views on “Multicultural curriculum” ( ).

    Why would a group like PHSI with many a creative (and liberal) members even seek the help of the Lexington Institute? I am not trying to be snarky, but I am just baffled at their involvement.

  32. S. Martin on said:

    EDG, again, please re-read my post from yesterday. We are no longer seeking help or anything else from lexington inst. And early on they were only 1 minor source to ask a few questions regarding charter schools in Virginia. That’s it period. Early on, as just a handful of people were trying to wrap their arms and minds around the chances for a charter elementary school in Virginia, you go to many websites. Any interested parties, please come to a PHSI meeting any Tuesday at 8pm at the Berryman Center. (I won’t be there next wee – on vacation). See for yourself what we’re about.

  33. Gray on said:

    edg, Read Obama’s education plan including his support of charters on the same website here .

    I find nothing wrong with the PHI folk gathering information and help from various resources. Remember that Republicans are huge proponents of homeschooling too. Does that make all homeschoolers scary neocons?

    Reagan and republican think tanks scare me but so does my own corporate owned party, the democrats. The democrats are as bad as the neocons –they own the senate and have done absolutely nothing to stop the war in Iraq while throwing their support behind the patriot act and wiretapping American citizens.

    I wish more were concerned and highly critical of the so called liberal RPS educators down at city hall playing into the hands of the neocons by helping schools to fail, close, and chasing the middle class away.

    edg, take a look at our own school and it’s problems. This year around 12 teachers are leaving, about the same number as the year before. The teachers I spoke with gave three reasons: 1) they are untrained 2) they lack support 3) the environment is stressful. No one mentioned pay, however, higher pay might bring in more qualified teachers. Secondly, we have an influx of children coming in throughout the school year who were suspended from other schools. I’ve heard that a principal over at a neighboring school suspends kids she thinks won’t do well on SOLS. The Zero Tolerance Displine policy enables inept principals to expell class clowns –the three strikes you’re out program coming straight from the republican think tank. Thirdly, our school is also on the chopping block and the neocons love nothing more than schools closing –one less mouth to feed. And finally, how come I haven’t seen you at the PTA meetings or in the school helping out? Did you know that there are only two left on the PTA board? Did you know that a religious element is coming into some RPS conducting prayers and telling kids to go to church? Isn’t this all a part of the neocons plan?

  34. edg on said:

    S. Martin, I am not judging the people involved in PHSI. I just wonder if they knew what the Lexington Institute is all about. And, if they no longer are partners with PHSI, I think it would be a good idea to remove the link and sever the tie.

  35. edg on said:

    Gray, honestly – I am not against PHSI. I just find the partnership unsavory. And, I cannot attend the PTA meetings because I am too busy working 40+ hours a week. So be it, I will probably never be able to participate in that way and DOES NOT mean I don’t care or that I am not involved in my children’s schooling.

    Why turn the attack so personal? As you know, I am happy with Bellevue. I know you aren’t. Oh well.

  36. Gray on said:

    Actually, I do like our principal and I can go to her. My problems with the school are coming from downtown’s (and Washington’s) policies and cronyism. I don’t like it that our school is being set up for failure; I want it off the chopping block. I want downtown to send highly educated and qualified teachers to the east end, etc. And the every nine week testing is driving everyone away.

    I’m sorry if it came off as a personal attack. I’m just very sad and frustrated over how things are going in our neighborhood schools.

  37. S. Martin on said:

    Thank you Gray.
    EDG, they’re listed under partners and resources section, but, as I said, an early resource for info on charter schools in Virginia. Like you, we also all work 40+ hours a week, have families etc. However, not everyone can make it to meetings and we certainly understand that given busy schedules.
    We will have them taken off the website – by the way, it’s not like we have a paid person in charge of our website and the person in charge is works (at their normal job) way in excess of 60 hours.

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