We just got this in an email from Richard Day, president of the Patrick Henry Initiative: We with the Patrick Henry Initiative are very upset and well, pretty much stunned by this latest development. Our group of volunteers, citizens, parents, tax payers, had put thousands of hours into getting to a point of approval last […]
We just got this in an email from Richard Day, president of the Patrick Henry Initiative:
We with the Patrick Henry Initiative are very upset and well, pretty much stunned by this latest development. Our group of volunteers, citizens, parents, tax payers, had put thousands of hours into getting to a point of approval last May, in what I view as a historic opportunity for the children of Richmond. Please understand this is not dead yet. Before going into what our options are, I would like to point out a few things.
With concern to the lack of transparency that has been brought to light by school board candidate, Art Burton, there really should be no concern. The contract is really a housekeeping document. The meat of what the school will do is in the application, which has been on our website for months. Could the contract negotiations have been more public? Sure, but we did not set the rules for that, RPS and the SB did. So all concerns about such transparency or lack there of need to be directed to them. I will however say in their defense, that there were no real shenanigans or back room deals or anything given to us that our detractors could possibly raise a concern about. In fact quite the opposite is true, which is where Keith West comes in. As of this post, he and I have not yet spoken. I sent him a concerning email, which he as responded to, but I have not had time to open. He and I did speak right after the vote, and he expressed concerns about there being too many controls in the contract, so many in fact that it was setting us up for failure. He should have seen the first draft…scary.
He is not entirely incorrect, however, he is not the one that has to meet the accountabilities, we are. We held our own vote, and it was unanimous that we sign the contract, which I held my nose and signed. We have one goal, which is to open the first charter school in the City of Richmond. Are the accountabilities in the contract to restrictive? If by restrictive you mean that they are more stringent than current RPS accountability measures, yes. I will not go into details, as now anyone can get a copy of the contract and read for themselves. All comments are welcome and encouraged. In fact this is a perfect time to raise any concerns about the contract, both for and against with your respective school board members. Now is the time.
Considering all of the aforementioned information, the real problem is that this is the first charter school application that has ever gotten a yes vote to proceed. If you go to the RPS website and read the SB’s by-laws on charter schools, there is very little information there. In other words, there are no real rules for this. The Virginia legislation defers to the local school boards when it comes to these matters, and it appears that very little thought was put into place as to how to deal with this kind of situation. Remember again that 3 of the 4 charter schools in VA have no contract, or rather the application is the contract. Could RPS have done that? Absolutely. But knowing the very common level of resistance to charter schools by public school administrations all over the country, it is not surprising that we are in this pickle. In other words, if RPS really does not want this school to happen, and I am confident that is the case, it was never going to be any easier than it has been.
Though I appreciate Keith West’s concerns, what he and probably a few others want to change is actually much much larger than this ever ambitious move by us to open this school.
So what are the options –
1. The entire effort dies and we walk away. [Not likely]
2. Another school board member can call for another vote on the contract. [most favored option]
3. We can wait until the new board is in place and apply all over again.
4. Try to do yet another revision of the contract, then push for another vote. [my personal favorite, not PHI’s]
5. It has been suggested that we file a lawsuit against RPS, for what, I am not exactly sure. [not likely]
If anyone has any questions, they are welcome to call me at home (233-2608) or email (phone is better) at (firstname.lastname@example.org). My cell is posted on the website, but my schedule precludes me from answering it most of the time. We appreciate the outpouring of support this week, and will certainly want that support to continue in the coming days and weeks.
Richard Day, President PHI.