PHI president responds

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 ( 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.

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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. Scott Burger on said:

    Given the importance of this effort, what do the local political candidates say?

    This is about accountability, folks, don’t be afraid to ask the questions.

  2. I’m the editor of and I’d like to invite those who are interested in better understanding some of the issues that have been raised regarding charter schools and the school board to read an article I have just published:

    Please be aware that this article is not intended to have a political or social slant, but rather to make clear the issues present. It is my humble hope that this will help.

    Shennen Dean

  3. Art Burton fired off a couple responses that are worth looking at (regardless of his school board campaign). Here and here:

  4. Kim Bridgees on said:

    Thanks for sharing your perspective Richard. The more everyone understands the charter school process–which is a novelty to not just RPS or the city, but to the entire region–the better. I’ve learned so much about how the process can be improved, and I believe the board’s policies do need to change to reflect this experience and what board members have learned in their own research about charter schools. I agree as well that the General Assembly has some work to do to clarify the state charter laws and will do what I can this session to help on that front.

    We had a workable contract that made the best of inadequate state law and local policies, and that was based on the tenants of the PHI proposal. So why didn’t the contract get approved by a majority of the board? The three school board opponents to the charter have been very consistent in their opposition but I respect their stance, because I know it is reflective of the feelings of many of their constituents. So let’s be clear: we’re where we are now because a single board member changed his vote.

    After an eventful first term on the school board, I have learned a tremendous amount about how to do this job, but one of my biggest lessons has been seeing the difference between the people who talk publicly about action yet who work against it and those who work diligently and collaboratively to get things done. There’s a big difference between board members who leave in the middle of board meetings so they can go talk to the media and those who don’t seek the limelight but who seek to serve the people they represent.

    I won’t speak for the other “yes” votes but I didn’t vote to give myself more work (something like 23 of those contract provisions are things the school board has to do after all) with some ulterior motive. And I didn’t support an effort to try something new just to see it fail. I voted that way to get the involvement of the Forest/Westover/Stratford Hills and Woodland Heights communities, and to try some innovative ways to add to our education options for all Richmond children.

    Throughout this process, my motivation has been to get community involvement in RPS wherever it is low. I’ve seen first-hand what grassroots involvement can do for the public education experience. So I’m not pro-charter or anti-charter; I’m pro-involvement. PHI indicated that the charter approach was the way to make that happen in their area, so I’ve voted both times to support it. If we stay focused on what we share–the desire for involvement and innovation–we can get there.

  5. Keith West on said:

    Thank you so much Mrs. Bridges for your courageous stand for “pro-involvement.” If only people would stop being for or against particular things such as charter schools and quality education, we could get on with the real business of discussing discussions. Discussions such as the ones you championed to discuss what people really want in a superintendent. In those discussions it was gratifying to find out that the 12 people who showed up at the five meetings thought that a competent superintendent would be preferable to an incompetent one. Your discussion with the board of the results of these discussions was the perfect culmination of involvement opportunity you provided the community.

    If only we could extend your laudable involvement creed to the dastardly anti-involvement crowd such as your evil twin Kimberly Bridges who, as Chairman of the Legal Committee, sanctioned a charter contract crafted in secret over three months and made known even to board members only at the last minute. Then there was the time she gave new life to the discriminatory mega zone policy by burying it in the committee for “further study.” Maybe at a family reunion you could confront her with the question of why she, after writing in her blog that they didn’t exist, came forward with public emails when faced with legal action?

    I suppose most of us could accept from her a little white CYA, but someone should really say something to her about writing publicly things which don’t, shall we say, correspond with public records such as board minutes? I mean, after reading Kimberly’s newsletter, people would probably be shocked to find out things such as the vote the board took to reject a city audit and that the board did actually name a superintendent search committee without providing any indication of what they were supposed to do. Oh well, why be bothered about facts if everyone is involved and communicating their little hearts out?

    I do understand your predicament though, who among us wants to be held responsible for the misdeeds of our siblings? Knowing the importance you place on being seen as earnest, I do think it would reflect poorly on you should people confuse pro-involvement you who welcomes diverse views and cultivates agreement, with anti-involvement her who casts dispersions through her evil ability to divine the motives of others.

    Gee Whiz Kim, what is one to do? Wouldn’t Richmond be a better place if people would just stop saying confusing things, hold hands, and discuss how wonderfully damn earnest you are?

  6. First of all thank you to Mr. West and Ms. Bridges for weighing in on the discussion.

    A quick response to Ms. Dean: Not sure what the point of your print was. All the leglislative information is long known for those that have been following the initiative. I must point out that citing the NEA perspective is not exactly unbiased. As Ms. Bridges states above there are many sides to an issue, and I add many more in fact than that of NEA. Please do some more research, and in fact go to our website and see some of the links there.

    The one item you touched on that is worthy of further exploration (again, Ms. Bridges mentioned this as well) is that maybe the real change should be at the state level. For those in the know about charter education, and legislation around the country, our commonwealth’s has much in common with our own PHSSA contract (pending). It is not very pro charter, and is largely the reason that there are only 4 Virginia charter schools in operation right now.

  7. Richard Day,

    In all fairness, not everyone is up on VA state laws regarding charter schools and this is a very public forum reaching readers unaquainted with the PHI, School Board, education law, etc. Some of the readers have young children not of school age yet and would like to know more. I found Shennen Dean’s list of VA state laws very helpful in understanding the contract between the SB and the PHI. It also shed light on areas of the contract that could be revised and where, perhaps, the School Board is asking for too much too soon. Dean also conveyed/hinted that the NEA has a “political agenda.”

  8. pagalina on said:

    Wow, mr. west. I’ve never met you but from the sarcastic and demeaning tone of all the comments of yours i’ve read lately, I’m beginning to think you enjoy being the contrarian. That is a more polite term than i wanted to use. Keep your personal invectives to yourself. It is unbecoming of an elected official and of a respectable adult. This is not even about whether I support Ms. Bridges or not, I don’t really know that much about her, but your behavior is tiresome.

  9. Kim Bridges on said:

    Yowza! I am adopted so I could have an evil twin out there somewhere. She sure has a lot more power than me, so I may just have to look!

    For the record, the open enrollment policy is still being discussed and revamped. It has been a long, slow road so I understand why it might be assumed that it was buried somewhere. There’s a lot of discussion on what’s transpired that issue on the Northise News blog.

  10. I guess my problem is you used one rational to keep the open enrollment policy in place and a different rationial to support PHI. when it came to open enrollment you stated you would not vote to end it without a policy reveiw to ensure that you were making the proper decision based on good policy. when it came to patrick henry you stated that even though the policy was vague or poor you would not allow poor policy from keeping you from making a decision.

  11. Art,

    Would you mind spelling out the specifics of the vagueness of which you speak?

    I certainly don’t feel like RPS (including the SB) has done any favors for us. We submitted a good application, and a bad contract was drafted.

    What percieved favortism is offered when we did what the state requires? Why do PHI and children have to suffer because of unclear SB by-laws?

    You said that this charter school must succeed. Please help us get there, so other innovative opportunities may follow.

    We will make sure that all bathrooms have toilet paper and so much more.

  12. Really don’t have time to play today; I have homework. I have read all my comments and i never used the word vague once. Please go to hills and heights and read comment number 56#. The same idea i laid out to you 8 months ago. However, I have come to realize from reading these blogs that this is not about all children, not about my community. Whether you care to believe it or not the suffering didn’t start with you. it’s been going on for a long time. Until we bring all of these communities together nothing is going to change and as much as you want to run from it; it seems to me that that responsibility has fallen to you. i understand the burden that this brings and the sacrifice that your family is making, however we have the responsibility to end this infighting. though i do reconize that iT is easier to make me the enemy i am the standing in the gap with you. I just cannot leave these other children and families behind or wait for you to return. Gotta go -NOW MEANS NOW FOR EVERYONE-PEACE ART

  13. I see it now-i was paraphasing Kim Bridges reasons for calling for the vote on PHI at past school Board meeting-not exact quote -you called it unclear school board policy-I’m using vague. My point is that different rules apply for different communities depending on the issues and generally to the disadvantage of African American communities. Gotta go do Homework, mom calling me. We can play again tomorrow.

  14. pagalina on said:

    Mr. Burton, don’t you see that “your community” stands to benefit as much as any other. Instead of roadblocking an effort because you think it is only helping someone else, how about working to get all the kids from “your community” that could benefit from the school, IN THE SCHOOL?

    How come if you’re not the one with the idea, they must be leaving you and yours out, somehow? I think the more you use phrases like “your community” and “my community” the more exclusionary you are.

    Indeed. let’s work TOGETHER. Join the PHI group, make sure that you’re involved in making sure everyone is included. If there were fewer critics and more doers, it could actually get done and rise above all expectations. The first step to unifying communities is joining in to do the hard work. Not sitting on the sidelines.

  15. None of the ideas that i am representing are my ideas. The prioritizing of facility needs was done in 2003 by people from all over the city including represenatives from every part spectrum of life in richmond.There is a two binder document that the citizens of Richmond paid 600,000 dollars to get. i am just asking that that plan be honored. The “city of the Future ” plan put 200 million dollars in place to build and renovate schools and the Mayors 20/20 vision laid out a plan to address poverty and the supt.’s 2015 plan addressed programic and early childhood development plans as well. the “city of the future ” plan calls for the development of some speciality schools to include charter schools. I am fighting to get 3-5 schools built using the same model of community involvement as PHI I’m just talking about using it for public schools. that doesn’t mean that i don’t believe there should be PHI. I’m just asking the leadership to do what they promised. Stop “flipping the script” as we say; lying to us, pushing us back and yes, giving us bad damn contracts. I’m talking about educational equality for every RPS CHILD. I’m also talking about fighting poverty, which is our long range issue, by attacking the poverty and the negative health indicators we see in schools every day.. Getting services into communities at risk in an impactful manner. One school at a time is not going to get us there-we have been waiting six years. Its the focus on this one school that is really what is unfair because the issues of public educational are so much greater and all I ever said to Richard is let’s not put all the focus on this one school. We could open Patrick henry tomorrow and the impact on 17,000 child at or below poverty would be minor. If there is a educational plan for them that leadership plans to implement soon, show it. However, there is a way to open Patrick Henry for you and impact all of these children lives as well. I’ve read at least four different versions of this same plan that if the Mayor, City council and School board stopped fighting we could implement. I have noticed that all you have to do as say build school for black children and a fight breaks out. Yes, that’s a problem for me. As far as you even calling my name and questioning my hard work in the same sentence I’m not even going to grace you with comment. I have a public record for all make judgement on and another record of work that people never see-There is an expectation from many people in “my community” that at the end of the day i speak for them, try to speak what they feel, right or wrong, good or bad. All i ever asked you to do is stand together with us; the leadership of this city was going to challenged regarding public education in this city whether there was a PHI OR NOT. I’ve been doing that for nine years-peace -Art

  16. pagalina on said:

    I totally agree with your wanting the city of the future plan for new and remodeled schools to be implemented. I think we’re all so frustrated. the school buildings are in such bad shape and it seems like the powers that be like to dangle these promises that they then fail to follow through. It irks me to see “city of the future” signs in front of tennis courts. Why not the schools? Why aren’t the schools even ADA compliant yet?

  17. Mr. Day,

    Having read your contract and the VA Code, I’d like you to please clarify what it is about the contract that bothers you specifically. I have not anywhere encountered any clear evidence in your contract that shows the school board has done anything more than apply what is required by law, nor seen any information from you or Mr. West that lists the specifics of what is wrong with the contract. Please do not misinterpret my asking this as an attack, for I am only seeking clarity.

    Also, as I stated in my blog post, and as Gray stated, the addition of the NEA perspective was noted as having a political agenda, but considering that they do support charter schools, I find it hard to believe the language they used would be offensive to you. As stated in the article, that information was there to provide a reasonably fair national perspective. Considering the credibility of the National Education Association, do you think they are really a poor source of perspective in education?

    Once again, I invite you to clarify what it is about the contract that is either unfair or unreasonable and if you would like to discuss the possibility of publishing a statement please feel free to email me, you know where to find me.

  18. School Board candidate, Jonathan Mallard posted a couple of specifics on why the contract is unfair here .

    I also believe the deadlines in the contract for exceptional education plans and ADA compliances are unfair. Like I’ve said before, RPS takes longer than a month to come up with one plan for one child and RPS has had 18 years to become ADA compliant and only 5 schools are.

    On Hills and Heights, West states, “For those interested in having a charter school in fact and not just name, read the contract. As you do, notice how much time the administration of PHS will spend writing monthly reports, organizing carpools and complying with myriad RPS requests. Imagine how much money will be required to finance as yet undetermined improvements to the building. (Hint: $1.3 million supposedly for the elevator at Fox, how much for PH?) Notice too that the cost for exceptional ed is put on the school. How many kids at $50,000 a pop will it take to blow the budget?”

    A contract placed on the PHI requesting everything RPS is unable to accomplish is unreasonable and unfair.

  19. Carol A.O. Wolf on said:

    Va. Code § 22.1-212.6 allows a charter school be be “responsible for its own operations, including, but not limited to, such budget preparation, contracts for services, and personnel matters.” The statute further provides that “a public charter school may operate free from specified school division policies and state regulations, and, as public schools, shall be subject to the requirements of the Standards of Quality, including the Standards of Learning and the Standards of Accreditation.’

    In short, the Code authorizes a Charter School to be allowed to mind its own affairs and to be released from State requirements as to budget, personnel, services, and State policies and regulations, so long as the school meets the State’s Standards of Quality.

    Yet, with Patrick Henry, the Chairman’s secret contract does not relieve the school of constraints, it invents new ones beyond the requirements placed on RPS (aside from the newly invented reporting requirements, see, e.g., the requirement for Ride Finders in Art II, § N).

    Further, if the Patrick Henry Initiative were by some miracle able to meet the ADA requirements and Exceptional Education requirements as stipulated in the contract, RPS SHOULD HIRE THE PHI PEOPLE to administer the U.S. District Court ADA Settlement and manage the RPS Exceptional Ed department since we are so far our of compliance in both arenas it is a wonder that the court has not sanctioned us on ADA and VDOE has not yet reprimanded us for our failures to have enough teachers to meet the demands of our Exceptional Education students.

  20. Art Burton, Does the “Build New Schools Now” differ from Wilder’s “City of the Future” plan (

    I agree that the east end needs a new school built and I like the idea of it having a Montessori program, however, I don’t agree with Wilder’s “City of the Future” plan of warehousing 950 students grades k-8th in Fulton. Research has proven again and again that city children fair better in smaller schools. I know Holton elementary has around 600 students and has reached it’s limit. The “Future” plan also calls for consolidating 3 middle schools into one, bringing the student figure to over a thousand. Again, research shows that middle schoolers easily get lost (emotionally and academically) in large schools. This is one reason I chose a private middle school for my oldest. I disagree with it’s call to consolidate Open and Community…doesn’t make sense to close great schools. And finally, I don’t like the plan’s call to close our neighborhood school, Bellevue. Bellevue, known as the “Castle on the Hill,” is a historical landmark of a school that houses the Elizabeth van Lew(abolitionist, Union Spy) Museum. A public museum does not belong in the hands of developers. Bellevue is fully accredited, made AYP, came in 3rd place in the city for Mind Games, and has small classes. This year’s PTA has some good programs in the works like African dance, voice, visual arts, performance arts, etc.

    I would like to see the Council of PTA ‘s “Build New Schools Now” plan.

  21. To the honorable Ms. Carol Wolf,
    I believe you left out a couple of key words that are essential to the discussion, so I am reprinting here what is available in the Virginia Code and on the website:

    “Pursuant to a charter agreement, a public charter school shall be responsible for its own operations, including, but not limited to, such budget preparation, contracts for services, and personnel matters as are specified in the charter agreement.”

    “B. A public charter school shall be administered and managed by a management committee, composed of parents of students enrolled in the school, teachers and administrators working in the school, and representatives of any community sponsors, in a manner agreed to by the public charter school applicant and the local school board. Pursuant to a charter contract and as specified in § 22.1-212.7, a public charter school may operate free from specified school division policies and state regulations, and, as public schools, shall be subject to the requirements of the Standards of Quality, including the Standards of Learning and the Standards of Accreditation.

    “Pursuant to a charter agreement” and “in a manner agreed to by the public charter school applicant and the local school board” are very important statements, in that, if I am not mistaken, Mr. Day presented the contract to the board and thus anything presented would be something he was already willing to comply with or why bother to present? Unless I am mistaken, the Patrick Henry Initiative group is responsible for the development of the contract and should they have something they are not willing to comply with there would be room for discussion before submission or am I mistaken?

    Forgive my ignorance on the matter, for I may be incorrect, but in regards to concerns about ADA compliance, Patrick Henry was closed, in part, due to the fact the building was not ADA compliant; thus, the PHI group must certainly have been aware of that need and RPS failure to comply with ADA does not give them the authority to allow public schools in development to not comply with ADA. Additionally, since the school is a public charter school, wouldn’t RPS be required to fund much of the necessary ADA requirement accommodations?

    Once again, I am only calling for clarification as to what were these unfair or unreasonable demands that the school board made upon the PHI group. Perhaps I am ignorant, but I still have not seen any specific evidence of these unfair or unreasonable demands.

    Not forgetting Ms. Wolf’s statements about the budget process, would you kindly post the current RPS policy on budget reporting as well as that of the PHI contract so that we may compare them?

    Thank you for your help and patience in this matter. I believe that communication is our sole resource for achieving understanding.

  22. Carol A.O. Wolf on said:

    Sheenen Dean,

    I thank you for your help and patience in this regard as well. We are of like mind in the belief communication is our sole resource for achieving understand.

    I posted the entire relevant Virginia Va. Code § 22.1-212.6 citation.

    I didn’t leave anything out. The one paragraph and synopsis I provided were not intended to be inclusive of every statement that is included in the Code. I offered the Code citation so that any and all could read it for themselves. I also scanned my copy of the contract and provided it to RVAnews and Style Weekly as well so that the entire community could read it at their convenience, rather than go to City Hall in order to do so.

    Thus, I am glad that you have read the contract and the relevant secions of the Virginia Code. I thank you for your citizen journalism.

    If you follow the above link you can read the relevant bylaws that speak to what the Board expects in its financial operations.

    If you follow the above link you can read the regulations that detail what the Commonwealth of Virginia expects.

    The first time Patrick Henry was closed had to do with the fact that enrollment in the school had dwindled to 142 students and the costs to make it ADA compliant were estimated at $937,000. See School Board Meeting notes of May 5, 2005.

    MY problem with the process is that this contract was never seen by the full Board prior to its being offered to the Patrick Henry Initiative for signature. This contract should have been reviewed by the School Board PRIOR to its being offered to PHI, not after PHI had already seen it. Had it been, I am confident that the reporting requirements and other expectations could have been reflective of the will of the entire Board. As I have stated before, if Chairman Braxton had not shut off discussion, I was ready to propose that the School Board impose similar contracts upon all our schools. There is no reason that RPS schools should be held to any lower standard of accountability than PHSSA.

  23. Scott Burger on said:

    “There is no reason that RPS schools should be held to any lower standard of accountability than PHSSA.”


  24. Pingback: Patrick Henry School: Looking back (and forward) | RVANews

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