State-mandated help for five of Richmond's failing schools will be late in coming after the resulting "no" vote given by the school board Monday night, as reported by the Richmond Times-Dispatch Wednesday, Feb. 6.
Monday night's vote left state education officials surprised by the outright rejection of an administration attempt to have a turnaround partner for Elkhardt, Henderson and Martin Luther King, Jr. middle schools and John Marshall High School and the Capital City Program, an alternative school for students with academic and behavioral problems.
The five schools were identified back in October by the State Board of Education as being "priority schools." This classification was created last year when Virginia received a waiver from the No Child Left Behind Standards.
Charles Pyle, the director of communications for the Virginia Department of Education, said local districts were supposed to have chosen turnaround partners last year, and the work was supposed to have begun by Jan. 1 of this year.
It was assumed that Richmond had complied, and the agreement was signed off on by the state. It was assumed that Richmond School Superintendent Yvonne W. Brandon would get the approval of the School Board.
This years new School Board is going to be a lot more discriminating when it comes to fiscal spending. Several of the new board members opposed the estimated $2.75 million cost of the three year contract being handed out without an open-bidding process.
Shonda M. Harris-Muhammed, of the 6th District, made a motion to accept the recommendation. No one offered a second, and the motion died. Harris-Muhammed is an instructional specialist in Petersburg, which has it's own turnaround partners.
Harris-Muhammed went on to say the board was taking a huge risk, and “We’re going to be sanctioned somehow,” she said. “We’re going to have to explain to (state Superintendent) Patricia Wright why we’re at this point.”
But in the meantime, students in five Richmond schools are being deprived of the instructional help they so sorely need because something that should have been taken care of last year was not done.