10 vying for School Board appointment

10/6/2017, 7:23 a.m.
Candidates seeking appointment to the Richmond School Board’s 7th District seat pointed to a multitude of issues during public interviews ...

By Saraya Wintersmith

Candidates seeking appointment to the Richmond School Board’s 7th District seat pointed to a multitude of issues during public interviews Monday night.

During the four-hour process before the board’s eight members, many of the candidates cited community engagement and student achievement when asked by the board to identify a “top priority” within Richmond Public Schools.

Résumés and interest statements obtained by the Richmond Free Press through a Freedom of Information Act request show the pool of 10 applicants has an array of educational, professional and leadership experience.

The School Board is scheduled to appoint someone to the seat at its next meeting on Monday, Oct. 16, with the appointee to be sworn in on Tuesday, Oct. 17.

“I see the top priority as representing the constituents — the students, the parents of the 7th District — and being a voice for them when we’re picking a superintendent for our school district,” said retired RPS educator Sharon C. Burton. “My role, then, is to listen to the constituents to see what it is that they are looking for.”

Ms. Burton now works as a teacher and site coordinator at Peter Paul Development Center in the East End. She said her work there with colleagues in the millennial age group equips her with new, intergenerational insight. 

Pointing to experiences with RPS students in his Real Deal Life Skills training program, Garry Callis Sr. named his top priority as “teach time.” He explained the concept as “maintaining control of our classrooms” so teachers can teach “and kids who are there to learn can actually receive the quality education” RPS teachers can deliver.

Lifelong resident and former Richmond Crusade for Voters President Roderyck Bullock identified bolstering RPS exceptional education as a top priority.

“I would like to see a whole audit in the exceptional ed department,” he said, “to see where we could do some fixes.” He also added that, if appointed, he would pass up the position’s $10,000 annual compensation.

“That’s one thing that I bring to the table. I’m not asking for any money. I would do (the job) for free.”

“I think the top priority is student achievement,” said Cheryl L. Burke, who retired after serving as principal of Chimborazo Elementary School for nearly 20 years. “We have had the opportunity in the past — and we can do it again — of having a great curriculum in place to support the central administration as they put in place what’s necessary for our children.”

Attorney Charles Nance described the school district’s aging infrastructure as a “moral crisis” that must be confronted.

“I know that things are strapped, but we have to look outside the usual sources and really approach in appropriate ways the legislature, private donors and others and just get the urgent things done.”

A former Richmond School Board member who ran for mayor in 2004, Mr. Nance assured the board he would only serve for the interim term, and has no intention to stand for election to the seat once the appointment expires next year.