School Board approves Kamras’ smaller, better-paid cabinet

3/23/2018, 8:16 a.m.
A divided Richmond School Board voted 5-4 on Monday night to approve the hiring of four members of Superintendent Jason ...

By Ronald E. Carrington

A divided Richmond School Board voted 5-4 on Monday night to approve the hiring of four members of Superintendent Jason Kamras’ new cabinet, overruling members who objected to the enlarged salaries they are to be paid.

The four newcomers, who will occupy key leadership posts, will join Chief of Staff Michelle Hudacsko, who was hired earlier in March.

The cabinet members include a chief of schools, a chief academic officer, a chief of operations and a chief of community engagement, all coming from outside Richmond after Mr. Kamras swept out remaining members of former Superintendent Dana T. Bedden’s cabinet.

School Board Chair Dawn C, Page, 8th District, led the majority of Elizabeth “Liz” Doerr, 1st District; J. Scott Barlow, 2nd District; Cheryl L. Burke, 7th District; and Linda B. Owen, 9th District, in supporting the superintendent’s choices.

The dissenters included Kenya Gibson, 3rd District; Jonathan Young, 4th District; Dr. Patrick Sapini, 5th District; and Felicia D. Cosby, 6th District.

Mr. Kamras said the move consolidates the cabinet structure by reducing the team from nine to six members, which will save the system $200,000 annually. The six members include a yet-to-be-named chief talent officer, who would oversee teacher and staff recruitment and training.

“Those saved dollars will be reinvested in programs for RPS students,” Mr. Kamras said in an interview with the Free Press after the vote. “The consolidation is to combine some functions to make it more efficient to run the organization.”

Mr. Young, though, called the increase in salaries for the new hires “exorbitant.” He said he might have supported Mr. Kamras if the appointments had been accompanied by additional cuts in the central administration.

Mr. Young previously proposed $2.3 million in budget reductions, but none have received support from a majority of the School Board or as yet from Mr. Kamras. Mr. Young said while the cabinet has been reduced, he said that the appointments would require the hiring of at least six to seven directors to serve under the cabinet officers.

For example, Mr. Kamras also is proposing to have hire four people to supervise the city’s 44 public schools and report to the chief of schools. Mr. Young said Mr. Kamras is promising to reduce the central administration, but “I would have been more encouraged if I had seen some tangible proposals.”

These are the members of the new RPS leadership team:

Chief Academic Officer – Dr. Tracy Epp, previously executive vice president and chief operating officer at the Dallas, Texas-based National Math + Science Initiative, which works with school systems to improve student success in STEM subjects of math, science, engineering and technology.

Dr. Epp is a former middle school teacher who later founded and led a private high school that reportedly sends 100 percent of its students to college and repeatedly has been ranked in the U.S. News & World Report’s list of best high schools.

Dr. Epp, who earned a doctorate at the University of Texas-Austin, will oversee all the division’s academics, a role previously handled by two people, Mr. Kamras said. Her starting pay: $180,547 a year.