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Opportunity time

10/4/2018, 6 a.m.
It hasn’t been a week of good news for Richmond Schools Superintendent Jason Kamras and the Richmond School Board.

Hundreds of parents and community and corporate volunteers also turned out this summer to help spruce up schools, including nasty bathrooms, in time for students’ return to classes. Dozens of other efforts were undertaken by a variety of organizations, churches and individuals to provide backpacks and school supplies to Richmond students. Corporate donors also have contributed $2 million to expand after-school programs for youngsters.

So now the focus for improvement must pivot from the external to the internal and the structural and programming changes needed to enhance student instruction and achievement. That’s where we, the community, are relying heavily on Mr. Kamras’ leadership and the RPS board and administration brain trust to help lift Richmond schools out of this slump and help students advance. 

We have seen some positive steps, with the hiring of Dr. Ram Bhagat to help put trauma-informed educational practices in place, and Gov. Ralph S. Northam’s announcement this week of a $217,000 grant to support a year-round or extended-year instructional program at Elkhardt-Thompson Middle School.

A Joint Legislative Audit and Review Commission study found that achievement of historically underperforming students improved faster in extended-year programs than in schools following traditional calendars. And with none of Richmond’s middle schools being fully accredited this year, it is clear that RPS can use the state aid for innovation and improvement.

It’s time now for the heavy lifting if RPS is to truly get on the road to recovery. No more studies by well-paid consultants and double-talk from high-salaried administrators who offer little more than a rearrangement of deck chairs on the Titanic.

The time has come for real solutions and hands-on, day-to-day action if our students are to progress into jobs and higher education that will take them — and this city — to better heights in the future. 

Richmond cannot attract the bevy of new businesses and residents it desires if RPS isn’t up to snuff. No family will want to move to the city if they are not confident that their children will get a solid education in the public schools. 

More importantly, we owe it to the 25,015 RPS students and their families to be better than this.

The challenge awaits Mr. Kamras, the School Board, administrators and teachers. You have the attention and the backing of the community. Now let’s get busy.