A word to the wise

3/8/2019, noon
We are disappointed and feel duped by Richmond Schools.

We are disappointed and feel duped by Richmond Schools. Superintendent Jason Kamras and the poor way in which he has handled the public school system’s budget plan.

Mr. Kamras expected the Richmond School Board to vote on a proposed $300 million budget without releasing full copies of the plan to them or to the public for thorough review and scrutiny.

The future of Richmond’s 25,000 public schoolchildren cannot be determined in secrecy and without transparency. We believe Mr. Kamras’ actions were in violation of the state’s open records law, and he should be taken to task for it.

Mr. Kamras claims he was protecting the privacy of the school employees whose jobs are slated for elimination under his budget.

But while Mr. Kamras announced weeks ago that he would cut 49 positions in his budget plan, he didn’t release until Monday the actual plan that showed he would be eliminating a total of 74 positions, but adding 25 others. Nor is it clear if any of the new jobs are part of another 25 called for in the school system’s strategic plan that is to be funded in the budget.

At a town hall meeting last week, Mr. Kamras indicated that he was showing the public that Richmond Public Schools could be fiscally responsible by cutting $13 million that included funding for the 74 positions.

Mr. Kamras’ public relations ploy has backfired. He has damaged his credibility and squandered some of public trust he has gained during his first year on the job by playing fast and loose with the budget process.

Transparency is paramount in Richmond, particularly because of the past problems of non-disclosure by former Superintendent Dana Bedden of an $8 million surplus when parents, teachers, students and advocates were begging the city for additional money to fix broken down schools.

Mr. Kamras needs to stop the smoke and mirrors and follow the law, particularly when it comes to money and RPS. Otherwise, like Dr. Bedden, he may be out before his contract ends.

If Mr. Kamras and the School Board can find the resources, perhaps they should hire retiring Petersburg Schools Superintendent Marcus J. Newsome as a consultant. Dr. Newsome’s long and successful record leading school districts in Newport News, Chesterfield County and Petersburg could only be a plus for Richmond.