School Board to take up rezoning, budget resolution April 8

Ronald E. Carrington | 3/22/2019, 6 a.m.
The Richmond School Board is still far from making specific decisions on rezoning the city’s 44 public schools, but it ...

The Richmond School Board is still far from making specific decisions on rezoning the city’s 44 public schools, but it is starting to take preliminary steps to address a long sought goal of “right-sizing” the division.

Having put a consultant, Cropper GIS Consulting, in place to gather essential population data, the nine-member School Board unanimously approved Superintendent Jason Kamras’ rezoning goals of increasing student diversity, eliminating overcrowding in some schools and vacant seats in others, engaging the community and increasing community use of school buildings.

In addition, the board approved having some oversight of the work, but put off a decision on the oversight method until Monday, April 8.

The board is considering four options. Three involve advisory committees.

One proposal calls for appointing a subcommittee of three to four board members to review the Cropper GIS data and rezoning proposals; another calls for setting up a joint committee with the city that would include some members of the public to do that work; and a third calls for setting up a larger advisory committee with up to 30 people from the nine city districts to handle the work.

The final option would be to avoid that kind of process and, instead, hold multiple community meetings where parents, students and the public could review the Cropper information and offer perspectives for the board to consider.

The collegial show on this matter contrasted with fractures within the board over Mayor Levar M. Stoney’s proposal to raise the city’s real estate rate by 9 cents and create a new cigarette tax to provide an $18.5 million increase in city support for school operations and $19 million in new funding to maintain buildings.

Irked that board Chair Dawn C. Page, 8th District, and Vice Chair Elizabeth Doerr, 1st District, jumped to support the mayor’s plan without consulting other members, Jonathan Young, 4th District, who is opposed to a tax increase, introduced a resolution to rescind that endorsement.

The board, which put off consideration of the resolution until the April 8 meeting, exposed its differences in debating whether the resolution should even be read as it was introduced just before the meeting.

Ms. Page first objected to having the resolution read, but then relented.

Mr. Young was particularly withering in his criticism of any decision to prevent the resolution from being introduced. He said he could not understand how some members would endorse “a tax increase absent any discussion with their colleagues, but then would object to a resolution identifying different opinions … even being read aloud at a public meeting.”