ELECTION 2020: Six contested races taking place for Richmond School Board

Ronald E. Carrington | 10/29/2020, 6 p.m.
The Richmond School Board will change after Nov. 3, with three current board members deciding not to seek re-election. Four ...

The Richmond School Board will change after Nov. 3, with three current board members deciding not to seek re-election. Four incumbents also are facing challengers.

The new School Board will be faced with decisions on whether Richmond Public Schools classrooms should reopen for in-person learning in February or continue with its current virtual learning because of the coronavirus.

The board also must grapple with ways to increase the RPS graduation rate, reduce the dropout rate and boost the number of schools earning accreditation. According to a recent Virginia Department of Education report, RPS had the lowest graduation rate at the end of the 2019-2020 academic year and produced more dropouts in the last four years than any other public school division in the state.

Also, only 20 of the 44 city schools are accredited based on the state’s standards. RPS’ strategic plan, Dreams4RPS, projects to have all 44 schools accredited by 2023.

Those are just a few of the things a new School Board will tackle.

Two members of the current board, Liz B. Doerr of the 1st District and Cheryl L. Burke of the 7th District are unopposed in seeking another four-year term.

They will be joined on the board by Nicole Jones, deputy director of a nonprofit agency, who is running unopposed in the 9th District to fill the seat now held by board Chair Linda Owen, who is stepping down.

In the 2nd District, incumbent J. Scott Barlow is facing challenger Mariah L. White, a veteran Defense Department employee. In the 3rd District, incumbent Kenya J. Gibson is in a contested race against Sabrina J. Gross, an attorney who works for the state Department of Education. In the 4th District, incumbent Jonathan M. Young is being challenged by Deanna Fierro, a middle school math teacher in Henrico County; while 8th District incumbent Dawn C. Page is being opposed by Dana C. Sally-Allen, a support services specialist.

Four candidates are seeking election to the 5th District seat, held now by Dr. Patrick Sapini, who is not seeking another term. The candidates are Jenny A. Aghomo, an estheti- cian and former PTA president at John B. Cary Elementary and former member of the superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee; Decardra L. Jackson, STEM coordinator for Petersburg Public Schools; David F. Jones Sr., a contractor and coach who started a mentoring program for student-athletes; and Stephanie M. Rizzi, an assistant professor at Virginia Commonwealth University who has been active with RPS.

In the 6th District, three candidates are vying for the seat now held by Felicia Cosby who is stepping down. Those candidates are Shonda M. Harris-Muhammed, a longtime educator and former School Board member; Lynette R. Plummer, a Realtor and member of the mayor’s Education Compact Committee; and Timika S. Vincent, a respiratory therapist and PTA president at John B. Cary Elementary who created her own nonprofit.