Good morning, RVA! It's 52 °F, and get ready for an excellent day. Expect sunshine, highs in the 70s, and no excuse not to spend at least some of today out of doors.
Taikein Cooper, Executive Director of Virginia Excels, writes about his experience growing up in Prince Edward County, why we need to heavily invest to truly bring an end to separate-but-equal schools, and why he supports the Mayor’s proposed budget. I agree strongly with this next bit, and it applies to citizens and councilmembers both: “Subsequently, I’ve witnessed many people say that they want to enrich the city’s infrastructure, enhance our schools, and make Richmond a better place for all, but then they are adamantly against taking any of the necessary steps to accomplish those things. The proposed budget is not flawless, but instead of turning it down, we should work together over the coming weeks to perfect it for those who need it the most.” We can dismiss the Mayor’s proposal to roll back the Recession-era tax cuts out of hand—and the investments in schools, streets, housing, and transit along with it—or we can figure out how to work together to do something big. Now is not the time for cuts, austerity, or political posturing. It’s time to do what’s right, get to work, and begin undoing decades of disinvestment in our City.
Michael Paul Williams’s column this week is about a Richmond Police officer’s completely inappropriate interaction with students at Albert Hill Middle School. Williams asks Richmond’s school leadership to take a look at their policies related to the RPD and to do what they can to disrupt the school-to-prison pipeline. Important work, for sure, and it’s work that RPS and its Superintendent have started tackling over the last year or so. Kamras has focused on equity beginning with his first-100-days plan and continuing through the Dreams4RPS strategic plan (PDF). Check out “Priority 3: Safe and Loving School Cultures” in the aforelinked PDF for specifics on how he plans to shift the culture in schools towards restoration, resilience, and empathy. Also, not to make everything about the budget even though everything is kind of about the budget, $610,000 of RPS’s funding request from the City this year is earmarked for Priority 3.
Justin Mattingly at the Richmond Times-Dispatch also has an interesting piece about Richmond Public Schools today. Scroll past the stuff about RPS’s decision to hire a 3rd-party to review the new-school construction estimates (still interesting, I guess), to the very bottom where Mattingly has the first details I’ve seen about rezoning. From the article: “A Rezoning Advisory Committee will meet twice per month to help the demographics firm hired by RPS, Cropper GIS, in creating up to five rezoning proposals for the School Board and community to review. The committee will have three board members (Cosby, Sapini and the 9th District’s Linda Owen), three appointees from the RPS administration and two community appointees from each of the nine city districts.” Fascinating, and, if you feel qualified and interested, you should totally email your School Board rep about getting on this committee.
The plan for a new brewery at the old car wash site on Brookland Park Boulevard has...boiled over? Gone flat? Some other beer- and brewing-related joke? Mike Platania at Richmond BizSense says that while the brewers have pulled out, the property’s owner still has a valid Special Use Permit for a brewery that’s good for two years. Is this an opportunity for a Black-owned brewery to move in to the neighborhood?
I’m a little late with it this week, but I’ve got Monday’s budget work session posted to the Boring Show. We’re still waiting for Council to have the Big Discussion about what to cut from the Mayor’s budget if they’re unwilling to raise $21 million in new revenue—but that discussion is on the horizon and headed our way, maybe as soon as Monday.
This morning's longread
Superintendent Kamras shared this link the other day, and it definitely matches my experience. I did a lot of stage crew in my youth, and, looking back, it was probably the most hands-on, student-led, leadership-oriented learning experience during my time in high school.
Consider the theater production that we observed at a large public high school in an affluent suburban community. Students who had slouched their way through regular classes suddenly became capable, curious and confident. The urgency of the approaching premiere lent the endeavor a sense of momentum. Students were no longer vessels to be filled with knowledge, but rather people trying to produce something of real value. Coaching replaced “professing” as the dominant mode of teaching. Apprenticeship was the primary mode of learning. Authority rested not with teachers or students but with what the show demanded. What we saw on a debate team in a high-poverty urban public school was similar. Monthly debate competitions gave the work a clear sense of purpose and urgency. Faculty members and older students mentored the novices. Students told us that “debate is like a family.” Perhaps most important, debate gave students a chance to speak in their own voices on issues that mattered to them. Inducted into an ancient form of verbal and mental discipline, they discovered a source of personal power.
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