Still no date for School Board mandatory training

Darlene M. Johnson | 5/23/2024, 6 p.m.
In a May 20 meeting, the Richmond School Board after much discussion, failed to schedule governance training by the Virginia …
Ms. White

In a May 20 meeting, the Richmond School Board after much discussion, failed to schedule governance training by the Virginia School Board Association to come into compliance with state requirements. Without the required training, the School Board risks the loss of some state funding.

Lisa Coons, the state superintendent, notified the Board of its non-compliance earlier this month. The board’s agreement with the Virginia School Board Association, called a memorandum of understanding, requires all board members and Superintendent Jason Kamras to undergo professional development and training provided by the VSBA at least annually, according to the letter from Ms. Coons. The training covers the board’s responsibilities for student and school achievement at troubled schools.

The agreement does allow the board the opportunity to come back into compliance. Some or all of the board’s at-risk, add-on funding could be restored by the Virginia Board of Education.

RPS’ 2024 budget plan includes over $15 million in at-risk add-on funding from the state, the state’s main funding program for schools with high poverty levels.

The board is searching for a new trainer within the Council of Great City Schools, an organization of urban school districts, due to scheduling conflicts. Mariah White, 2nd District, pushed back on the idea of getting another trainer, citing the yearlong wait for the training to begin.

“At this point, maybe we need to go back to the VSBA and ask them to actually (train us) because they can do it,” Ms. White said.

Stephanie Rizzi, School Board chair and 5th District representative, reminded the School Board of the VSBA’s unwillingness to provide training, Ms. White said that the VSBA showed some willingness to provide the training, in her communications with the group. She voiced her frustration with the process.

“We do professional development once a year and it’s mandated and mandatory,” Ms. White said. “We have to sacrifice and be committed to our jobs here. There’s no excuse.”

Dawn Page, 8th District, suggested that the board send a letter to VSBA to provide training and questioned how much longer the board will continue to go back and forth about dates.

“It just seems to be very disconnected because we’ve been going back and forth with these dates,” Mrs. Page said. “I totally agree, it makes no sense this has been going on probably over a year … You get to the point (where) I’m not going to keep wasting my time when [a] majority of us have agreed to a date and then one or two change it up.”

Mr. Kamras added that the board submitted a request to the Virginia Department of Education to amend the memorandum of understanding, the agreement the board made to receive mandated training, to be able to work with the Council of Great City Schools instead of the VSBA. If things reverted back, the board would need to rescind the request, which Mr. Kamras noted would not likely “sit well.”

After further discussion, Elizabeth Doerr, vice chair and 1st District representative, said she would be “happy” to speak with the VSBA so all board members would be clear on whether the group can provide the training. In the meantime, the required training remains unscheduled.