Fifth district School Board representative, Maurice Henderson, was kind enough to answer our interview questions. His challenger, Mamie Taylor did the same a fe
w weeks back
w weeks back. The race could be close as School Board leadership is an issue of constant controversy in the city. If you didn’t get your question submitted in time, feel free to post a follow-up below and maybe you’ll attract a comment from the incumbent himself.
1) Why should the 5th district retain you as our School Board representative?
I owe in no small way my personal success in life to the dedication and preparation that I received from the teachers and administrators in Richmond Public Schools. I strongly believe my life and professional experiences have prepared me to contribute to the transformation of RPS into a globally competitive public school system.
- As a board member and Vice Chairman, I have demonstrated a commitment to serve all our children.
- In a time of severe budget pressure, I have demonstrated strong support and appreciation for the professionals in RPS and their ongoing development.
- I have made adequate funding of education for our children my highest priority, and will continue to do so.
2) There have been calls for removing the entire school board. Why do you think there is so much disappointment with school leadership in Richmond? And how can you change it? What have you learned from your past term on the School Board that will affect how you go forward?
A dear friend told me when I finish my tenure on the school board that I would not have enough friends to carry my casket. I guess he is right. It is very difficult to satisfy all of the sides in the public school debate, and sometime no one is satisfied with the selected compromise. In this time of severe and continuous budget cutting we are sure to disappoint a large swath of our community. Our most important task has been to wisely use the resources available to us to educate all of the children of our city. Today we are operating with income reductions from our staff so that we could retain critical resources for one more year. The only people that could be happy with this situation are the staff that were able to retain their jobs. I have faced teachers asking, “Will we ever receive a raise?” I have addressed parents expressing concern about growing class sizes. I have seen a growing special education need call for more resources.
For all that are listening I share a few facts: 1) we are leading among the states districts in the commitment of our budget to the classroom, with the lowest % allocated to administration in the region. 2) our educators are recognized among their peers as leaders in developing strategies for successfully educating our diverse population. 3) our preschool initiatives are clearly paying dividends.
I conclude my first term ever more convicted to operate with integrity and transparency. The tough choices are not made any easier, but it allows me to put my all into working to find the best solutions for our kids.
3) Should Cary Elementary remain open? Why or why not?
Without hesitation or reservation, emphatically Yes, Cary should remain open. Cary is a leading elementary school in the district serving a diverse population. It has been continuously recognized as one of the best performing schools in the state; and its staff has been recognized for its leadership and accomplishments. They are in the early stage of deploying the “Leader in Me”, a Steven Covey leadership development model for elementary school children. Ask your Cary Cougar, or maybe they are already encouraging you to “Be Proactive”. If this is new to you, we are talking about the first of the seven habits the students are putting into practice. This is an exciting time at Cary as they are completing the planning for the strategic plan action items that they were assigned. In Sep 2013 Cary will welcome its first sixth grade class in the K-6 configuration. Cary has a bright future in our community.
4) The Byrd Park neighborhood is currently split between two schools. The rezoning task force recommending zoning the whole neighborhood for Fox, but the School Board did not vote on the proposal. How would you address this issue?
The rezoning committee worked as an action team in our strategic planning process. The primary need was to take a detailed look at school zones that have not been evaluated for almost thirty years. This is the first time that we have had a complete GIS database for the city to support our ongoing program planning process. The new database will allow the system to plan and account for initiatives being implemented in a few schools or across the district. We will consider program demand as well as where our students live in our future planning.
The strategic plan timeline fully recognized the construction of schools on the south-side and the need to plan for student assignments for these schools. The same urgency does not exist for the remainder of the district, allowing us to use all the plans and tools that are available to us.
The rezoning task force recommendations will be one input into our planning, and we are extremely grateful to the members for providing us with a solid foundation.
5) Clark Springs Elementary has a very low enrollment rate from its eligible households and yet, it’s over-crowded. Can you explain it, and how would you change it?
The vast majority of the Clark Springs students are in zone, and its new zone design will consider the task force recommendation as well as new programs.
6) What can be done to keep parents from relocating to the counties in pursuit of more appealing school options?
While I don’t sit at their kitchen table, I do recall the stresses that we faced as young parents to make the best choices for our children. We saw our children’s adolescent years as very critical, and we were very engaged. The choice of schools is based on fact and perception in every case. While we are constantly striving to improve the facts of our schools and the education outcomes that our students achieve, perception lags under the weight of history. Our strategic planning has made broad based academic progress in our secondary schools a priority. Several initiatives have been launched and are beginning to show positive results.