City leaders are slated this week to begin their first public push of a plan to replace past discord between city and public school officials with a coordinated approach to boosting student health and achievement.
The first of five sessions announced to date is set for 7 p.m. Thursday at Thomas Jefferson High School, as part of a 1st District meeting hosted by City Council member Andreas D. Addison and School Board member Liz Doerr.
The goal of the push is to solicit feedback across the city from people invested in moving Richmond forward, said Thad Williamson, a senior policy advisor to Mayor Levar M. Stoney.
“We haven’t had a chance to take this directly to the people,” Williamson said, of a proposal issued by the mayor’s office last month.
The documents, referred to as a compact by plan architects, formalize a desire on the part of the mayor, the City Council and the School Board to establish shared goals and ultimately a “shared funding strategy” to meet those goals.
Williamson said this should reduce public clashes over the budget and increase accountability for a school system held up repeatedly during election season as an impediment to the city’s progress.
But first, feedback.
“This is a gut check to be sure that the high-level goals ... didn’t miss anything,” he said of the public meetings. “Really, we want these goals to be communitywide goals everyone knows we’re trying to meet.”
Kenita Bowers, spokeswoman for Richmond Public Schools, said the division welcomed the opportunity to hear from Richmond residents about the actions contemplated in the plan.
“We look forward to working collaboratively toward a shared strategic framework for investing in and achieving improvements in the quality of life and academic progress for all RPS students,” Bowers said in an email.
Many of the performance goals are tied to the creation of a strategic plan by the city’s School Board, which has seen 100 percent turnover in the past year.
The success of these efforts also hinges on officials’ ability to reduce and deconcentrate childhood poverty, which at nearly 40 percent is the second highest percentage in the state, according to a report produced by the Annie E. Casey Foundation. Williamson said the city hopes to halve that number in the next 10 to 15 years.
“We have a lot of engaged, creative, talented people in the city,” he said. “Maybe people will start thinking about how they plug in (to achieve that goal).”
About 10,500 Richmond youth aged 5 to 17 were living in poverty in 2014, according to state Department of Education data.
The other four meetings are scheduled for 6 p.m. April 4 at Blackwell Elementary School; 5:30 p.m. April 5 at Westover Hills Elementary School; and 9:30 a.m. at the VCU student commons and 6 p.m. at George Wythe High School on April 6. A meeting in the city’s East End is in the works, Williamson said.