RPS partnering with nonprofit to raise funds for projects

RICHMOND — Richmond Public Schools is partnering with a national nonprofit that helps teachers raise money for classroom projects.

The school district on Nov. 19 announced a new partnership with DonorsChoose, an organization that has helped teachers in Richmond raise $1.7 million already and complete more than 3,400 projects.

“We are excited to partner with DonorsChoose in hopes of providing even more access for tools and materials that support exciting and rigorous teaching and learning,” said Shadae Harris, the chief engagement officer for RPS.

Richmond is now one of 30 members of the DonorsChoose District Partnership Program. Through the partnership, the district can monitor donated materials. Principals will be notified each time a project is funded and receive early notification when there are opportunities for “match funding.”

More details on the partnership can be found at

VCU professor appointed as distinguished lecturer

RICHMOND — A Virginia Commonwealth University professor has been appointed as a distinguished lecturer by the Organization of American Historians.

Gregory Smithers, a professor in VCU’s history department and an expert on Native American history and culture from the 18th century to the present, is one of 21 new speakers appointed to the organization’s Distinguished Lectureship Program.

“Gregory Smithers offers insight on fascinating topics that include the connections between Native Americans and climate change and how President Trump has fueled anti-Indian prejudice,” said Katherine M. Finley, OAH’s executive director. “We are honored he has joined us as a Distinguished Lecturer.”

Smithers and the other lecturers agree to donate their speaking fees to the organization.

LU dedicates new think tank with focus on faith and liberty

LYNCHBURG — Liberty University is opening a new think tank focused on faith and liberty.

The university announced Nov. 30 that the Falkirk Center for Faith and Liberty is “dedicated to renewing and defending God-given freedoms in America and restoring Judeo-Christian-based principles in our national policies, institutions, and culture.”

It was founded by Liberty President Jerry Falwell Jr. and Turning Point USA founder Charlie Kirk. It will operate as part of the university.

“As attacks on traditional Judeo-Christian beliefs grow in frequency and intensity, the need has never been greater for a national revival of our foundational principles throughout our society and institutions in America,” Falwell said. “We are delighted that Liberty University can play a part in this mission for Christ and American ideals.”

Said Kirk: “It’s time we went on offense to stand up for the Church in America and to actively promote American freedoms based on the values enshrined in the U.S. Constitution.

“It’s an honor to partner with President Jerry Falwell and Liberty University on this purpose-driven mission that will be used to organize an army of believers in faith and liberty, from renowned pastors to young influencers, to renew our sacred freedoms and defend our deeply held convictions.”

Achievement gap persists in Virginia, according to report

RICHMOND — A new report by the Virginia Board of Education says there remains a persistent achievement gap for certain student groups and the state faces a growing shortage of high-quality teachers.

The report, which was officially presented to lawmakers and Gov. Ralph Northam on Sunday, calls for elected officials to rethink how schools are funded.

It says the increasing reliance on local funds versus state money to pay for public schools is “inherently inequitable.”

The report says Virginia is one of the wealthiest states in the country but has a “regressive” system that deprives high-poverty school systems of adequate money.

It also highlights declines in reading proficiency by Virginia students on a national test compared to two years ago.

Firm raises $32K for computer science education in Richmond

RICHMOND — An IT consulting firm in Richmond has raised $32,000 to support computer science education.

Solvaria announced Wednesday that it had donated $32,000 to CodeVA, a nonprofit organization focused on computer science education, through a charity casino night known as “Betting Big On Tech.”

The fundraiser started in 2017 and has raised more than $78,000 for the nonprofit in three years.

“In just three years, Betting Big On Tech has raised more than $78,000 toward CodeVA’s mission to bring meaningful computer science literacy to all Virginia learners,” said Chris Dovi, CodeVA’s executive director. “It’s been a wonderful way of connecting our technology community to classroom impact.”

Sweet Briar announces new VP for enrollment management

SWEET BRIAR — Sweet Briar College has announced a new vice president for enrollment management.

Aaron Basko will start in the role on Jan. 15 after coming to the college from Salisbury University in Maryland.

“This is a one-of-a-kind opportunity to join in the vision of Sweet Briar College as it reinvents higher education for young women,” Basko said. “Sweet Briar’s entrepreneurial spirit and dedication to a personalized educational experience for each of its students make it the perfect place for smart, bold women who are ready to make an impact. I am thrilled to have the opportunity to lead Sweet Briar’s enrollment team and to help students across the country discover this amazing place.”

Basko is an alumnus of West Virginia Wesleyan University and the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign.

Dollar General giving $10K to Hanover schools for initiatives

GOODLETTSVILLE, Tenn. — Dollar General is giving Hanover County Public Schools $10,000 to help with literacy and other education initiatives.

The county school system announced last Monday that representatives from Kersey Creek, Rural Point, Pearson’s Corner, Cool Spring and Mechanicsville elementary schools each received $2,000 as part of a gift through the Dollar General “Thanks Giving” campaign.

Each school can use the money to buy books, technology programs and other educational supplies.

Two schools in region place second, third in video contest

WILLIAMSBURG — Two schools in the Richmond region placed in the Virginia School Boards Association’s student video contest.

Goochland High School came in second place with its video “Virginia is for Learners” while a team at Hanover High School came in third place.

The two schools were chosen from 31 submissions.

— From staff and wire reports

Politics/Education Reporter

Justin Mattingly covers state government and education. A northern New York native and a Syracuse University alumnus, he's worked at the RTD since 2017. You can follow him on Twitter at @jmattingly306.

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