Affecting Change as an Individual

by Jessee Perry

Affecting Change

I generally refrain from getting involved with federal politics because it feels like such a lost cause for an individual to be able to impact change. My focus and affinity for local government is how accessible it is (in theory) to everyday residents to make an impact. Some days, even local #RVAPolitics seem like a hopeless wasteland with a chasm between elected officials and Richmond residents. Recent efforts with the Education Compact have reiterated that affecting local change is a messy process, but it is possible. 

The Education Compact was introduced six months ago in mid-February 2017. Originally the goal was host four weeks of public input and finalize the compact by April 1st. Since School Board and Council are meeting on August 21st to discuss and vote on the most recent revisions... obviously things did not go according to plan. 

So, what does this messy sausage factory of public input look like? Below you will find a summary timeline with links documenting the transformation of the education compact. Following the summary, I identify recommended changes that came from individuals or organizations with an update of how they were or were not addressed. 


Education Compact: a Timeline

JANUARY 13, 2017- MAYOR'S BLOG POST ON EDUCATION COMPACT

This blog post serves as a "state of the state" meets vision document. The overarching goal of schools is to improve educational outcomes and reduce poverty and it will take all levels of government collaborating to succeed. He goes on to say the Education Compact will have clear goals and measurements to hold themselves accountable. Identifies critical needs of RPS including: recruiting and adequately compensating teachers and administration, provide support services, engage families, workforce development programs, invest in public safety, and trauma-informed employees. 

FEBRUARY 16, 2017- ORIGINAL EDUCATION COMPACT RELEASED WITH LETTER FROM MAYOR

  • Letter defined the attached documents, defined what the education compact is not intended to be, and outlined the next steps to move toward adoption. 
  • The first draft of the Education Compact was six pages long. It included:
    • Three shared commitments: institutionalize collaboration, achieve transformational goals (academic achievement and addressing needs of whole child), and create a shared funding strategy.
    • Goals, Metrics and Action Steps: identifies goals for academic achievement and meeting needs of the whole child with metrics of success and action steps.
    • Education Compact Team
      • Meeting frequency: Monthly and twice per month during budget season
      • Membership composition: 2 members of City Council, 2 members of School Board, Mayor's Office designees,  CAO, Superintendent, Commonwealth of Virginia Children Cabinet representation, philanthropic community representation, nonprofit partner, business community representation, RPS staff, parents, students
    • Children's Cabinet
      • Meeting frequency: Monthly
      • Membership composition: CAO, Deputy CAO of Human Services, Director Social Services, Director OCWB, Early Childhood Coordinator, Mayor's Office designee, Superintendent, RPS COO, RPS Chief of Staff, Associate Superintendent for Academic Services, RPS CFO, Director of Family & Student Services, 1 City Council member, 1 School Board member. 
    • Elected Leader Collaboration
      • RPS Superintendent open invitation to Mayor's Cabinet Meetings
      • Mayor appoint at least 1 staff as an RPS liason
      • Shared legislative agenda and strategy between branches of govt 
    • Operating Principles
      • Quarterly and annual progress reviews

MARCH 28, 2017- RTD ARTICLE ABOUT COMPACT MEETINGS

  • Public input meetings are announced
  • Five sessions (March 30th, April 4th, April 5th, April 6th) scheduled with a sixth TBD

MARCH 29, 2017- WASHINGTON POST ARTICLE CRITICIZING THE EDUCATION COMPACT AS A POWER GRAB

  • Written by Richard Meagher, who is a Randolph-Macon political science professor, politics blogger at RVA Politics, and political analyst. 
  • Article criticizes meetings being under-promoted and that the document creates a power imbalance because the Mayor has increased oversight over schools. 

MARCH 29, 2017- RICHMOND FORWARD POST EXPLAINING COMPACT

  • Outlines the history behind the compact, what the compact is, Richmond Forward's analysis on how the compact will change RPS, a proposed timeline for the Education Compact and beyond, and a call to action. 
  • Richmond Forward believes the compact's metrics, adoption of strategic plan, and formation of a Children's Cabinet are the points that will transform RPS Schools. 

APRIL 18, 2017- STYLE WEEKLY COVERAGE OF COMPACT MEETINGS

  • Outlines public input received including: questions about full-time staffing, how community members are chosen to serve, needing a timeline for implementation, need to address funding, include information about individual education plans for special needs children, and addressing student behavior. 

MAY 29 2017- RICHMOND FORWARD UPDATED COMPACT INFORMATION

  • This post provides an update on where the Education Compact stands and where it has been in addition to some suggested changes. 
  • Richmond Forward's suggested changes: 
    • Composition- How will non-elected or staff representatives be selected? How to keep out dominate/bullying members?
    • Staffing- Will there be full-time dedicated staff? Who will be held accountable? 
    • Transparency- There is no public comment and some meetings can be closed session. How is there transparency? How will decisions be made? How will information be disseminated and reviewed?
    • Timeline- What is the timeline to implement supporting policy documents? 

JUNE 7, 2017- MAYOR EDUCATION COMPACT UPDATE

Shortly before a press conference hosted by education advocates, Mayor Stoney released an update about the education compact. This note recognized there have been 12 public meetings and they are currently working on a revised draft for the resolution. The revised draft will be focus on the collaborative effort between the levels of government top include: quarterly meetings, establish a Richmond Children's Cabinet, and establish an Education Compact Team. 

JUNE 7, 2017- EDUCATION ADVOCATES HOST PRESS CONFERENCE 

Education advocates hosted a press conference to ask Mayor Stoney to pause the Education Compact until a new Superintendent is in place. The group of advocates included representatives from Richmond Teachers for Social Justice, Students for RPS, Support Our Schools, local PTA members, Richmond Crusade for Voters, etc. They voiced concerns that this document would open the door for school privatization efforts and the academic goals should not be identified in the absence of a Superintendent. 

JUNE 8, 2017- MICHAEL PAUL WILLIAMS OPINION IN RTD

Michael Paul Williams wrote an opinion piece outlining some of the stances of opponents to the education compact along with his commentary. He questions how much power a new superintendent would have with the volume of recommendations coming from the Education Compact. 

JUNE 10, 2017- SAVE OUR SCHOOLS REVIEWS OUTSOURCING EFFORTS

In the wake of concerns about charters, the Save Our Schools bloggers (Carol Wolf and John Butcher) rehash previous outsourcing efforts. 

JUNE 15, 2017- RICHMOND FORWARD IDENTIFIES SUGGESTIONS FOR IMPROVING PUBLIC ENGAGEMENT

Garret Prior writes up a lesson in urban planning about the Ladder of Citizen Participation as a model for effective community engagement. This includes his recommendations on how RVA can improve community engagement efforts by providing essentials (transportation, food, childcare, etc), increase number of have-not representatives on Education Compact committee, and set a timeline for future goals. 

JUNE 16, 2017- SCHOOL BOARD DRAFT RESOLUTION

This is the second draft of the education compact. This version is only two pages long while the original draft was six pages. The new proposal is a gutted rendition of the original draft as it retains the collaborative efforts but removes the accountability goals and metrics. Included in this resolution is:

  • Quarterly Joint Meetings between Mayor's Office, RVA Council and RPS Board
  • Develop an Education Compact Team
    • Meeting frequency: Monthly
    • Membership composition: 2 members of school board, 2 members of city council, administrative leadership of Richmond City and RPS (including superintendent), parents, teachers, philanthropic community and other cross sector partners.
    • Membership selection: School Board and City Council select their own members, Superintendent selects RPS teachers and staff, initial selection of stakeholders based on consensus of Mayor and leadership of SB/CC. 
  • Establish Children's Cabinet
    • Meeting frequency: regular basis
    • Membership composition: City of Richmond administration and RPS administration

JUNE 16, 2017- READER'S GUIDE

At the same time the new draft was released, the Mayor's office also released a "reader's guide" intended to answer questions and dispel myths. The guide includes information on:

  • Why the Education Compact is necessary
  • A timeline of the compact's history to date
  • Lessons learned from community meetings
  • Resolution will focus only on collaboration
  • Identify the Education Compact's initial priorities
  • Additional Q&A
    • This will not remove power from the board
    • This will not introduce privatization efforts
    • Compact will be managed by a chair elected by the Education Compact Team and Children's Cabinet
    • Transparency is promoted by public meetings and a tracking website
    • Says the compact should move forward before a Superintendent is in place

JUNE 23, 2017- OPENSOURCE RVA EDUCATION ROUNDTABLE

OpenSource RVA hosted a round table discussion about current education issues including the education compact. Participants included: Richard Meagher from RVA Politics, Garet Prior from Richmond Forward, and Emma Clarke from Support Our Schools. 

JUNE 26, 2017- RTD ANALYSIS OF EDUCATION COMPACT

  • Academic goals are dropped leaving only collaborative meetings and committees 
  • Kim Gray says the biggest piece missing is a superintendent in place
  • Dawn Page says they have expressed to Mayor Stoney the need to hold off on the academic goals until a superintendent is in place
  • Linda Owen said there should never have been metrics in the education compact

JUNE 26, 2017- A RESIDENT COMPACT AND CONCERNS

Two posts come from Save Our Schools  today. In one, Carol Wolf, former school board member and education advocate, posits the question... what if residents created their own compact? In the other, Carol expresses her hopeful skepticism over the document. 

JUNE 27, 2017- EDUCATION ADVOCATES PROPOSE EDITS

Support Our Schools and education advocates released a document of proposed edits to the most recent draft of the education compact. 

  • Add language identifying roles of the Mayor, RVA Council, and RPS Board and ensuring the autonomy of the board.
  • State explicitly the quarterly joint meetings include the Superintendent
  • Add language that all joint meetings will be filmed and posted online with meeting highlights in English and Spanish
  • Add language stating the School Board will identify a quarterly focus or the Education Compact team and School Board must approve the agenda
  • Increase the number of school board and city council members from two to three
  • Add language creating structure around the community members on the Education Compact team. 
    • 4 parents, one from elementary/middle/high school, two chosen by SB and 2 chosen by PTA Council
    • 4 teachers, one from elementary/middle/high school, one special education teacher, one teacher from a school with a high EL population, superintendent makes selection
    • Philanthropic community members and other cross sector partners submit their names to School Board, the information is made public, the board receives public comment, and then the board votes the members onto the committee
    • Add language that the compact team should design long-term goals
    • Add language clearly stating the compact team will not consider any form of school choice as part of their strategy
    • Add language to include qualitative measures, not just testing, for students and teachers
    • Add language that all education compact team meetings will be after 5PM
    • Add language identifying an amendment process to include public comment and the school board has approval power

JUNE 28, 2017- RTD EDUCATION COMPACT EDITORIAL

Richmond Times-Dispatch editorial board wrote a scathing piece about the education compact. Their position is the teeth of the compact were pulled when the academic goals were removed. They called the concerns over privatization "laughable," said the compact does not demand much from RPS, and lamented the lack of recourse if the school system fails to meet the plans. 

JULY 7, 2017- RICHMOND FORWARD JOINT MEETING OVERVIEW

Richmond Forward provides another update on the Education Compact. He reiterates the changes that should be made including creating at timeline, adding more have-not representatives, and staffing guarantee. He detours to soapbox a bit about his criticisms of advocacy groups while providing a rules of advocate engagement of sorts. 

JULY 17, 2017- CITY COUNCIL RESOLUTION

A revised resolution draft was submitted to City Council. This draft only addresses the collaborative meetings, education compact team, and Children's Cabinet. 

  • Joint Council, School Board, Mayor, Superintendent meetings every quarter
  • Meetings will all be recorded and made public with summaries in English and Spanish
  • Education Compact Team
    • Meeting frequency: Monthly, after 5PM, recorded
    • Membership composition: 3 members of council, 3 members of school board, 2 members of city leadership appointed by the Mayor, 2 members of school division leadership appointed by Superintendent, 6 members representing state government/business/philanthropic/non-profit/civic/academic communities appointed by the Mayor with consent of council and school board leadership, 6 members of parents/teachers/staff/students appointed by School Board
  • Children's Cabinet
    • Meeting frequency: regular
    • Membership composition: city agency representatives and school division representatives

JULY 18, 2017- MAYOR'S LETTER TO COUNCIL AND SCHOOL BOARD

  • Definitions of School Board, Mayor, and City Council roles and responsibilities
  • Education Compact is a framework for collaboration
  • Education Compact is not a vehicle for privatization efforts
  • Next step is for superintendent to draft an education compact team operating plan detailing the next year of activities

JULY 18, 2017- SCHOOL BOARD RESOLUTION

  • Superintendent and Mayor are present at all quarterly joint meetings, meetings are after 5PM, meetings are filmed and posted online with highlights in English and Spanish
  • Education Compact Team
    • Meeting frequency: monthly 
    • Membership composition: 3 members of school board, 3 members of city council, administrative leadership of Richmond City and RPS (including superintendent), 6 members representing business/philanthropic/non-profit/civic/academic/state government picked through consensus among Mayor/council leadership/school board leadership, and 6 members representing parents/teachers/staff members/students picked through an open nomination process through the School Board. 
    • Education Compact Team announced within 30 days of adoption
  • Children's Cabinet
    • Meeting frequency: regular
    • Membership composition: Richmond City administrative units and Richmond Public Schools officials

Summary of Suggested and Implemented Changes

In addition to 12 public input meetings, local activist organizations got involved with shaping the Education Compact to it's current state. Garet Prior with Richmond Forward maintained regular updates, analysis, and recommendations throughout the process.  A group of education advocates which included representation from Richmond Teachers for Social Justice, Support Our Schools, Crusade for Voters, and more publicly criticized the compact by hosting a press conference to verbalize their concerns about potential for privatization and the need to wait until a new Superintendent is selected. The conglomerate of education advocates also proposed their own edits. There were moments of tension stemming from disagreement among the involved advocates and local press got in the fray with opinion articles and editorials. For as messy as it was, a lot of the suggested changes were addressed in the final proposal making this a document envisioned by elected officials but molded by the voice of public input. 

 

PUBLIC INPUT MEETINGS

  • How will the Education Compact Team be chosen?
    • Addressed in final draft resolutions
  • Rules keeping non-teachers from coaching
    • Not part of Education Compact
  • Discuss Individualized Education Plans for special needs students
    • Not part of Education Compact
  • How is funding addressed
    • Final draft of resolution says the Education Compact Team will make non-bonding policy recommendations that may encompass funding strategies
  • Addressing student behavior
    • Not part of Education Compact
  • Two initial priorities: funding facilities and developing a shared funding strategy
    • Final draft of resolution says the Education Compact Team will make non-binding policy recommendations that may encompass funding strategies
  • Education Compact Team meetings should be public with participation from Mayor and Superintendent
    • Final draft of resolution clearly identifies this
  • Mayor, City Council, and School Board develop policy goals within the scope of their role
    • Letter from Mayor to SB and CC identifies roles and responsibilities of each level of government
  • Make clear Education Compact Team's role is to make recommendations and not set policy
    • Final draft of resolution states it is the Education Compact Team's job to make nonbinding policy recommendations
  • Clarify the Education Compact is not to support school choice efforts
    • Letter from Mayor to SB and CC states the Education Compact is not and will not be a vehicle for privatization of schools
  • Commitment to continued public engagement
    • Education Compact meetings will be planned a year out

 

EDUCATION ADVOCATES

  • Wait for a new Superintendent to be in place before moving forward
    • Academic goals/metrics were dropped from the Education Compact
  • Outline roles of each government body
    • Letter from Mayor to SB and CC identifies each government layer's roles and responsibility
  • Guarantee autonomy of School Board
    • The June 16th Reader's Guide states the compact will not take power away from School Board. The final draft resolution states Education Compact team recommendations are only advisory.
  • Superintendent clearly a part of Joint Meetings
    • Added to final draft of resolution
  • All meetings should be public after 5PM and recorded with highlights in English and Spanish
  • School Board sets the agenda for the Education Compact
    • Added to final drat of resolution
  • Increase from 2 to 3 School Board and City Council members on the Education Compact Team
    • Added to final draft of resolution
  • Education Compact Team include 4 parents (1 from elementary/middle/high school) with 2 selected by School Board and 2 selected by PTA Council
    • Final draft of resolution provides for 6 members to be parents/teachers/staff/or students and will be selected by Mayor with consent of SB and CC leadership
  • Education Compact Team include 4 teachers (1 from elementary/middle/high school, 1 special education teacher, 1 teacher from school at a school with a high EL population) chosen by the Superintendent
    • Final draft of resolution provides for 6 members to be parents/teachers/staff/or students and will be selected by Mayor with consent of SB and CC leadership
  • Community stakeholders chosen by submission to School Board, names announced, public comment received, and School Board votes
    • Final draft of resolution provides for 6 members to be state government/business/philanthropic/non-profit/civic/academic communities chosen by Mayor and approved with consent of CC and SB leadership
  • Education Compact team will articulate long term goals and address securing funds
    • Final draft of resolution says the Education Compact Team will make non-bonding policy recommendations that may encompass funding strategies
  • Compact team will not consider school choice strategies
    • Letter from Mayor to SB and CC states this is not and will not be a vehicle for privatization
  • Implement qualitative measurements for students and teachers, not just testing
    • Academic goals and metrics were removed
  • Add an amendment process where public forum is held and School Board passes the amendments
    • No amendment process identified

 

RICHMOND FORWARD

  • Need to know how non-elected or staff representation will be selected
    • Process outlined in final draft
  • Need a commitment to a dedicated full-time staff position
    • Final draft resolution states appropriate staff time will be allocated to support the work of the Compact
  • Increased transparency
    • Public meetings, recorded, after 5PM
  • Create a timeline for key supporting policy documents
    • No timeline established
  • Improve public engagement format
    • Public meetings, recorded, after 5PM
  • Increase number of have-not representatives on Education Compact Team
    • 12 community members included on Education Compact Team