RICHMOND, Va. – Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones is finally backing the “Goldman radical fix” for middle schools. People forget – and a lot of the media wasn’t even here at the time – that then mayoral candidate Jones made a big deal about holding a press conference in front of City Hall announcing my endorsement of his candidacy.
At the time, he knew I had been pushing a “radical” [the Mayor said earlier this week he had come around to realizing such a "radical" solution was necessary indeed needed to be tried!] education platform, adding to my “City of the Future” initiative which had been written for Mayor Wilder and backed by City Council.
At the time, Jones didn’t back that plan, although his Administration has since adopted most of it [but not the key part yet].
During his term, I added to the option of “radical” ideas in columns for the RTD and Style along with numerous blog posts.
I backed the election of Kim Gray, the leading reformer on the old School Board, to head the new School Board starting in 2013. But the Mayor used his clout to get one of his major domos – then in an unnecessary high paying job on his payroll and now in specially created new cushy job on the public payroll – Jeff Bourne the position.
The 5th vote was provided by Jones’s son who the Mayor maneuvered to get on the new School Board [Dr. Derik Jones is highly qualified for sure, but he has simply voted the "party" line which he knows can't possibly work].
The Mayor refused to help my first-in-the-nation health initiative which the U.S. Secretary of Education found so promising he changed his national schedule to come down here to endorse.
It broke all participation records based on national data.
The Mayor and his posse were there to take the credit.
But once that was done, I was suddenly maneuvered “out” and the initiative DIED TOTALLY according to my sources.
However, if you look at Mark Holmberg’s TV piece on the initiative, you will realize just how many children have been hurt by not doing it according to what I was ready to do!
When I exposed the way the School System manipulated test scores, the Mayor didn’t help, I had to go to the Va. Dept. of Education to make them force the Richmond School Administration to tell the truth.
Bottom line — The Mayor says his thinking has now “evolved” and he now agrees with my position that “radical” change is necessary.
I am George Marshall on this stuff. I let Senator Warner run around the country claiming he was the guy who ran Doug Wilder’s historic campaigns.
Big friggin’ deal.
It really is flattery if you think about it.
Same thing now.
I am in the process of developing the very type of “radical” plan the Mayor says he is ready to embrace. Although, of course, details will matter.
My plan will be based on the innovative funding ideas contained in my City of the Future Plan passed in 2006 but never fully enacted. It will combine some of the new thinking on the charter school concepts the Mayor is now ready to embrace even though he criticized me for advocating the usefulness of charter schools in 2008.
People forget that I was the only Democrat who actually helped the Patrick Henry School get their charter, I helped rewrite their stuff sent to the School Board along with Keith West.
BOTTOM LINE – If Mayor Jones is serious, then he is about to get a serious and “radical” proposal on how to fix the Middle Schools IN FIVE YEARS TOPS.
My plan will also include an option to add an elementary school initiative since those kids will wind up in a Richmond Middle School if they stay in the city.
As for the High Schools, I have something on that too.
But the Mayor singled out Middle Schools in his speech. “So I’m hoping this School Board will take this as an opportunity to do some radical intervention in the middle schools. And I’ll be using the bully pulpit to encourage them to do that.”
Last year, the Mayor made a big speech saying he would no longer defend mediocrity in the schools as he had done since getting on the School Board in the early 1990′s. Twenty months later, he said on Wednesday, he said I REALLY TRULY MEAN THAT.
But the kids don’t have another 20 months to wait for the next speech.
Why? It could have been just a speech the Mayor thought he had to give in order to cover his flanks before proposing a new downtown baseball stadium. I will give him the benefit of the doubt since I think Mr. Bourne and Dr. Derik Jones are good guys who agree with me, although their economic interests prevent them from saying it.
I don’t worry about that kind of stuff.
In my view, there is a “radical” fix that will benefit the kids acceptable to all nine members of the school board. That’s my goal. The hope is to put the basic details out there next week. And if the Mayor and his posse want to make it their own, then cool.
If the Mayor can leave office having put in place a real fix for the Middle Schools, then I think that will be a lot more historic than any baseball stadium even if you get the Yankees to move to Richmond.
It is not possible to have a first tier city without a first tier K-12 education system.
Once you understand this reality, then I think all things are possible, indeed not that hard to achieve if you have the courage of your convictions. Kids are born smart: it’s adults that make them less so.
Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR. His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity. Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.