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New Richmond Mayor Levar Stoney welcomes children back to school

RICHMOND, Va. -- Levar Stoney spent his first day as Richmond mayor touring three public schools. There he greeted children on their way in after winter break.

Stoney stopped at John Marshal High School, Martin Luther King Middle School, and Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School Monday morning.

"I want all our kids to succeed and it begins at the top," he said at Oak Grove-Bellemeade Elementary School. "I wanted to make a statement by being here today."

Improving schools in Richmond was a focus of Stoney's mayoral campaign.

"We hear about a lot of negativity from Richmond Public Schools, but if you were at Marshall or MLK or here at Oak Grove, you'll see there are kids succeeding here despite the odds or circumstances,” he said.

Last month, Richmond Schools Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden requested $22.7 million in additional funding for the school system next year. The money, he said, would address an array of needs like increasing teacher salaries, hiring foreign language teachers, and helping students who are not meeting state benchmarks.

Stoney said while they are in the very early stages of the budget process, he felt optimistic.

"I think every person I talked to during the campaign season said education was their number one issue. So we have to get together and actually create some measures and goals on where we're going to go. And we're beginning that process today,” he said.

Stoney was joined by Richmond School Board chairman Jeffrey Bourne.

"I'm extremely excited about what the year to come is going to bring,” Bourne said. "Money isn't going to solve all of our problems, but it will help build a school system that our children deserve and our parents expect."

Parents like Lakeisha Whitfielt.

Whitfielt and her family just moved to Richmond from New York. Monday was her daughter's first day of 5th grade in Richmond.

"She was kind of nervous... but the good thing is we got to meet the mayor," Whitfielt said. "It was just exciting to know what someone is young and ready to make change. Something positive."

Stoney said he intended to keep his campaign promise to visit each school in Richmond at least once a year.