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Richmond Schools cut nearly 50 central office jobs with new budget

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Richmond School Board voted 6-3 Monday night to approve a budget that will slash nearly 50 central office positions. What jobs will be cut remains unclear to the public.

Richmond School Superintendent Jason Kamras said cutting $13 million from the proposed $300 million budget would help steer the school district in a new direction by creating more teaching positions and resources for the classroom, while eliminating unnecessary administrative positions.

"When you make a cut of this significance, you really need to reorganize how you operate," Kamras said. "You can't just cut and do things in the same way."

Along with approving the budget, the board also asked the city to increase its recurring funding by $18 million to help pay for the district's five-year strategic plan and match a state-approved 5 percent teacher pay raise.

Kamras said he'd like to see more teaching positions created and more resources for art, music, and world languages.

School board members Patrick Sapini, Felicia Cosby, and Kenya Gibson voted against the proposed budget.

Gibson voiced concerns over the impact of job cuts.

She said the administration has shown a lack of transparency in the job elimination process.

"I've been pushing for a very long time for more transparency regarding the list of cuts," Gibson said. "I thought we were going to protect those people and it doesn't feel like protection when their jobs are at stake."

Kamras said he hopes impacted employees would be notified by April 1, giving them three months to plan before the end of their contracts.

He said the district would work with employees to help find placement in other areas of the school district, if possible.

A. Ramon Moore, President of the Richmond Education Association, said it's difficult to plan for the future when school leaders are unsure whether they'll receive the additional $18 million from the city.

"We just want accuracy and transparency," Moore said.

REA board member Charlotte Hayer said she feared the cuts in the central office would eventually trickle down to the classroom.

"I work with these children every single day and I know they deserve better than what they're getting." Hayer told the school board.

In Richmond, funding per student is down 19 percent from 2009. While Kamras said new state funding would give the district a boost, he added it's up to the city to offer the most support.

"It's always hard to cut jobs," Kamras said. "But now this board has done its job. RPS has done its part. Now the ball is really in the city's court."

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