Jack Berry Announces Education Priorities
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
September 22, 2016
Contact: [email protected]
RICHMOND – Jack Berry today released the public education priorities he will champion as Richmond’s next mayor. His top five priorities focus on uniting the community around Richmond schools, creating a five-year financial plan for RPS, supporting the city’s teachers, fixing neglected buildings, and implementing school improvement programs.
“Richmond parents desperately want a school system that meets the needs of their children,” said Berry. “They want classroom environments that are conducive to learning. They want administrators that listen, respond and communicate well. They want school buildings that aren’t falling apart from neglect.”
“Parents are weary of budget battles and political drama,” Berry continued. “They just want schools that are accredited, with test scores that are improving, not declining. They want to live in a community that values public education and pulls together to support our kids. Parents want their children to learn and thrive in a safe, nurturing environment.”
“We need a mayor who will unite the community in support of public education,” added Berry. “We need a mayor who will bring financial and community resources to the task of improving Richmond Public Schools. The first step is demonstrating a level of competency and caring that earns the trust of the community.”
“Growing up, I saw first hand how transformative education can be,” said Berry.
“My mother was a public school teacher. I am proud of the fact that she was a civil rights leader in Lynchburg in the 1960s. She believed in civil liberties and she believed that a good education was a basic right. She was very intentional about building close personal relationships across racial lines and she stepped up for justice and equality when others did not. I’ll never forget the impact she had on the community’s mindset when she volunteered to be the first white teacher in an all-black school. I still have artwork from her students, and some still share memories of her from many decades ago.”
“My top education priority as mayor will be to bring our community together to fix our troubled schools, support our teachers, and marshall the community resources that will put all of our schools on a path to success,” Berry concluded.
On October 10, 2016, Berry will hold a “Back to School Town Hall” at Holy Rosary Catholic Church with parents and teachers to discuss the future of public education in Richmond. More information will be available soon.
“When Jack was County Administrator for Hanover County, he brought the community together and helped to lead the largest ever bond referendum for school construction and improvements,” said John Gordon, former chairman of the Hanover County School Board and Board of Supervisors. “It was his leadership, capability and dedication to Hanover’s schools that made this possible. I know he will bring the same leadership to Richmond as mayor.”
Jack Berry’s Top 5 Education Priorities
1. Unite the community in support of Richmond Public Schools
As Mayor, Berry will convene a Mayor’s Education Advisory Council with representatives of the Mayor’s Office, School Board and Superintendent, City Council, nonprofits serving Richmond schools, the business community, parents and teachers to create a united effort to support and to stimulate change for Richmond Public Schools. With Berry as Mayor, City Hall and the school system will no longer work against each other, but instead, will work in tandem with the community to improve Richmond schools. There will be regular meetings of elected and appointed officials, a designated liaison from the Mayor’s Office to RPS, and a coordinated strategy. Just like he did in Hanover, Berry will make City Hall a credible and capable partner so that community resources are drawn to the effort, not repelled by dysfunction. Berry does not just talk about unifying efforts to support kids he has done it.
2. Create a Five-Year Financial Plan for Richmond Public Schools
Berry believes that funding for RPS should be predictable and reliable. Berry will create a Five-year Financial Plan with a funding stream for the baseline budget that is tied to a percentage of the city’s real estate tax revenues. In the future, budget debates will focus on enhancements not core services. Five-Year budget planning was a hallmark of his tenure as the Hanover County Administrator. It forced a constant dialog about issues, opportunities and constraints, which made everyone aware of the challenges faced by each other, and promoted teamwork toward the common goal. Berry does not just talk about results-oriented budget planning he has done it.
3. Value teachers and reward performance and experience
We need to do a better job retaining teachers in city schools. Currently, almost half of RPS teachers stay five years or less. Many teachers face burnout and are discouraged when merit increases are withheld year after year. Through the budget plan, Berry will ensure that adequate funding is in place to reward experienced teachers, provide classroom support and implement recruitment efforts to attract the best teachers to Richmond’s schools. In the past, Berry has helped lead recruiting missions to teacher job fairs in other cities in partnership with local companies, and has annually hosted teacher recognition events to thank new teachers for their commitment to our children. Berry does not just talk about valuing teachers he has done it.
4. Fix neglected buildings and build for the future
Every child in the city deserves to be learning in clean, safe, high-quality classrooms fit for 21st century learning, not buildings with ceilings falling down and mold issues. Every building does not have to be new, but every building should be functional. Much work has already been done to chart a course for renovations, consolidations, expansions and new schools, but plans are meaningless without an implementation strategy. The City’s debt capacity is limited, but there are creative financing strategies to get the first phase of improvements underway quickly. In the first 60 days as mayor, Berry will propose a plan of finance that breaks the log jam, honors the City’s financial and debt policies, and preserves the City’s credit rating. He will redirect savings from the City budget to schools, re-order some of the priorities in the City’s 5- Year Capital Improvement Program, and pursue interim financing strategies that overcome short term constraints. He will work with the Superintendent to fix RPS school buildings that are falling apart and improve learning environments at neglected RPS schools.
5. Support school improvement programs targeted to schools facing biggest challenges
Too many children are attending underperforming schools because of where they live, and because other opportunities are not within reach. Schools are not immune from society’s ills and are often a reflection of the communities they serve. Berry will work in tandem with RPS to target resources to the greatest needs within struggling schools. He will support school turn-around programs that may include lower class sizes, more reading and math specialists, more teacher aides, and incentives for teachers to take on the toughest assignments. He will also support community efforts such as existing faith-based mentoring initiatives and the Communities in Schools program. His school strategy will go hand in hand with his strategy to reduce poverty and build healthy, mixed income neighborhoods.