Robert Bobb called in to soothe battling budgets

Posted at 12:05 AM, Mar 30, 2012
and last updated 2012-03-30 00:05:03-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--The mayor and the Richmond Public school system is having a little public relations battle over the RPS’s $240 million budget request.

The mayor has budgeted about $24 million less - 10 percent – depending on the state budget.

School officials have been holding public meetings to rally support, saying the city is giving them less when the government has more.

The mayor says the opposite is true. Plus, enrollment is down.

Enter former City Manager Robert Bobb, a nationally known education troubleshooter who grew up on a Lousiana plantation. He has a consulting firm that is part of a plan to find a way to resolve the battling budgets.

Bobb has battled with elected school boards, like Richmond has, in Detroit. He was the president of the Washington DC board of education.

He was well-liked by the power structure here, but is just as comfortable on the streets.

Bobb was the city manager here from 1986 to 1997 and was the last real "daddy" this city had. He presided over Richmond's bloodiest years since the Civil War, but he wound up staying long enough to beat crime back into submission while laying the foundation for economic revival, including the start of riverfront development and the biotech park.

He’s a supporter of charter schools and other public/private education partnerships, so don’t look for him to be overly cozy with the Richmond School Board, which has been famously resistant to guidance and change suggested by City Hall. That’s why former Mayor Wilder famously tried to boot them out of the building.

Dwight Jones, the quiet mayor, has softly succeeded where Wilder’s fury failed. He’s largely commandeered the schools-building projects, encouraged streamlining and supported the city’s first charter school. The Bobb consultants plan, supported and paid for the city Chamber of Commerce, is another smooth move.

Kim Scheeler, president of the Richmond Chamber, told me the  city schools are crucial to the area’s future, with many business leaders wanting to make sure the schools are growing a capable work force as well as having a school system where employees would be pleased to send their children

Expect the Bobb plan to work – quickly.