Is Mayor Jones taking over Richmond School Board?

Posted at 7:18 PM, Jun 06, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-07 13:44:47-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) – The mayor's school task force is expressing its disappointment at the Richmond School Board's decision to lay off workers and furlough teachers.

The move comes after the board recommended other ways to make up for the district's $15 million deficit.

And even though the cuts have been made, some believe the battle between the mayor and school leaders is far from over.   

The mayor is seeking re-election, but some folks are also wondering if he is looking for an unofficial position on the city's school board.

Some members of the school board are finding themselves in a tough place. They must answer to the mayor or their constituents.

People have openly criticized the school's spending plans. As a result, the mayor appointed a task force to examine the school system's finances and even sent board members a letter, essentially telling them layoffs and furloughs would be irresponsible.

Kim Gray, a school board member, said she was upset initially about the mayor's conspicuous role in this process.

Gray also said that she has never had to deal with so much politics while serving on the board – and she was disappointed in the mayor's ever-present role in this year's decision-making.

"Board members should be listening to the people and the children in the district they represent, not the city administration, not the school admin," said Gray.

Longtime political strategist Paul Goldman told CBS 6 News' Lorenzo Hall Wednesday that he thinks the mayor is "trying to take over the school system."

Additionally, Goldman said that it is no coincidence this is happening during an election year – and that he thinks the mayor's interest is politically motivated.

In fact, Goldman said it appears the mayor is trying to infuse the board with people of his liking, including his Deputy Chief of Staff, Jeff Bourne – and even his son, Derik Jones.

"If you can get enough people on the school board, who either support you, or are intimidated by you, you control the school board," said Goldman.

However, Derik Jones said that while he supports his father as mayor, he has his own vision if elected to the school board.

I have the room to think for myself," said Jones. "My father and I have worked together for 15 years and those who know us know we disagree every day."

CBS 6 News tried to reach via phone, Facebook and email Wednesday, but his press secretary said he had no comment about the school system's future.