Richmond School Board chairs talk budget mess

Posted at 8:00 PM, Jun 15, 2012
and last updated 2012-06-16 00:10:59-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) -  For current and former Richmond school leaders, the budget battle is one lesson that will go down in the history books, but they say they are  working to help the incoming board members.

Dawn Page, Kim Bridges and Chandra Smith have all held the position of chair of the Richmond School Board. The current and former board members are defending their record, while working on ways to move the district forward.

"We don't have any problem with any force coming forward and saying, 'hey, we got some ideas,'” said Chandra Smith, a former chair of the Richmond School Board.

In fact, another former board chair, Kim Bridges, said Richmond Public Schools are facing the same budget issues that many other localities are also facing.

"When a child fails, we fail,” said current chair, and candidate for Richmond's 8th district city council seat, Dawn Page. "We were elected to do a job.

Paige said leaders are still working to deal with the deficit. She also said it is important the board hear from the community about the level of educational investment needed for the city.

However, board members have been criticized for not doing enough to trim the fat and not following the mayor's recommendations and instead handing out pink slips, furloughs and not filling vacant positions.

"As a board member, we just wish we would've had more buy in early on,” said Smith.  “So, that we could've been part of the task force to answer the questions up front. "

CBS 6 asked how Richmond school leaders plan to improve relationships with the mayor, after dealing with a contentious budget battle.

"We've going to start earlier than ever and reach out to our city counterparts even more than we have before,” said Bridges.

And with five school board members not running in November, the board members said they're trying to close a $10-million deficit in next year's budget before new school leaders are elected.

"This was not what we wanted to do," said Bridges. "But given the size of the deficit and the amount of funding, we ended receiving, tough decisions had to be made.” 

Richmond school leaders are brainstorming over how to close that budget gap.  Some options include consolidating departments and closing a few schools.

Stay with CBS 6 News and for the latest on the Richmond Public School's budget battle.