How will election influence fate of Richmond schools?

Posted at 1:22 AM, Nov 16, 2012
and last updated 2012-11-16 11:48:57-05

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR)--The quality of a school district is critical to a city's growth and progress.

It can affect the housing market, local jobs and perhaps most importantly the future of children.

After a challenging year for the Richmond School district that included a $24 million dollar deficit and questions over waste, Catie Beck took questions to Mayor Dwight Jones about the state of city schools and his confidence in its leadership.

“This is not something that needs to happen over three or four years, something needs to happen now," said Mayor Dwight Jones.
Jones called for sweeping and immediate changes when it comes to Richmond Public Schools (RPS). He's counting on a newly elected school board to make them.

“They’ve been called to provide us a radical transformation and to really take the bull by the horns and change things around," said Jones.
With seven out the nine being new members on board, Jones is hoping the group will switch course after a rocky year for RPS leaders.

The $24 million dollar deficit resulted in layoffs, mandated furlough days, positions left vacant and cuts to retiree benefits. In the midst of that, questions were raised about waste and poor judgment when it came to school spending.
CBS 6 explored some of those questions in recent investigations. Our investigation proved that hundreds of RPS employees, roughly 15 percent of the workforce, are already retired and that many collect both a pension and a hefty paycheck.

Also, just last month CBS 6 questioned school leaders about an unused software subscription called School Dude that cost the school system tens of thousands of dollars.
Now that the board has been turned over, some wonder if Superintendent Yvonne Brandon will receive a vote of confidence from the new board and from the Mayor.
CBS 6’s Catie Beck asked Mayor Jones, in an exclusive interview, if he is supportive of the leadership that Brandon has provided thus far, specifically if he thinks she’s doing her job.

“I think that I’ve made my thoughts known on the school system and what needs to happen and I’m going to let the school board make those decisions because that’s their job," said Jones.
The mayor added that perhaps the most important function of the school board is hiring or firing a superintendent.
“They have enough votes on that board to do anything they want to do, because now it’s up to them--this is where the rubber meets the road," said Mayor Jones.
Some previous board members were critical of the mayor for not giving schools adequate funding to be able to function without overspending.

He disagreed and said it's not a matter of enough money, it's a matter of spending more wisely.

CBS 6 asked Jones about his role in improving Richmond schools, and how much responsibility--leadership wise--does he take for the condition schools are in right now.
“I don’t legally have the power to get that done so I have to leverage it through relationships and through the bully pulpit…so I’m going to be using that," he said.