GOLDMAN: Is Bob Bobb secretly running the Richmond Public Schools?

Posted at 12:02 PM, Jan 17, 2013
and last updated 2013-01-17 12:02:38-05
Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder's historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

Paul Goldman is a local lawyer who helped run Doug Wilder’s historic campaign for governor of Virginia.

By Paul Goldman

If the old adage – “Whomever has the gold rules” – has any validity, then Bob Bobb is running the Richmond Public Schools according to my source.

It is all hush, hush he claims: but Mr. Bobb, who has left a trail of tears across the country with his slash and burn approach to school funding, is being paid to produce the new school budget to be presented to the School Board in a few days.

My source says the Bobb Budget is being crafted according to the wishes of the Mayor’s Task Force and its supporters.

Mr. Bobb had the support of Mayor Dwight Jones and others during his term as the Richmond City Manager, when the appointed Mayor system gave him a lot of control over the school budget. Since then, the independently elected school board concept has of course had nearly two decades to fully develop.

In theory, under the Constitution and the concept of an elected board, someone like Mr. Bobb would not be able to take such power from an elected body.

But if my source is right, then the secret presence of Mr. Bobb is not so secret to those in the know.

By letting Bobb shape the budget, they are ceding power to those behind Bobb’s emergence as the guy running the schools de facto.

Is this true? There is, of course, no way to know for sure.  Last year, it took several weeks before the truth about Mr. Bobb’s involvement became public.

The public voted this November for an independent school board who would be more responsive to the needs of the parents/children as opposed to the power-brokers and others living off the system.

To a very large degree, the budget controls the schools because it contains the priorities of spending: and like it or not, how you spend education dollars in good measure determines the quality of the outcomes.

Last year, Mr. Bobb indicated that his involvement had been a “one-off” type of thing, not likely to repeat although he did show interest in winning a contract to provide certain services. There is talk of his being involved in several other deals with the city on other matters.

The lack of transparency is troubling in Richmond, but it is not just in our city.

However, as I have written: there are many tens of millions of dollars flowing through the RPS system every year that can be directed to those favored by the power players as along as the Chairman of the Richmond School Board goes along.

This is due to the out-of-date management procedures still used at the RPS. Whether the new School Board is willing to change these measures is unclear. I would hope so.

Yet by the time they do, it is possible that Mr. Bobb will have already succeeded in what he was privately hired to do.

We do know this: If Mr. Bobb has indeed been involved in shaping the budget, he will prove a formidable force in such matters. His goal, based on a long track record, will be to run the show, de facto, throw his knowledge of budgets. 

Paul Goldman is in no way affiliated with WTVR.  His comments are his own, and do not reflect the views of WTVR or any related entity.  Neither WTVR nor any of its employees or agents participated in any way with the preparation of Mr. Goldman’s comments.