Richmond School Superintendent announces she’s stepping down

Posted at 9:24 AM, Apr 16, 2013
and last updated 2013-04-16 22:34:49-04

RICHMOND, Va. (WTVR) - Richmond Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Yvonne Brandon announced she is stepping down from that job at a press conference Tuesday afternoon.

After 35 years on the job, Brandon held a news conference with school board members by her side to officially break the news.

“My departure will be bittersweet,” said Brandon.“Although we’ve experienced some bumps in the road, we’re on the brink of greatness."

For months, there's been speculation over whether Brandon would continue to lead the struggling school system.

“There was likely a difference of philosophy where the schools should go [or] ought to go,” effrey Bourne, Richmond School Board Chair, said.

Richmond Public Schools had to deal with the challenges of a huge budget deficit, low graduation rates and questions over wasteful spending. And when seven new school board members were elected last November, Brandon's leadership was again called into question.

“She lost a couple of her biggest supporters in the board and again that was just more evidence that she either was going to jump or get pushed,” Paul Goldman, a political analyst, said.

Goldman thinks Brandon's fate was sealed long before the changing of the guard on the school board. He believes it started with Mayor Dwight Jones criticizing the school administration's budget and failing to improve city schools.

“I think Dr. Brandon is a very smart, savvy person realized as they say in business, a short termer. She waited and feels that she can get a good deal for herself coming out now,” said Goldman.

However, Brandon insisted her departure was a mutual agreement and was not about a lack of confidence. But she said it was time for her to step down.

She will leave the job on June 30 with an ending salary of $170,000. School board members, who are working out the final details of the remaining two years of her contract, are also starting the immediate search --  outside of the school system -- for her replacement.

Mayor Dwight C. Jones issued a statement about Brandon's exit and the future of Richmond Public Schools:

"I have known and worked with my good friend, Dr. Yvonne Brandon, for more than 30 years. Her dedication to academic excellence for our children and our city is unquestionable, and she has played a vital role in moving the school system forward. I wish her the very best in her future endeavors.

"I believe that for us to build the best Richmond, we must build a world class education system. I look forward to working with the School Board to select the next Richmond Public Schools superintendent who will help take us to even greater heights."

The Mayor’s Schools’ Accountability and Efficiency Review Task Force Co-Chairs issued the following statement about the superintendent's departure:

“Over the last year we have had the opportunity to work closely with Dr. Brandon. She has always displayed a passion for Richmond Public Schools’ students as well as the teachers and staff who make up the system. We would like to thank Dr. Brandon for her years of dedicated service to RPS and the community. We wish Dr. Brandon the very best in her future endeavors.”

Richmond School Board members and Dr. Brandon had been discussing Brandon's departure for months, according to CBS 6 Catie Beck's sources.

Last night in a closed school board session, board members learned that the announcement would come today, Beck said.

Brandon was appointed Superintendent of Richmond Schools in Jan. 2009. She was named "Acting Superintendent" in Aug. 2008. She has served within the Richmond school system since 1975, starting as a substitute teacher she said.

Last fall, seven new members were elected to Richmond's nine-person school board.

In Nov. 2012, Beck question Richmond Mayor Dwight Jones about his confidence in the Richmond School system under Brandon's leadership.  She asked the mayor 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,”  Jones said.

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,” he added.