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Social media backlash forces RPS to save supplies for teachers

Posted at 7:50 PM, Jul 13, 2015
and last updated 2015-07-13 23:24:11-04

RICHMOND, Va. – The Richmond Public School system, a beleaguered school division that faced $11.6 million in proposed cuts in 2014, often struggles with budgetary funding for its 26 schools – many of which were built decades ago.

When a warehouse sale was promoted by administrators on social media, there was a strong response from the public commenting that supplies should be made available to teachers who typically buy their own.

Flyer for the warehouse sale.

Flyer for the warehouse sale.

Sale items originally listed included office, art, and printing supplies, along with custodial products. That specifically meant construction paper, flash drives, binders, composition books, rubber bands, cardstock, pens, scissors, picture frames, poster board, paint, crayons, chalk, masking tape, mops, trash cans, cleaner, toilet paper, batteries, and printer cartridges, according to the online documents.

“I personally know several of our city school's teachers who have to buy supplies themselves with their own money,” KP Richardson wrote on the school’s Facebook page.  “Can't you allow our teachers first dibs on shopping for free before you sell these to the public and our teachers have to buy more supplies again next year?”

It was the first of such a sale planned by RPS, part of a larger plan to close the warehouse, and the feedback didn’t go unnoticed. School officials responded to the criticism online, and Superintendent Dr. Dana Bedden even reached out to some parents on the phone.

As a result, the warehouse sale will now feature a “limited number of surplus items.” The sale will run Tuesday and Wednesday from 8 a.m. to noon at the Hermitage Road warehouse site. Cash only is requested.

“Classroom supplies and custodial supplies are being held until September when the school year begins to provide another opportunity for schools to submit a warehouse requisition request via the normal process,” stated a post written on Facebook. “School administrators and department leaders have previously been provided multiple opportunities to select items out of the warehouse for their use,” the post continued.

Administrators said they will review additional distribution options of unsold goods and may schedule another surplus sale later this year.

“As a district, we are committed to being good stewards of the resources at our disposal and being responsive to the needs of our school leaders and teachers. We appreciate your feedback and hope this response addresses any concerns you may have.”

School officials told CBS 6 reporter Joe St. George that a memo about the sale didn’t go to all teachers, it went to principals.

"We don't always get it right and we're willing to admit that," Kim Gray, a school board member told CBS 6. "We are going to pull back on many of the items that we think teachers or custodial staff might want," Gray said.

"I guess they are listening," RPS Parent Casey Davis, who also commented on the Facebook thread, said. Davis is greatful for the school district's "course correction" and hope the teachers take advantage of it.

"Nothing like a group of angry moms to get someone to listen," Davis added.