Richmond mayor warns against firing superintendent ahead of emergency school board meeting

Posted at 10:03 AM, Aug 22, 2022
and last updated 2022-08-24 10:51:23-04

RICHMOND, Va. — Mayor Levar Stoney posted a series of tweets Monday morning stating there is no need for the Richmond School Board to have an emergency meeting to discuss low SOL scores on Tuesday, and warned against a "rumored" firing of Superintendent Jason Kamras. But in response to the mayor's statements, at least one school board member said "major changes" to "multiple positions" will still be addressed.

Last week, the school board announced they would be having an emergency meeting on Tuesday to talk about "devastating decrease to student achievement" and potential division leadership changes, according to Board Chair Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed.

The meeting came at the request of several board members after newly released data from the Virginia Department of Education revealed a significant drop in SOL scores in Richmond Public Schools.

Around two-thirds of all RPS students failed in the subjects of history, science, and writing during their first full year of in-person instruction since the COVID-19 shutdown.

"The rumors surrounding Tuesday’s emergency meeting of the @RPS_Schools School Board are disconcerting. No one should be surprised that prolonged virtual learning and the trauma of the pandemic would negatively impact academic outcomes," said Stoney via Twitter.

His thread continued, "This is why national education experts began sounding alarms about pandemic learning loss as early as Spring 2020. It’s also why Superintendent wisely proposed a year-round academic calendar. The School Board dismissed his proposal."

Kamras' administration currently does not have a designated Chief Academic Officer, who would oversee all issues related to the curriculum, after Dr. Tracy Epps resigned over the summer. The Superintendent's cabinet is also missing a Chief Operating Officer and Chief Wellness Officer.

"We are trying to approve personnel as quickly as we meet. There may be some suggestions to change personnel. We don't know yet, so I don't want to put in an alarm into the public," Harris-Muhammed said in an interview last week.

"There’s no cause for an emergency meeting in the first place, and firing Superintendent Kamras less than a week before the start of the academic year would be catastrophic for our kids and this community," said Stoney.

When asked if leadership changes may apply to the superintendent, Harris-Muhammed said Friday, "That is a discussion for the will of the Board to have and if that should happen. At what point, if it does happen, the community will know."

Following the mayor's statements Monday, Harris-Muhammed said the decision to call an emergency meeting is not his to make.

"As I continue to share with the community and all stakeholders referencing the current Standards of Learning assessment data on behalf of the school board, transparency is a must. Respectfully it is the decision and responsibility of the school board to hold meetings," she said.

Harris-Muhammed continues to stand by the need for a special meeting, despite Mayor Stoney's response, calling the current academic status of RPS "depressing."

"As a school board representative, I work within the parameters of the facts. As shared prior, the facts are what they are currently, and as a team we must address together the needs of our students and staff. As a team, RPS will work together to pursue a plan of upward trajectory of student outcomes, positive culture and climate, and address teacher retention. We will rise above this current depressing state of affairs with our student data, to identify one area," she said.

Meanwhile, 4th District School Board member Jonathan Young agreed with Mayor Stoney but added the board will still be taking action.

“The Mayor shares my concerns relevant to this School Board and Superintendent falling short pertinent to our solemn obligation to our students. We have failed, full stop. Tuesday evening my colleagues and I will take decisive action to prove immediate redress," Young said.

When asked for clarification on "immediate redress," Young said the board will adopt "transformative policy changes" to bring relief to teachers and "major organizational chart changes."

"Multiple positions will be addressed," Young said without elaborating further.

When asked for a response to the mayor's statements Monday, a spokesperson for Superintendent Kamras declined to comment.

CBS 6 has reached out to all other board members for comment and will continue updating this story as responses are received.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can email to send a tip.

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