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Richmond Schools leader resigns: 'This was an incredibly difficult decision'

Posted at 1:27 PM, Jul 06, 2022
and last updated 2022-07-07 06:20:16-04

RICHMOND, Va. -- The Chief Academic Officer of Richmond Public Schools has resigned from her leadership position. Dr. Tracy Epp's resignation was confirmed by a Richmond Schools spokesperson.

"Given that my length of [medical] leave is still undetermined, and that it is in RPS' best interest to have full-time leadership in academics, I have decided to not return as the CAO," Epp, who missed most of the Spring semester due to a medical condition, wrote in an email addressed to her team about obtained by CBS 6. "This was an incredibly difficult decision and one that I could not have made without the support of [Richmond Public Schools Superintendent] Jason [Kamras] and trusted advisors."

Epp called Richmond principals and central staff the most "talented and committed" she's ever worked with.

"I'm not sure what exactly is next for me, but I do know that RPS will remain close," she wrote.

Tracy Epp RPS.png
Tracy Epp

"The school board has been informed the CAO has resigned. Richmond Public Schools currently has efficacious staff that can form a smooth transition into many vacant roles within the school district," Richmond School Board Chair Dr. Shonda Harris-Muhammed wrote in an emailed statement. "I have no doubt when provided the opportunity several of our current staff will perform in areas of immediate need."

Epp's resignation comes weeks after the school system's Chief Operating Officer Alana Gonzalez submitted her resignation.

"Despite my best efforts to retain [Gonzalez], she felt she could not effectively perform her duties given the current political climate, in which she has felt harassed, undermined, and demeaned," Kamras wrote in a May email to the Richmond School Board.

Gonzalez's position has not been filled.

Also unfilled is the role of Chief Wellness Officer.

The new RPS role would be in charge of allocating resources pertaining to mental health, crisis intervention, and social and emotional learning. The coordinator would also be responsible for implementing programming that addresses mindfulness and coping techniques.

But the position was never filled. The Richmond School Board rejected Kamras' appointee during a March school board meeting.

The rejection came after the school board unanimously supported a budget in February that included funding for the role.

Harris-Muhammed said at the time that she appreciated parents' concerns and the need to address mental health challenges, but did not see the necessity of filling a Chief Wellness Officer position salaried at $185,000.

Instead, Harris-Muhammed said she hoped to reorganize central office staff and provide more assistance to the Culture and Climate Department which currently handles the bulk of health-related issues.

"I have fathomless concerns about the number of classroom teachers and custodians the division has lost. Retention matters to me. I will always push with purpose a reorganization of several departments that I have openly described until the school district has a balance of staff in areas of critical need for our entire division," she wrote. "I have not been provided evidence to rethink a reorganization until such time that evidence is provided with validity, I will continue to call for a reorganization."

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

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