Memorandum of Edict

The Board of “Education” (VBOE) met on July 27 and approved a revised version of the “Memorandum of Understanding” (MOU) with Richmond. 

As a reminder: Twenty-Seven of 44 Richmond public schools (61%) are not fully accredited; sixteen of those schools have been denied accreditation.  The Department of Education (VDOE) this year conducted a “Division-Level Academic Review” of the Richmond system that focused on bureaucratic effluvia and carefully avoided the fundamental question of what Richmond must do to produce students who can read, write, and reckon.  Now, rather than setting out to fix the Richmond system, VBOE has been engaged in writing the MOU.  They say it will be followed by a “plan.”

It took four years of failure for sixteen Richmond schools to be denied accreditation.  We might wonder why this protracted Review/MOU/Plan/??? process could not have been started – and completed – before so many Richmond schoolchildren had been damaged by those inadequate schools.

On the 26th, the Board’s Accountability Committee considered the MOU changes requested by Richmond.  The Committee proposed some revisions, summarized here.  We don’t have minutes yet but it appears from the video (July 27, part 1 video, starting about 1:48) that the Board on the 27th adopted the Committee’s proposed changes.

The major change was to reduce the requirement for the Board’s prior approval of “all” Richmond expenditures of state and federal funds to approval of “selected” expenditures.  The MOU does not tell us how the selection is to be made but, in any case, the State will have a putative chokehold on Richmond’s expenditures.

Aside from the title, the MOU does not pretend that it is an agreement.  Among the unchanged features: VBOE can modify the MOU at will.  As well, the MOU speaks of VBOE dominion over “processes, procedures, and strategies.” 

In short: VBOE thinks it has control of Richmond’s public schools.  The MOU is an edict.

This is Good News and Bad News. 

The Bad News:  VBOE asserts that it has taken control of the Richmond Public Schools. 

This state agency is asserting that it has day-to-day control over schools that, under the Constitution, are to be supervised by our School Board.

The Good News: VBOE asserts that it has taken control of the Richmond Public Schools. 

Richmond has demonstrated that it is incapable of properly educating its schoolchildren. Somebody needs to do something about that scandal.

Possible Good News: If the Richmond schools fail to achieve accreditation, VBOE will be responsible.

Unfortunately for that last point, VBOE has demonstrated (and admitted) that it does not know how to fix failed urban schools.  Perhaps recognizing that, they are in the process of (yet another) dilution of the standards of accreditation. 

Said otherwise:  Too many schools can’t meet the standards and VBOE doesn’t know how to fix those schools, so VBOE is gutting the standards.

To compound the misfeasance, the deadline in the MOU is eight years from now, a time when all of the Board members will have been replaced.  So this VBOE cannot be held responsible if Richmond continues to fail.  Never mind the kids who will suffer from Richmond’s malpractice in the meantime.

Your tax dollars at “work.”

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As a side note: Former VBOE President Cannaday in the Committee meeting argued that the state bureaucrat sitting ex officio on the School Board in 2025 would provide an important channel to give the Board the Straight Word in cases where the Superintendent might hesitate to so confront the Board that employs him/her.  If that is important, we can continue to wonder why it becomes so only after another eight years of failure.

Second side note: The MOU is not an administrative order authorized by law.  It does not pretend to be a contract.  It does not even recite VBOE’s authority to sue a division that fails to develop or implement a plan to meet the Standards of Quality.  It is a naked assertion of authority to meddle – authority that, under the Constitution, VBOE probably does not have.

While VBOE fiddles with this meaningless piece of paper, Richmond’s schoolchildren are subjected to the school system with the lowest reading and second-lowest math pass rates in the state last year.