The Compact

Mayor Stoney’s proposed Education Compact could be the central vehicle through which an RPS facilities plan is adopted and funded. The Compact’s framework provides an opportunity for Richmond to “get our house in order” by internally-aligning the Mayor’s administration, the School Board, and City Council to enact a system of transparency, cooperation, and efficiency.

Worst case scenario, this Compact becomes yet another effort mired in political strife and stagnation that continues our broken school system.  Richmond Forward is not going to let that happen.

No matter the size of our impact, Richmond Forward will do everything we can to steer the Compact toward accountability and efficiency. BIG decisions will be made through this Compact and we will keep you informed.

Call to action!

The Compact is planned to go before City Council and the School Board for adoption within the next few weeks (early April). Read our analysis and we encourage you to contact the Mayor, School Board, and City Council. Here are our major unanswered questions, that when answered, would help improve this effort and make it wildly successful:

  • How will non-elected or staff representatives be selected? What is the plan to gain input and disseminate information?
  • How will transparency be accomplished? How will decisions be made, information shared, and alternatives proposed and vetted?
  • Will there be full-time will staff to support the Compact? Who will wake up everyday thinking about how to make this a success?
  • What is the timeline for deliverables on key policy documents (e.g. AIP, RPS Facilities Plan, and a long-range CIP and Operating Budget for RPS)?

Email, call, or write the School Board and City Council today! For Mayor Stoney, email, call (804-646-7970), or visit this friendly contact page.

The Compact's birth

Candidate Stoney’s #1 goal of his education platform was the creation of a compact with the School Board, City Council, and Superintendent. To make this a reality, Mayor Stoney named former Office of Community Wealth Building (OCWB) director and creator Thad Williamson, as a chief policy advisor.

To understand Mayor Stoney’s Compact, let start with the  OCWB’s Annual Report, which laid the foundation to the Compact. 

Education highlights from the report:

What is the Compact?

The Compacts  overall strategy is guided by the following three elements.

Verbatim from the Compact is listed in quotes; Richmond Forward’s translation is listed afterwards. 

1. “Shared commitment to organization collaboration”

Proposes a quarterly meeting schedule between the Mayor, City Council, and School Board.

2. “Shared commitment to transformational improvement in academic progress and improving the lives of children outside of classroom through support services and poverty reduction.”

Let’s everyone know that education improvement is a shared effort between the schools (academic improvement) and city (support services for poverty reduction).

3. “Shared commitment to developing a resource strategy allowing the City and RPS to achieve these shared goals.”

Sets a goal of using shared resources (city and schools) in areas such as early childhood education, out-of-school time, multi-cultural services, and workforce development.

As stated in the Compact, the Compact is not: the Academic Improvement Plan (AIP), RPS Strategic Plan, Long-Range Facilities Plan or Budget.

The plan to transform RPS

Richmond Forward has identified the following actions within the Compact that would address school operational needs:

  • Establish measured benchmarks (see pages 4-6), many of which are currently measured by OCWB, to determine progress on poverty reduction and education improvement.

  • Adopt the RPS adopted Strategic Plan to address gaps in academic improvement.

  • Formation of a Children’s Cabinet, that will meet monthly, to implement shared goals, identify opportunities for resource sharing, and joint problem-solving in implementation of the RPS Strategic Plan and Whole Child Strategic Plan (to include data sharing concerning operational issues).

From these actions one can clearly draw a line from Mayor Stoney’s time working with the state-level Children’s Cabinet. The hope will be that he can bring the educational resource providers with those dealing outside of the school (health, housing, transportation, environment, social services, etc.) to create a whole-child approach.

A successful Virginia example is Hampton’s Healthy Families program which connects parents DURING PREGNANCY with resources, and stays with them until that child gets THROUGH HIGH SCHOOL. Awesome! Although there is additional up front costs, the program is based off a William and Mary study which found that early childhood investment far outweighed long-term costs of incarceration (similar study from Washington State Institute for Public Policy).   

In getting everyone on board, the hope is to reduce redundancies and streamline services. A current example would be the School Board’s requested multicultural service center and the City’s existing southside community services center. Maybe the School Board's request for four additional full-time staff to start a new program could be better met by providing additional resources to the existing center?

The benchmarks will be a point of debate, but will be essential in getting all to work towards common goals. This follows the best practice of Roanoke City, which uses an equity scorecard to lead their quarterly discussions between the Mayor, School Board, and City Council.  

Richmond Forward has identified the following actions with the Compact that address school facility (capital) needs:

  • Long-range facilities plan that is aligned with the Citywide Master Plan.  
  • Community schools development to achieve the goal of increased parent engagement.
  • Formation of an Education Compact, that will meet monthly and twice monthly during budget season, develop and execute a shared resource strategy by (1) defining shared needs, (2) develop a long-term funding strategy, and (3) reach out to partners and stakeholders to implement this funding strategy.  

Coordinating school facility investment with the city-wide master plan is exactly what is needed to form a Captain Planet-style team with investment in  transportation, housing, health, and the environment to crush poverty! Our current Capital Improvements Plan (CIP), which directs all capital funding, is a real mess. Cleaning this up will take time, and with the master plan update to planned to be completed in the fall of 2018, we have the perfect opportunity to realign the central document in funding Richmond’s future.

Community schools will be necessary to leverage public investment to provide a base for transformative partnerships. Mayor Stoney’s goal is tied to parent engagement, but true community schools go further. During the facilities task force, Councilwoman Ellen Robertson brought forward national examples where school facilities were designed with partnerships in mind! This data wasn’t highlighted in the final report, but you can read my analysis of the topic or go to the amazing Coalition for Community Schools website.

During the election season, candidates promised better internal communication and the Education Compact is Mayor Stoney putting his words into action. The proposed goals to accomplish the shared resource strategy follow a logical planning process of needs identification, developing a funding schedule, and coordinating partnerships.

How can we make the Education Compact wildly successful?

For the Education Compact to matter, the group’s composition, staffing, transparency guidelines, and timeline for deliverables is really going to matter. The following analysis examines these factors against recent Richmond government-led efforts of the RPS Facilities Task Force, Davenport Multi-Year School Capital Investment Funding Team (MYSCIFT), and national education compact best practices.

Composition

The Education Compact is composed of individuals from each of the major decision making government bodies, school and city administration, a student, RPS staff member, RPS parent, and representatives from the business, philanthropic, nonprofit community (see page 7). This composition is similar to that of Denver’s Education Compact Board.

For Richmond, this does appear to be more comprehensive than the MYSCIFT executive team, but not as community member-heavy as the Facilities Task Force. It will be interesting to see if sub-teams are formed, as they were with MYSCIFT, to bring in greater stakeholder input.

It’ll be important to have a clear process for how the non-elected officials of staff are selected. Will this be another MYSCIFT committee of the politically connected, or will it be comprised of new voices? If we’re intentional about developing a quality connection between the RPS student, parent, and staff representatives on the Education Compact and the greater community, thought should be given to how input can be incorporated and disseminated to community networks (e.g. Richmond Council of PTAs, Communities in Schools, Micah Initiative, student groups, Support our Schools, etc.).

Staffing

The Education Compact will be staffed by City administration (one or more designees of the Mayor). It will be critical that staff be given this task as their primary job role. We need someone to wake up everyday thinking about how to make this effort a success.

During the Facilities Task Force, limited staff resources was a problem. Tommy Kranz, Superintendent for Support Services, and Tonya Friend, Deputy Clerk School Board Office, did their best to add committee management onto their already long - and challenging - day schedules. These are terrific people who are proficient and talented at their work, but they are not trained group facilitators and were not given full-time to devote to this study.

In Nashville, staff of the Mayor’s Office of Children and Youth supported the task force of 52 members to develop the Child and Youth Master Plan. The visual quality is striking, and representative of the support resources, when contrasting this report against that of Richmond’s Facilities Task Force final report.

Transparency

The Education Compact states that there will be transparent sharing of data and that meetings will be open to the public, but that public comment will not be normally included and occasionally closed sessions will be used.

This seems like a good framework and it’s understandable that to make decisions and move the effort forward, a certain limitation on public comment is necessary. But, transparency is accomplished in the details.

How will decisions be made, information shared, and alternatives proposed and vetted? What is the communication plan for when input is needed and where will information to be housed? The sharepoint page for MYSCIFT is commendable as a quality trove of documents. The Facilities Task Force page includes a majority of the documents, but not all.

Where MYSCIFT failed was gaining any credibility in moving from analysis to action, due to unanswered transparency questions. Mayor Jones first post-report action was to pursue an action to raise the debt ceiling, but without raising revenues. This was met with mixed, if not extremely critical, reviews. City Council’s reaction centered on their opposition to raising the debt ceiling without increased revenues, and commentaries by Jon Baliles, Ross Catrow, and Taber Bain, all pointed toward revenue growth, not additional debt, to move us forward.

Timeline for deliverables

Activating a group by setting a timeline for future goals is essential to measuring and achieving progress. At the first Facilities Task Force meeting, an outline for deliverables was established. In 2011, Denver’s first Education Compact meeting established a framework and timeline for implementation (agenda and minutes)!

If the timeline cannot be decided beforehand, then this should be meeting goal #1. The Education Compact is tasked with determining a shared resource strategy, but how will their efforts coordinate with key City and school policy documents (e.g. AIP, RPS Facilities Plan, and a long-range CIP and operating budget for RPS)? If the Education Compact needs help, don’t worry because we have a proposed timeline!

Proposed timeline for the Education Compact to adopt and fund an RPS facilities plan.

It’s going to be a journey. But, it’s best to take time and do this right. In a best case scenario, here’s how I, Garet, envision the Education Compact timeline in achieving in adopting and funding an RPS facilities plan:

April 2017 the Compact is endorsed by the School Board and City Council.

Spring 2017 the Education Compact is formed. It’s first task could be to aid City Council in funding phase I of the RPS facilities plan (new Greene ES, Elkhardt MS, and renovated Westover Hills ES). The School Board would rezone Broad Rock ES to alleviate overcrowding issues and communicate their plan to evaluate rezoning of southside schools as new investments in Greene, Elkhardt, and Westover Hills are completed.  

Summer 2017 the Education Compact leads a community discussion on the School Board endorsed option 5 of the RPS facilities plan. By the end of summer, a 10-year plan for the entire system that identifies a future for each physical-school site will be presented for adoption by City Council and the School Board.

Fall 2017 a comprehensive facilities plan for RPS is adopted.

Winter 2017 following year’s budget should be reordered to a new budget that details dedicated school funding for operations (The Roanoke 40), and includes basic maintenance funding at $3.00/sf.

Spring 2018 a budget with dedicated school funding and a CIP with Phase I funding is adopted.

Summer 2018 the Education Compact leads a community discussion on community schools and transformative partnerships.

Fall 2018 city-wide master plan update is completed.  

Winter 2018 a drastically new 10-year CIP is prepared that coordinates capital investments around key poverty-reducing infrastructure in schools, transportation, housing, utilities, the economy, and environment. Community schools partnership packages are prepared to coordinate with key service providers to align with the public investment schedule.

Spring 2019 a new CIP that fully funds the comprehensive plan for RPS facilities is adopted!   

That’s how the next 24 months determines our next 20-years.

Call to action!

The Compact is planned to go before City Council and the School Board for adoption within the next few weeks (early April). Now that you have read our analysis, we encourage you to contact the Mayor, School Board, and City Council. Here are our major unanswered questions, that when answered, would help improve this effort and make it wildly successful:

  • How will non-elected or staff representatives be selected? What is the plan to help gain input and disseminate information?
  • How will transparency be accomplished? How will decisions be made, information shared, and alternatives proposed and vetted?
  • Will there be full-time will staff to support the committee? Who will wake up everyday thinking about how to make this a success?
  • What is the timeline for deliverables on key policy documents (e.g. AIP, RPS Facilities Plan, and a long-range CIP and Operating Budget for RPS)?

Email, call, or write the School Board and City Council today! For Mayor Stoney, email, call (804-646-7970), or visit this friendly contact page.