Statement on RPS Reopening

A global health pandemic, worsening economic conditions, the racist and systemic defunding of our public institutions, short-term thinking and failures of leadership at all levels have created the conditions for the 2020 school year. Starting the school year virtually is the right decision, and schools should only reopen in person when it’s safe.

I know the challenges people are facing–I’m in the same boat as other RPS parents. I have one high school student and while I’m lucky to have a job that allows me to dedicate time to him and his education, I’m worried about his education and his spirit, and I know that most people can’t just work from home or leave their kids on their own.

I want people in the 5th and Richmond as a whole, especially students, parents, caregivers, and teachers to know this:

The problems we face are structural, beyond the ability of any single person, family, or organization to fix. These are structural problems created by the out-sized influence of the wealthy and powerful in government and their disregard for everyone else. When faced with structural problems–issues that affect everyone–we must consider structural solutions that help everyone–not temporary quick fixes or technical solutions that don’t get to the root causes.

We deserve and need school board members like me, who understand that the school board can be an instrument of community political power. It can be a body that allows us to stand up and fight for the future I know is possible. To be real about the challenges and the possibilities.  

We cannot farm out responsibility for students’ educations or families’ school days to individuals or individual households. Let’s be real: some families, some students, some households have more resources than others, and that is going to make their experience of this difficult time easier–not perfect, as no one has a total fix for this because it’s bigger than any one of us.

Now is the time for bold, creative action: the inequalities that existed before the pandemic are just going to get worse if we don’t shift away from the status quo in a new, progressive direction based on empowering students, parents and teachers with every resource they need. 

We don’t need technical quick fixes or good plans, we need school board members who are willing to see needs and suffering and use the power we have in our institutions and communities to meet those needs and alleviate suffering. That’s my first priority in this campaign. 

If nothing else changes, amassing huge amounts of technology or having professional, polished plans will just perpetuate the status quo. We need a positive vision for RPS that goes beyond quick fixes, beyond the traditional boundaries of the classroom, and beyond the complacency of many of our current leaders. We need school board members who will fight for progressive taxation, who will support the fights for working people in Virginia and beyond, who have a vision for a more humane, just society.

And we need to trust and empower our students, parents, teachers and school staff. As a working single mother, I know better than most: there is so much invisible or undervalued work that people in our community do everyday. It is more important than ever to recognize and support it. That means using the resources RPS does have to invest in the community to create public, accessible solutions–not spend millions on pre-made curriculum from private companies or rely on Richmond’s non-profits to fulfill the needs that should be met by public institutions. 

I’m not just asking people in the 5th to trust me and vote for me, I’m saying that I trust you, and that I will use my position as a school board member as I am using my campaign–to be a community advocate, a good neighbor, a real person with integrity who will be a true representative for the students, families, teachers and people of the 5th. Let’s build power together.