Is the city administration attempting to find additional funding for Richmond Public Schools maintenance projects by growing wheat and other grains? By the looks of some schools facilities over the past few weeks, it’s starting to appear that way, according to some School Board members, who say they’re now questioning whether last year’s decision by the previous School Board to consolidate grounds maintenance with the city was a wise idea.
“Absolutely it’s a concern,” says 4th District schools representative Kristen Larson, who’s fielded dozens of calls about fields of amber waves over the past three weeks. “When the schools have grass — landscaping in general — that’s not kept up … I think that impacts the value the schools feel they have.”
The list of schools in need of lawn care is growing as fast as the lawns, she says, though in recent days, city crews have begun reaping what was sown. The yard at Fisher Elementary, for which Larson had received numerous parental complaints, was cut Thursday.
At John B. Cary Elementary, Larson says, parents told her they’d resorted to cutting their own schoolyard.
Ginter Park Elementary’s yard, as of Friday, was above ankle-high in weeds and buttercups.
Recent rains, Larson says, don’t entirely explain away the issue, as calls were rolling in well before the soakings of the last couple of weeks.
Responding to Richmond magazine queries about the high grass, city spokesman Mike Wallace says via email that a lack of available overtime in part is playing into the lack of lawn maintenance at schools, along with six vacancies for grounds maintenance workers, which would add to the current crew of 26 assigned to mowing by Public Works.The city's total grounds maintenance budget for 2013 is $4.04 million, Wallace says, but and it remains unclear whether the city increased that allocation — or the number of employees assigned to mow — after the consolidation with schools. Grass that exceeds 12 inches in height is a code violation subject to a city fine.
And there’s a more global reason, Larson says, that high grass should not be a low priority on school grounds.“I think the facilities maintenance and the grass cutting, though it may seem like a small thing, it’s all connected in the public image of the schools in the community,” she says. “Some of these schools, the grass is so high, somebody passing by might think the school isn’t even being used. That’s not something we want to be putting out there — that our schools are abandoned.”
That budget pays for maintenance and repairs on the district’s buildings, many of which are between 80 and 100 years old, and the allocation, proposed in Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ budget, provides just a few thousand dollars in maintenance money for each existing school.
“While we don’t oppose the Dove Court School or new schools in general, we would like the council to take into account the three facilities studies we have conducted over the past 10 years and consider the recommendations in those studies,” the four school board members wrote in a signed letter sent Wednesday to City Council members and obtained by Richmond magazine. “The current Overby-Sheppard School is one of our newer school buildings and has only been recommended for renovation – not demolition. As you know, we have many buildings that are well over 50 years old and in need of significant ongoing maintenance to be considered a safe and comfortable environment.”
The Dove Court school, planned for a site occupied by the old Virginia National Guard Armory, is slated in a plan developed by the mayor’s administration to replace the Overby-Sheppard School, which was built about 40 years ago. School Board members Glen Sturtevant, Kimberly B. Gray, Kristen N. Larson and Mamie Taylor signed the letter.
Overby-Sheppard currently houses fewer than 350 students. “The allocation of the Dove School project is at the expense of the vast needs of our other 50 school buildings and the remaining 23,000 students that occupy those buildings,” the letter says.
The letter was necessary, says Larson, in light of the state of the district’s other buildings. She noted that the current proposed capital budget for schools works out to about $43 per child.
“So if something breaks at Westover Hills [Elementary], I’m basically going to have to show up with my checkbook,” she says. “Westover Hills is slated to get a new roof in 2014 at a cost of about $400,000. What am I going to do if something happens?”
Something already has happened at both Thompson Middle and Fairfield Elementary schools, Larson says, adding that both schools have “massive leaks” in their roofs and “literally have buckets in the library and classrooms and office.”
Under the proposed budget, “we’ll be forced to keep all of the schools as best we can — which will probably be with duct tape and paper clips,” Larson says. “I feel like, as an elected official, I’m going to be unable to fulfill my obligation that these students and teachers need to have a safe and sound environment.”
But 6th District City Councilwoman Ellen Robertson, in whose district the Dove Court project sits, defends the project as necessary to the city.
“Today, because of our schools, it is probably one of the greatest impediments to the growth of the city of Richmond,” says Robertson, who’s been working on the Dove Court project for nearly a decade. That project also included the demolition of the old Dove Court subsidized-housing project and its replacement with what eventually could be as many as 900 mixed-income housing units, anchored by a new school. “The city has made a conscious decision to aggressively address our neighborhoods of poverty. For the first time in 15 years, we are building five new schools.”
Robertson says the proposed schools capital budget “is the recommendation that came to us from the mayor,” but adds that she was sympathetic to an earlier letter sent by School Board Chairman Jeffrey Bourne last month seeking an additional $8 million, some of which was to be spent on school maintenance. But she said that request lacked focus.
“What I’ve asked [the School Board] for is a priorities list of the work they would like to get done over the next three years — based on their capacity of what they could get done,” says Robertson, expressing doubt that if council funded $25 million or even $8 million this year, school administration would have the ability to spend the money to complete projects.
“One of our top priorities for the city of Richmond is schools,” Robertson says. “That is the main thing that’s going to drive our economic development in the city.”
During a presentation to the previous School Board two years ago, RPS Chief Operating Officer P. Andy Hawkins told the board that the Richmond Redevelopment and Housing Authority, which leads the Dove Court redevelopment project, would pay for the new school building.
Robertson said the city conducted a study of Overby-Sheppard and determined the school could not be salvaged as part of the redevelopment project. Among other problems, engineers determined the building was not structurally capable of being expanded and that it had been built over a sewer line, “which should never have been done.”
But elected schools leaders say they’ve tried to provide City Council with all the information it needs to understand exactly how money would be spent on school repairs and maintenance, including providing council with a report detailing facilities upgrades that are needed. That report, which cost the district about $200,000 to complete, was provided again as an attachment to the letter sent Wednesday.
Asked about the concerns expressed regarding the capital improvement budget and for a copy of the city’s Overby-Sheppard report, a city spokesman said he’s looking into the request.
In a separate facilities report completed recently for the School Board, Overby-Sheppard was determined to be serviceable and in need primarily of cosmetic repairs, in contrast to other buildings like Ginter Park Elementary, which needs $1 million in upgrades to keep it open.
One School Board member wonders why city officials are sending independent assessors into RPS buildings. “I don’t know why they would be in our schools having reports done when we have had studies done,” says Gray, who also was particularly upset after Monday’s City Council and School Board meetings; Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall spoke at both meetings.
At the School Board meeting, Marshall “got a less than lukewarm reception,” Gray says, as he presented an unsolicited bid from a developer interested in purchasing the school district’s warehouse on Arlington Road for about $1.4 million.
Gray says Marshall “was asked for another appraisal and was asked about the possibility of the building being worth $7 [million] to $9 million.”
The area, near the Boulevard and the city’s baseball stadium, is slated for redevelopment, with area developers speculating that property in the area could be among the most valuable in the city. Former City Manager Robert Bobb, now a developer, told Richmond magazine late last year that his own proposal to the city in 2007 included plans to bring Walmart or another big-box anchor to the area. The current bid proposal is from a light manufacturing company, McKinnon and Harris Inc., which builds high-end patio and yacht furniture.
Gray says she also asked Jane Ferrara, the city’s deputy director of community and economic development, how many unsolicited bids the city had received on occupied city buildings from private companies. Ferrara, Gray says, was unable to answer with a number, but pointed to a building recently in the city’s East End. When Gray pressed her on whether it was occupied and asked if that building was advertised on the city’s list of properties for sale, Ferrara acknowledged that it was vacant and that the building was on the city’s website of surplus buildings.
And while Gray says she’s frustrated with the pressure to sell the Arlington Road building for what she believes will be less than its value, she’s more frustrated with Marshall’s trip downstairs to report to City Council after his appearance before her board. Gray says she confronted Marshall shortly after he spoke to council, telling them that Richmond Public Schools didn’t need any additional allocation toward its capital budget because it was set to receive an additional $1.4 million for the sale of the Arlington Road building.
First District Councilman Jon Baliles was one of eight council members who voted in favor of a plan to fund about $900,000 for preliminary engineering and site preparation for the proposed new Dove Court school. He says it remains unclear just how much the schools capital budget will contain, but says he was unaware that the mayor’s proposal allocated so little.
When asked on what council is basing its decision to replace Overby-Sheppard with a new school in Dove Court, Baliles is candid. “That’s a good question,” he says. “There’s still a lot of outstanding things that need to be answered. One of those things is why the School Board hasn’t weighed in on the project.”
Here, he’s not referring to the Wednesday letter, but rather to the fact that the proposed Dove Court school has not come before the School Board for a vote to approve it. The Virginia Constitution reserves to school boards the authority to construct new schools, not to mayors, city councils or boards of supervisors.
“Under state law, they’re legally supposed to expend money for school construction, but apparently that doesn’t apply in Richmond,” Baliles says, adding that he’d be very interested in receiving an opinion from Virginia Attorney General Ken Cuccinelli on the matter, especially in light of the past four years that have seen Mayor Jones undertake the construction of a new high school, a middle school and two new elementary schools under the auspices of his Build a Better Richmond campaign. None of those schools were on the school board’s list of priority schools to be replaced.
“I think that’s a question that needs to be answered,” Baliles says, of who builds schools.
Baliles also says he wonders about the wisdom of undertaking more major construction in the midst of a down economy and with the city facing a looming deadline: “We’re about out of money in terms of debt capacity,” he says, perhaps as soon as 2016 or 2017.
So why build now? “That’s a question for the mayor and the administration,” Baliles says.
But Robertson sees things more clearly cut.
“The bottom line is all improvements done on school buildings is done by the city of Richmond — every cent they get to fix those buildings they get from the city,” she says, suggesting the School Board, City Council and the mayor need to come together to decide on priorities. Meanwhile, the Dove Court project is separate from school repair issues, she says, expressing the view that the current board members, most of whom are new as of this past January, is not familiar enough with the project to interfere.
“We have been planning this neighborhood for three years,” Robertson says. “[Superintendent Yvonne] Brandon has been at every meeting. The School Board member from that district has been there throughout the entire process.”
But Larson says regardless, the facts speak for themselves. The Dove Court school project will cost $21 million, while the schools currently face $25 million in immediate capital improvement needs.
“I understand the importance of this [Dove Court] project to the economic development of North Side,” Larson says. “But to do it at the expense of all the other children of RPS is sad.”
City Council’s first opportunity to respond to the School Board members’ letter will be Monday evening, when council is set to meet next.
The unsolicited bid, confirmed by various city and school-system sources, was received last month by city officials. A letter about the bid was sent by Richmond Chief Administrative Officer Byron Marshall to Superintendent Yvonne Brandon and School Board Chairman Jeffrey Bourne on April 15. A copy of that letter and the proposal have since been distributed to the full board, which is scheduled to hear further details at its 5 p.m. meeting. Richmond magazine has reviewed a heavily redacted copy of that proposal.
The bid, said to be for less than $1.5 million for about 4.5 acres adjacent to Interstate 95 and the Boulevard, already isn’t sitting well with some School Board members. The concern is not only that the proposal might represent yet another gain of private business at the expense of children, but also that recent statements by city officials mischaracterize School Board participation in plans related to the school-occupied property.
“We would be doing our children a disservice if we did not think through how we sell these assets and bring in the greatest amount of funding possible so that we can make the much-needed repairs or build new schools,” says 5th District School Board member Kristen Larson, who confirmed that she’d received a copy of the bid but declined to discuss its details. She did express concern that while it may well be best for the district to sell its Boulevard assets, the school district should be cautious about how and when it allows those properties to be sold.
“I want our city to be strong, and I understand the importance of bringing new business here and bringing anchors here that would keep people in the city and that would drive the retail industry in Richmond,” Larson says. “But I don’t want to shortchange our school system. There’s got to be a balance somewhere, where we can assure that we’re valuing our assets in a way that benefits our public schools.”
Part of Larson’s concerns extend from a deal struck late last year by Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ administration to lease another school asset, the Westhampton School on Patterson Avenue, to the Bon Secours Richmond Health System for $10,000 a year. The agreement was key to securing the Redskins training camp coming to a location not far from the Boulevard, but Marshall, who worked to secure the deal, acknowledged to news reporters afterward that the city circumvented the spirit of a council ordinance meant to ensure that sales proceeds of former school buildings went to schools. In acknowledging the intentional end run around that ordinance, Marshall suggested it should be amended to protect RPS assets in the future.
While City Council has discussed amending the ordinance, no vote has taken place, and school-system leaders say they remain vulnerable to getting shorted again.
“Council hasn’t adopted any ordinance that guarantees us funds,” says 2nd District School Board representative Kimberly Gray, who also confirmed receiving a copy of the unsolicited Arlington Road bid. “I know now they’ll say, ‘Oh, this is a sale,’ but how on earth did we get an unsolicited bid on a piece of property that we didn’t even put on the market, that is not on a list of city properties for sale and that is currently occupied by city and RPS employees?”
Gray, who previously worked as a real estate agent, also says she has concerns about the proposed bid price on the property.
“As I said with the Westhampton deal, we don’t know what the true market value of a property is if we never put it on the market,” she says.
At least one person with some knowledge of real estate values on the Boulevard says the bid seems low. “I think that’s a little number,” says Charlie Diradour, a Richmond developer whose active role in a previous public debate about the future of the Boulevard played a part in keeping baseball and The Diamond there. “Look at the size of the property, look at the square footage, look at the frontage — that’s an amazingly small number.”
Diradour, who currently is renovating a former Boulevard adult bookstore and converting it to a gourmet taco stand, says he talked with School Board members two years ago about his own interest both in the Arlington Road warehouse and in buildings adjacent to it that front the Boulevard near its Interstate 95 underpass. At the time, he says, he was told that school officials were “interested in hearing what I had to say about it, but they weren’t ready to do anything with it yet.”
But the entire area has been subject to intense speculation, meaning the land value may well be significantly more, regardless of its current assessed value.
Richmond boasts relatively little high-density commercial retail, but the nearby Lowe's Home Improvement store on West Broad Street currently is assessed at more than $19 million, with the land accounting for $8.6 million of that value.
The city’s assessment of the school system’s Arlington Road site is currently a bit less than $1.8 million and has been since shortly after former Richmond City Manager Robert Bobb approached the administration of then-Mayor L. Douglas Wilder about six years ago with a sweeping proposal to transform the Boulevard, a major gateway into the city from the interstate, into a massive mixed-use development.
And while no one is yet saying who the bidder is on the property, Gray says she’s concerned that either the bidder is not fully disclosing their intentions for the property, or that it may not be consistent with what the mayor and his administration have said should be the focus of Boulevard redevelopment.
Gray says the proposal appears to be from a light manufacturing company seeking to expand.
Bobb told Richmond magazine last year that he no longer has any legal interest in property in the area, but he said his plan at the time had progressed to the point that he was well along in discussions with an international big-box retailer about anchoring the redevelopment.
Bobb’s redevelopment proposal relied in part on moving The Diamond to Shockoe Bottom, and it also included assuming control of the Arthur Ashe Center, another valuable School Board property, and converting it as an anchor to the project. Arthur Ashe is located diagonally adjacent to the intersection of Boulevard and Arlington Road.
Interestingly, City Council President Charles Samuels, speaking to a local television reporter ahead of the Monument Avenue 10K on April 13, said he’d been informed that school-system leaders were ready to “surplus” the Arthur Ashe Center — meaning they would cede control of property they no longer want to city government — an assertion he repeated in a radio interview set to run this Friday on Open Source RVA, a program on WRIR that is co-hosted by this reporter.
“It was my understanding that the Arthur Ashe Center, everybody kind of agrees that it is past its prime by a significant number of years and that it is going to be torn down,” he says in the radio interview, also indicating that the school system already has agreed to vacate both Ashe and the Arlington Road facility. “They have some storage on the Boulevard, and that’s all getting moved already — they’ve agreed to that, that’s no problem. ... We’ve already made the arrangements to start moving the school properties off the Boulevard, to move the city garage off the Boulevard. And now, really, the discussion is going to have to be what should replace it.”
The letter informing the School Board of the unsolicited bid also suggests that the board is further along in its process of “surplussing” than it is.
“Late last year, we discussed with Richmond Public Schools (RPS) its desire to surplus the Arlington Road facility as an integral part of the plan to relocate RPS and the city facilities from ‘the Boulevard’ to either Hermitage Road or Commerce Road,” writes Marshall in his introduction to the proposal. “This plan is well underway.”
That’s all news to Larson and Gray, who say the School Board has never agreed to vacate or turn over either property to the city. In November 2012, the board did hear a school administration presentation that proposed surplussing both facilities, in addition to three school buildings. Those three schools are part of the mayor’s Build a Better Richmond program that is constructing new schools, but the board decided not to turn over the Ashe Center nor Arlington Road properties, which were removed from the proposed resolution that included the three elementary schools.
Current School Board chairman Bourne, who’d been elected to the board only days earlier but was not yet sworn in, was present at the board’s work session, and in a tape transcript reviewed by Richmond magazine, then-Chairwoman Dawn Page acknowledged his arrival to the meeting just as the then-board began discussing the proposed surplus action.
The discussion then focused primarily on the board’s concern about its treatment during the Redskins deal.
“What’s really of concern here is we now know that when property we’ve surplussed gets meaningful, beneficial use, that we don’t get any compensation for that,” said then-5th District representative Maurice Henderson, who’d just lost his seat to incoming board member Mamie Taylor.
Larson says she listened to the transcript shortly after being informed of the coming unsolicited bid, and she says she’s unclear how Samuels and other city officials would arrive at a conclusion that the previous board or the current board — more than half of the board is new since January — took any action indicating either that they were ready to "surplus" the buildings or that they already had done so.
“I heard they decided not to surplus Arlington or Arthur Ashe,” Larson says of her predecessors, noting that the current board may well understand the long-term logic of turning over the property, but that “at this point, this board is in a position to talk about it and decide whether it’s the right time to do that or not.”
In a conversation after Samuels’ radio interview, he reiterated his belief that school-sytem leaders were involved with discussions about the Boulevard properties.
As to conclusions seemingly being drawn by Samuels or others, “it sounds like it’s part of a misunderstanding … that decisions are being made without full [school] board input,” Larson says. “I think we just collectively as a board need to decide how we’re going to move forward. We would be doing our children a disservice if we did not think through how we sell these assets and bring in the greatest amount of funding possible so that we can make the much-needed repairs or build new schools.”
The video, which has garnered nearly 1,000 views as of today, calls attention to what Baliles calls “deplorable” conditions at the K-9 unit’s facility, a 60-plus-year-old converted chemical storage shed near the Pine Camp Cultural Arts and Community Center on Richmond’s North Side.
“I don’t know if I consider it groundbreaking, but I felt like it was a good way to let people know what kind of facility they’ve got and what they need,” says Baliles. “You can’t really do that with a press release.”
Baliles is sponsoring an amendment to Mayor Dwight C. Jones’ proposed budget to pay about $200,000 for design costs in the upcoming fiscal year and an additional $1.2 million or so the following year to build a new facility.
The video, produced by the nonprofit Friends of Richmond K-9, runs for almost two minutes and features Baliles and Jodi Strange, president of the group that advocates for the dogs, speaking over professionally shot and edited footage of the dogs going through their paces. Baliles and Strange appear intermittently to pitch their plea.
YouTube is now a common and popular tool for state and national politicians, who use it as a platform to run longer, or potentially more controversial, ads than they might be able to afford to run on traditional television or that can be targeted through social media to particular voter groups.
And this is not the first time that well-produced local political videos have appeared and circulated widely on YouTube as part of a municipality-level campaign unable or unwilling to rely on television spots.
In 2007, former Chesterfield County Supervisor Marleen Durfee took to the social media video sharing site with a series of political ads that were, according to statewide campaign experts in 2007, a first of their kind in the state. Durfee, an independent running against a Republican in a largely Republican district, won handily.
But this is most certainly a first that involves a sitting Richmond city councilman using YouTube as a platform to lobby for a budget amendment.
Baliles says the genesis of the video came before his election this past November when he met Strange and her family at a party. It was summertime and Strange asked Baliles to come take a tour of the antiquated K-9 facility. It was July and “boiling hot,” says Baliles, who found the facility “depressing and kind of outrageous,” with dogs in outdoor kennels cooled by box fans. The facility houses about a dozen police dogs trained, among other duties, to ferret out drugs, guns, bombs, bodies and missing people.
“I told her if I could do anything, I would try to help,” he says, and after his election he suggested doing a video. “It’s hit home with a lot of people.”
Richmond City Councilman Chris Hilbert, who’d not seen the video until yesterday afternoon, says he’d already received a number of calls from constituents, though he was unaware of the likely impetus for the influx of calls. The video, as with most viral campaigns aimed at influencing elected officials, calls on viewers to contact City Council and Mayor Jones.
Mike Wallace, a spokesman for Jones, says he’s aware of the video and has viewed it. Baliles says he’s not yet directly engaged the mayor about his proposed budget amendment, but says he’s received widespread support from a number of his council peers.
“I’ve got to shore up my end first,” Baliles says of ongoing conversations needed with other members of council.
Hilbert calls it a worthy cause, without immediately committing to voting one way or the other.
Asked if he saw the video campaign as an unusual tool for promoting something as seemingly mundane as a budget amendment, Baliles, who’s a longtime Internet entrepreneur with his weekly email and internet calendar, sounds nonchalant.
“We had fun making it,” he says.
A plan by Superintendent Yvonne Brandon to expand Richmond Public Schools’ middle years International Baccalaureate program at Lucille Brown Middle School will more than double the cost for the city’s two IB programs, which currently cost roughly $214,000, bringing the total to about $484,000. Richmond Mayor Dwight C. Jones has proposed adding $500,000 in the next budget to bolster the city’s IB programs.
In comparison, Hanover County’s IB programs, currently available at four high schools, will cost about $186,000 next year, according to Hanover’s director of secondary education, Bob Staley.
Much of the cost for the Richmond expansion, as detailed in a proposal to be presented during tonight’s School Board meeting, pays for three new teachers, a part-time IB coordinator for Thomas Jefferson High School and about $40,000 in additional annual training for teachers at Lucille Brown.
Hanover County Public Schools' Staley touts the IB program’s affordability as well as its success in helping place students at top-tier universities around the country.
“We really don’t spend a whole lot of money on this,” he says, adding, “The results speak for themselves.”
Hanover’s program, according to numbers reported by the district to the Virginia Department of Education, awarded 55 IB diplomas last year. By comparison, Richmond’s program graduated nine in 2012 and had graduated five during the previous three years of the program.
Richmond Public Schools spokeswoman Felicia Cosby was unavailable for comment today, and she delayed a scheduled interview with Richmond’s assistant superintendent of secondary instruction, Victoria Oakley, until Tuesday. But comparing individual line items in each school division, the picture appears to require some explanation.
Hanover currently pays $42,640 in annual program dues to the Switzerland-based International Baccalaureate Organization. Those are required to keep its four programs active. Meanwhile, according to Brandon’s proposed budget, the current year’s program dues for Richmond's two IB programs were $24,154, with those fees projected to increase next year to more than $47,000 in Brandon’s proposed budget. The IBO charges a fixed $10,660 per program for dues, Staley says, noting that the dues amount has decreased slightly.
Brandon’s proposal calls for an additional three IB elective teachers — in theater, foreign language and technology. An analysis of current staffing levels indicates that Lucille Brown’s program currently maintains class sizes between 11 and 15 students, a figure likely to remain unchanged under the new proposal.
Teacher training accounts for the next biggest increase proposed in Brandon’s plan, but the numbers provide few clues as to how that money will be spent. Currently, Hanover’s program spends about $48,000 annually to train about 32 teachers, Staley says, which is a little less than half of the total number of IB trained teachers in the four programs. Richmond currently spends more than $37,000 on teacher training between Brown and TJ, according to Brandon’s proposed budget, and her proposal would add $40,000 annually to that, bringing the total spent on training to more than $77,000 each year, enough to provide training to 45 teachers each year, according the standard fees that Staley says the IBO charges for training.
Together, both Richmond programs currently comprise about 30 teachers, according to online school staff directories, and only 25 teachers according to Brandon’s proposed budget.
Although Brandon’s proposal stands to make IB classes available to all Lucille Brown students, the fact that the $270,000 cost increase amounts only to about 25 new IB slots at the school, phased in at each grade level, is enough to give pause to 4th District School Board representative Kristen Larson. She also expresses concern about Brandon’s ambitious plan to begin implementing the first phase of the program expansion later this month.
“I think we need to ensure that the public and the parents and all stakeholders have time for proper input, and I’m a little concerned with the timeline being proposed that there is not enough time for that input,” Larson says. “We also need to ensure that she is using the additional money we’re getting from City Council, that the money is being spent in the way that it ... offer[s] more options to more students, and we need to be sure that the accountability is there.”
Lucille Brown’s IB program currently has capacity for 225 students, or 75 in each grade. The proposed expansion makes IB classes available to all students zoned to Lucille Brown as well as to about 100 students in each grade level who apply from out of zone to attend IB.
Hanover currently has more than 400 students enrolled in IB classes, and because IB-trained teachers do not only teach IB classes, odds are good in Hanover that students never taking an IB class will still have IB teachers. There are between 15 and 18 IB teachers in each of Hanover’s four schools.
“They teach all kids,” Staley says. “They may have a block or two or three of IB classes, but ... I don’t know that we have anybody who teaches just IB."
The same is not the case in Richmond, according to Cosby, and according to the superintendent’s proposed budget, which presents a separate staff salary budget at both Brown and TJ for IB teachers. Together, those budgets amount to about 25 teachers who together cost just shy of $2 million and who teach fewer than 450 students. Last year’s Richmond IB senior class was 17 students, according to RPS’ report to the state.