I’m a working mother and advocate of public education.
In 2006 my husband and I moved to Richmond and bought a house within the city limits despite the not-so-subtle skepticism from our real estate agent. In the years that followed, friends who lived in the county or sent their kids to private schools prodded us with the “but what will you do for school?” question again and again.
Given my own education, it was an obvious answer. It’s clear what brought me to Richmond and the Northside, and to send my children to Linwood Holton Elementary School.
My family moved pretty frequently when I was growing up. I attended many schools with varying diversity. I went to inner-city schools, schools in elite neighborhoods, and your average middle-class schools. I’m thankful I grew up with friends whose homes and families were so different than mine, and found common ground in the classroom.
So it’s not surprising that when I came to Richmond I was drawn to the neighborhood surrounding Holton, named after our former governor who believed in school integration and practiced what he preached. Today Holton more closely reflects the diversity of our city than any other in the district.
A few years after we moved in, it was time to send my daughter to school. I remember feeling pressured that she know her letters before starting preschool. I took note when I spent a hundred dollars on school supplies to buy things like reams of paper and bottles of soap. Newspaper headlines about slashed state school funding stuck with me. I was overwhelmed by the abundance of testing. I kept hearing about tensions between city hall and the school board.
Increased demands, decreased funding, and dysfunction were the recurring themes.
In 2012, we elected a new president and a new school board here in Richmond. I felt a spark of optimism. I began attending school board meetings. I dug into city financial reports. I attended meetings to select a new superintendent and to address our aging facilities.
I was thrilled to find others in the city who shared my values and belief in public education. When our community was asked to show up to rectify flat funding, we rallied. When we needed to address stagnant teacher salaries, we showed up at city hall. I was so proud of the energy of advocates. When I was tapped to consider the PTA board at Holton, it was an easy yes.
It is pure luck that I’d be living here in Richmond and sending my kids to school at this time in our history. In the Northside and beyond there is a network of parents, teachers, community members and leaders changing the status quo. But I see that our networks are siloed and fragmented. There is such opportunity if we come together.
I’m here now because the strength of our city and nation lies in our ability to educate everyone, regardless of zip code. I’m here now because public education as we know it is threatened. Leaders at the federal level are eager to label public education as a failure to pave the way for private companies. What expertise do they have that our teachers do not? It is time to ask why college tuition skyrockets while K-12 funding is flat. It is time to address falling ceiling tiles and mold in our buildings. It is time to demand that we put politics aside and do what is best for our kids and our future.
I am running for school board to act on the will of the community, and hopefully empower us to realize our power as a city.
It starts with us.