Richmond School Board approves spending priorities

Richmond School Board approves spending priorities
RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras

RICHMOND, VA (WWBT) - The Richmond School Board decided how it will spend your tax dollars next school year in a meeting Monday night.

RPS is allocating more money for teacher pay raises as well as funding brand new school buildings.

It comes on the very day community members dropped off toiletries to nearby schools, after students reported having no toilet paper in their bathrooms. The superintendent says that was not an issue of money - it was a delayed shipment.

Superintendent Jason Kamras is asking community leaders to stop donating items, implying that the school system has it covered. Some parents and neighbors called the situation an embarrassment.

"At Armstrong, there's been no soap in the bathrooms for two years," said one teacher at the meeting.

"Daily, I clean my desk. I clean away mice feces and urine on my desk. I buy the supplies and gloves. RPS should be at least able to supply the paper towels. Last week, I asked for paper towels. My custodian said we have none," said another teacher.

Kamras pushed a plan to give teachers and all contracted employees a two percent pay raise. He also eliminated funding for 12 new school nurses, but he says he will still ensure there's a nurse at every school.

At one point, Kamras got straight to the point, describing the problem RPS faces when it comes to aging school buildings.

"Heartbroken by the state of our facilities. We have discussed this ad nauseam. The city, the council, this board - but I am not a magician," said Kamras.

Kamras says he has identified $13 million in funding that can be used for emergency repairs. That's in addition to the 1.5 million school leaders just approved for maintenance next school year.

Another major change: giving more money to athletic departments. The board raised the athletic budget from $250,000 to $500,000.

Earlier, a Richmond School Board member spoke out after the superintendent authorized the posting of several high-paying administrative jobs last month.

Richmond School Board member Kenya Gibson says Kamras didn't give the board an adequate chance to weigh in on whether the district can afford the positions, which could total more than $500,000 a year.

Gibson says Kamras emailed the board to inform them that the management positions were being posted within about a day's time.

Richmond Public Schools is seeking four "Principal Directors" who'd earn up to $155,000 year, according to Gibson. The job posting on Richmond Public Schools website states the position would pay $91,478 - $155,792 per year.

"We need to have a democratic discussion … whether it be someone at Central Office making $150,000 a year or a school bus driver," said Gibson. "I was concerned about these positions being posted because it hasn't been part of the deliberation for our budget."

RPS is in a constant struggle for money. Starting in July, a meals tax increase will help fund a district-wide facilities overhaul.

A representative for the superintendent says the extra positions won't increase the budget.

Kamras had come under scrutiny earlier this year for proposing salaries for members of his new cabinet that were tens of thousands of dollars more than previous cabinet members had earned.

Kamras ultimately cut several cabinet positions to keep overall salary costs down, even lower than the previous administration.

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