Wednesday, April 23, 2008

A New Chapter for the Maven

To my cyberfriends:

It is with great enthusiasm that I announce my candidacy for the Richmond School Board to fill the fourth district vacancy. I am running for the School Board because I am deeply committed to public education. I believe that we, the citizens of Richmond, are obligated to provide a first-class education to all of our children. Although we have made considerable progress in the quality of our schools over the past few years, the job is not done. I can provide the leadership to continue the journey.

Until now, I had no plans to run for public office. I just wanted to live close to my grandchildren and enjoy my retirement. However, a few years ago I became involved with Richmond Public Schools as a volunteer in the Micah Initiative. Soon after that, I started serving on the Citizen's Advisory Group for Communities in Schools at Westover Hills Elementary School. I have also been on the Board of Directors of Friends of Fourth District Schools. Although all of these "jobs" give me great satisfaction, I now need to do something that will allow me to help more than a few children at a time.

I am lucky to have received a quality public education. Had not my grandparents' and parents' generations made the commitment to provide high quality public schools for me to attend, I am sure that I would have never achieved what I have achieved in life. Now that I am a grandfather, it is time for me to start paying forward.

I know that voters are tired of candidates who make promises they cannot keep. Therefore, I promise to my neighbors only that I will always put the interests of the children first, that I will be honest, and that I will do everything I can to make Richmond Public Schools a system we can be proud of.

I base my candidacy on the following goals:

1- Restore public trust in the operation of Richmond Public Schools. The recent report by the City Auditor has greatly weakened the confidence of Richmond citizens in our school administration. Before we can accomplish anything else, it is vital that the citizens of Richmond be assured that their money is being used lawfully and efficiently. We must demand accountability from all our public servants. I believe in a zero-tolerance policy for public officials or employees who misuse the public's money.

2- Win the confidence of all parents in Richmond that their children can receive a high quality education in Richmond Public Schools. It is clear that many parents in the fourth district do not choose to send their children to Richmond Public Schools. I have spoken to my neighbors and I have heard lots of explanations for this attitude. We can do little to change the minds of those parents who have already opted out of our public schools. But we can provide an outstanding education to all those children who are in our schools now and to those who will become students in the future. I will work hard to make Fisher, Southampton and Westover Hills elementary schools, Brown and Thompson middle schools, and Huguenot High School models of excellence that will provide all the children in the fourth district top-quality educations. These schools will serve as magnets attracting parents to enroll their children.

3- Demand excellence from our students, teachers and administrators. We have made remarkable progress and most of the city's schools now meet state standards. However, this means only that the majority of our children are passing. We must create the expectation that all our children will get A's in school, not just C's. Although many of our students are performing at a level higher than passing, I am afraid that many are not. I am convinced that our children will meet the expectations that we set for them. If we only ask them to pass, they will only pass. However, if we insist that their goal is to earn an A in every course, they will perform at a much higher level. We must have tough curricula that challenge our children to achieve their best.

I have watched some of our remarkable teachers working skillfully and with dedication to help our students learn. Many of our children, who are pre-selected for failure by studies from the US Department of Education, are thriving in Richmond Public Schools. We must continue to assure that our teachers are the best available and that they maintain their excellence through meaningful continuing education. We must recognize the accomplishments of our outstanding teachers.

4- Involve the entire Richmond community. Our School Board often makes decisions in isolation. The problems facing our children are so significant, however, that we must involve everybody in the decision-making process. Before making decisions the board must consult with teachers, parents, civic groups and the academic and business communities. Further, although reasonable minds may disagree on policy, we can no longer afford for our School Board to be divided into rival factions.

I have no illusion that achieving any of these goals will be easy. These are not things that can be accomplished in the first few months or even years of any school board member's term. But as a sage said about two thousand years ago, "You are not required to complete the work, but neither are you at liberty to abstain from it."

I cannot do these things alone so I am urging you all to join me in this campaign for our children. I need the help of young and old; I need the help of you who are empty nesters and have already raised your children; I need the help of you who are young and do not yet have children; I need the help of you who are financially well off and you who are struggling financially; I need the help of African Americans, Caucasians, and Hispanics.

We must provide a world-class education for all the children of our city not because it will benefit the economic development of our city and region, which it certainly will. We must provide a world-class education for all the children of our city not because it will be cheaper to invest in them now than to bear the costs of their future failure if we don't, which is also certainly true. Rather, we must provide a world-class education for all of our children because it is the right and the just thing to do. It is our obligation to do it. Working together, we will do it.

Under the election laws of Virginia I cannot run for office as the James River Maven. Therefore, I must reveal my secret identity. I would appreciate it if one of you would tell me about the ethics of continuing to run this blog while I am a candidate or should I get elected.

To Gray--

Thank you for being my cheerleader-in-chief.

Bert Berlin


Gray said...

I’m so happy to hear you’re running for school board. My father-in-law lives in your district and we are members of the great Planet Granite Pool in the Westover Hills neighborhood –I’ll make sure to get the word out.

Keep blogging. I’m more apt to trust a person who is able to put his thoughts and positions on issues in good clear writing. It is a sign of intelligence and care.

Michael Ragsdale said...

Keep on blogging. I run Ideas for Hampton Roads Transit even though I serve on one of their committees. I still see things from a passenger's point of view and will not hesitate to expose truth in my blog.

Too bad I don't live in Richmond, or I'd vote for you.

blewsdawg Rick Caldwell said...

Good Luck With That, Bert

Michelle said...

Thanks for putting yourself out there ,Bert. So excited to hear that you are doing this. Please,let us know how best to help.