Our Working Lives

‘RED FOR ED’- RICHMOND TEACHERS ORGANIZE, SCORE VICTORIES

Originally published in the Autumn 2018 edition of the Virginia Defender, issue 58, printed November 8. Reproduced here for accessibility and archival purposes. To find other stories in the Autumn 2018 issue or to download the full PDF, see this post (pending). For the full web catalog, see our Full Issues page.

By Joseph S.H. Rogers

Photograph of a crowded school board meeting, with many audience members wearing red.
Richmond teachers and supporters line up to speak during the Public Comment section of the Sept. 4 school board meeting at City Hall. Their determination convinced the board to decide in their favor on two critical issues. Photo by Joseph S.H. Rogers.

“It’s not a good look when teachers and students have to rearrange their carefully created schedules two days before the start of school.” 

That was just one of the comments expressed at the Sept. 4 Richmond School Board meeting as nearly 50 teachers and supporters, dressed in red as a sign of solidarity, packed the small school board meeting room at City Hall. 

They came in response to an administration policy announcement which would have dramatically changed the school day and teachers’ ability to schedule their classes, as well as the ability of teachers, parents and students to plan their personal lives. The vocal opposition to this change caused it to be rescinded in a victory for the teachers and their students.

Speakers also expressed gratitude for an addition to the administration’s Strategic Plan. After successful agitation led by the Richmond Education Association and 2nd District School Board member Kenya Gibson, Teacher Retention was added to the plan’s top 10 goals for the next five years. 

Though the victories were well-received, advocates say that there is still more to be done, including on professional development directives and contract clarifications. 

As one of the more than a dozen teacher/advocates stated during her testimony, “The reason the teachers leave RPS is never because of the kids, it’s because of the chaos.” 

Tonight’s victory came on the national teachers’ day of action called “Red for Ed.” Locally, the action was built using the Facebook event page “REA Bring out your Red.”

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