According to today’s TD, and the people they’ve interviewed, the Richmond-area education system is a shining example of regional cooperation, “If there’s a regional cooperation model to follow, education leaders say it’s theirs.” School leaders in Henrico, Chesterfield, and Hanover call efforts “very successful” and “healthy.” Richmond-area schools are the best – at cooperating with each other.

Examples celebrated include substantial achievements, such as Maggie Walker’s Governor School, and pedestrian ones, like matching spring break schedules.

Call me an idealist, or overly critical, or whatever you want, but I’m not impressed. I don’t care how many regional projects we have, as long as the purpose of our education system- children’s educational achievement – does not meet with the same success across the region, then there’s nothing to celebrate.

When the city is saddled with huge concentrations of poverty due to other jurisdictions’ refusal to build affordable housing, how can we celebrate regional cooperation?

When counties are actively promoting fear of the city, by, for example, fighting and refusing bus service because it will give “dangerous” people access to the county (which Chesterfield and Hanover both do), how can we celebrate regional cooperation?

When politicians publicly claim their superiority over other regions, as Henrico Co. manager Virgil Hazlett recently did, how can we celebrate regional cooperation? Hazlett said, “We are the community of choice. Our school system is second to none.” [“Henrico board refuses to fund Varina project,” TD, May 9, ’07 – no longer available on-line];

When there is an enormous achievement gap between children in different jurisdictions, how can we celebrate regional cooperation?

The only reason to celebrate is if you have a stake in maintaining the status quo- which it’s obvious that the counties do since the current system works to keep poor kids out of their schools.

Kudos go to Richmond School Board Chair, Braxton, who urges the region to think about a regionally merged school system. Of course the idea faces intractable opposition from those who like things the way they are:

“[A]ny push toward a regional school system would be left to future generations, Hanover’s [superintendent] Roberson said. ‘I truly believe there’s a healthy level [of regional cooperation] right now, but future opportunities to cooperate regionally are limited only by the imagination.'”

Bottom line, as long as things are working for me and my people, I won’t change. Apparently, we’re happy to let kids suffer from a dysfunctional school system that segregates kids along economic and racial lines, hindering many from achieving their full potential.

That’s not what I’d call “healthy” and “successful.”

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