By Lindsey M. Burke
Although he is facing steep opposition from the school board in the city, Green has mobilized parents around Richmond who are supportive of his fight to bring more quality education options to an area that desperately needs them.
That fight may not be easy, however. Jason Kamras, the superintendent of Richmond Public Schools, said he’s “100% committed to ensuring that [Richmond Public Schools] remains a traditional public school system.” I interviewed Green, president of the Richmond Urban Collective, to learn more about his efforts to increase the charter school supply in Virginia.
Lindsey Burke: Tell me about the education options currently available to elementary, middle, and secondary students in Richmond. Do charter school options exist?
Antione Green: Our city school system currently has what is called an “open-enrollment process,” where families can enroll in out-of-zone schools, based on seat availability at the desired schools.
On the high school level, we have an academically selective process for students to apply for our magnet schools and governor schools.
Yes, we have one independently created charter school, Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts, and a district-incubated charter to serve students with special needs.
In addition, our school system contracts with a private company to operate an alternative school for select students.
Burke: Is there a need for additional education options in Richmond? What are outcomes like for students assigned to traditional district schools in the city?
Green: We currently have no middle school performing proficiently or meeting state accreditation standards.
In addition, we have the lowest-performing high schools in the state, as well as the lowest graduation rates. As a result, many parents have chosen to disenroll their children and seek schooling elsewhere.
Consequently, it negatively impacts our tax base and our ability to preserve a middle class here in our city. Our goal is to create high-quality options for parents and help keep families here in the city.
Burke: As you’ve begun your journey to open a school of your own in Richmond, I’m sure you’ve had the chance to speak with many parents about what they’re looking for in a school. What do you hear most often from families? What is most important to them when they engage in the school selection process?
Green: Yes, we have met many parents on our campaign to win school support. Many are looking for a school that can ensure their children, post-high school, are equipped with real-world skills.
What’s most important to many of them is that their children have an opportunity to attend a school that matches their learning style with a customized instructional approach and can prepare them to be lifelong critical thinkers.
Burke: What is unique about the model of the Richmond Urban Collective?
Green: What’s unique about our model is, first, we will be the first single-gender public school in Virginia.
Secondly, we will operate on a year-round school calendar, as well as extended school days.
Thirdly, we will also employ a unique instructional approach using digital resources to enhance the academic experience.
Lastly, recognizing the importance of highly effective teachers to student performance, our teachers will have access to high-quality one-on-one coaches for the purpose of enhancing the delivery of high-quality instruction to our students.
Burke: One day, when the school is operational, what do you hope prospective students leave equipped with?
Green: To ultimately contribute to reversing the dismal performance and statistics long associated with our city high schools.
Beyond high school, I want our former students to be able to contribute to the future of our country as economically free thinkers. Period.
Lindsey Burke researches and writes on federal and state education issues as the Will Skillman fellow in education policy at The Heritage Foundation. This interview originally appeared in the October 2, 2019 edition of The Daily Signal.