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Jones Outlines School Plan

September 20, 2008

Richmond mayoral candidate Dwight Clinton Jones outlined yesterday his plan to improve city schools, which includes partnering with local universities to create three laboratory middle schools. Such schools have been successful across the country, said Jones, because they take advantage of educational expertise and focus on the

Jones student, not just test scores.

“We must have a school system that has no fear of creativity and new paradigms,” Jones said at a news conference at the General Assembly Building. Jones, a state delegate and pastor, has sought state legislation that would allow laboratory schools to operate by contract similar to charter schools.

His campaign said that such legislation would not be needed but would help school systems start laboratory schools. As part of his Education First initiative, Jones is proposing schools paired with Virginia Commonwealth University, the University of Richmond and Virginia Union University.

Jones said the city also should consider charter schools, but he gave no opinion when asked about one proposed at Patrick Henry Elementary in South Richmond. The School Board is expected to vote Oct. 6 on a revised proposed contract.

Jones said he supports charter schools “if they are equitable and fair and if they are open and available to all children and if they take no money away from the public educational system.”

He said he favors laboratory schools because they can tap academic expertise. “The university’s name is on the line.”

Paul Goldman, a mayoral candidate who has supported the Patrick Henry charter school, blasted Jones and others in the race for not taking a clear stand for fear of upsetting those who see charter schools as racially divisive. Goldman believes those fears are unwarranted.

“Leadership is making choices,” he said. “It’s standing up.”

William J. Pantele has and still supports the Patrick Henry charter school, said Craig Bieber, Pantele’s campaign manager. “We’re glad that Dwight Jones is embracing Bill Pantele’s call for innovative, alternative solutions in our public school system,” Bieber said.

Robert J. Grey Jr. supports charter schools as an alternative to failing schools “as long as there is measured accountability,” said Lisa Fulton, Grey’s campaign manager.

In an e-mail, she said Jones has shown little leadership on education during 14 years in the legislature and four years on the Richmond School Board.

“Our city school system has been one of the most expensive and least effective in the state…. Now Reverend Jones discovers our city schools need help?” she said. “Instead of Education First, his plan should be called ‘Education Eventually.’ “

Lawrence E. Williams Sr. could not be reached but has campaigned on building three new middle schools with social services and other programs on site.

– Contact Will Jones at (804) 649-6911 or wjones@timesdispatch.com.

ILLUSTRATION: PHOTO

MEMO: RICHMOND MAYORAL RACE

Originally published by JONES; Times-Dispatch Staff Writer.

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