Norfolk Public Schools superintendent out

Richard Bentley couldn’t perform miracles in less than 16 months on the job so the board “accepted” his resignation. Really?

Yeah, I’m not buying that, either.

Word on the street is that certain people were upset that Bentley, obviously a white guy, was hired in the first place to run the majority black school system. I’m just guessing here but the board considered him the best of the three finalists when he was hired, right? Despite the 3-3 vote, right?

Oh, yes, the board will do another nationwide search – on our dime, of course.

I think Thomas Calhoun, president of the Norfolk Federation of Teachers, got it right. From the article:

“You are the problem – it’s not the superintendent, it’s the inconsistency at the top,” he told the board, which is appointed by the council. Calhoun said frequent turnover on the board undermined continuity in the division’s leadership. “I will be so glad when the city gets fed up with this system.”

Some of us are already fed up, Mr. Calhoun. It’s beyond time for Norfolk to join the ranks of other cities and elect its school board.

UPDATE: In an article printed in Friday’s paper, School Board Chairman Dr. Kirk Houston says the separation was not about race. That he had to address that specifically is interesting, don’t you think?


19 thoughts on “Norfolk Public Schools superintendent out

  1. Electing the board can also cause issues. The mayor of a city should have the biggest responsibility with the performance of the school system. The culture of a city should encourage, above all else, the best education, the best police department and the best fire department. Until monies are spent without selfness on the part of city legislators, the constituents lose out, not the corporations or private citizens that are donating to the legislators reelection treasure chests. It is harder to oust numerous members of a board. If the school system is failing, the culture should be “the mayor needs to go”. And if the city is to elect a board, how about the prerequisite for the job be a degree in some type of education.

      1. Give taxing authority, I will support an elected school board. Look at the dysfunction on the Beach School Board, no better than the dysfunction on our’s. I have talked to passed elected school board members who don’t think elected is a good thing. And it was a good school board member.

        1. To give taxing authority to the school boards would require a change to the Virginia constitution. In other words, that ain’t happening. 😦 As for Terry Whibley, to whom I think you are referring – well, her opinion is just like everyone else’s: just one person’s opinion.

          Part of the reason for an elected school board, even one without taxing authority, is to reduce the authority of council. I don’t see how having another group of people accountable to the voters is a bad thing. And this is the point that I disagree with Whibley on. She and others think that there is a risk of electing the wrong people. I’ll take that risk – because we can vote them out – over having council pick only the “right” people.

          1. Nope, Terry was never elected to a School Board, it was someone in another city, who had been elected. I understand the accountability part. But I say, over and over, the citizens of Norfolk, or any political subdivision – I guess, don’t have a good record of electing accountable people. What makes us think they will do so with an elected School Board.

  2. I attended the meeting last evening and indeed Mr. Calhoun as well as Mr. Melcher “hit the nail on the head”. Unfortunately by the time these gentlemen presented their points of view it was a a “done deal”. The ultimate blame is shared not only by the school board and but our City Council . It is a time for a leadership change at the Council level. Perhaps then, we will begin to see more transparency, accountability and consistency. Until then, we can expect the same outcome no matter who is on the School Board or any other board for that matter.

  3. What a shame, we lost a true leader who really cared about improving the education of our children. Our city leaders are to blame for the dismal failure of our schools. When you allow schools to crumble you tell the students how unimportant they are. Maybe we could get Mr. Shuchet of HRT fame to come clean house at the school administration building. He would put the money on the inside of our schools instead of spending it on too many jobs in administration. Dr. Bentley cut jobs and left some unfilled which saved money but a lot more still could be done. It’s time Norfolk got serious about the priority of education.

    1. Peggy, I, too, read Kerry Dougherty’s column where she called for this. A good idea. If we can afford $236K to get rid of someone, we can afford $400K to get someone good!

  4. I’m still in shock over this. I got a hold of Bentley’s contract yesterday and it definitely looks like he was fired without cause. That runs contrary to what the school board said in their statement, so we definitely are not getting the whole story. A 236,000 severance package is a high price to pay to fire a superintendent without cause. It’s definitely looking like elected school board referendum part 2 in 2012.

  5. At the 6th Senate convention, there was a former school board member there who had just failed to be re-appointed and had previously opposed my efforts for an elected board. When he saw me at the convention, he came up and said he had changed his mind because as it stands right now, the school board is elected…by 8 people. Also, I would hardly say the VB school board is dysfunctional, not withstanding this recent Saudi Arabia fiasco. They run consistent surpluses and balanced budgets, I’m not sure what more you could want given Virginia Beach’s school are really good compared to elsewhere in Hampton Roads.

  6. Vivian, good op-ed piece this morning. Just getting back in town and taking all of this in. As a board member, I voted for Dr. Bentley to bring change and untethered leadership to our district. I believed at that time that with the history of our district, this type of leader and change was needed to right the ship in our schools. I understand he was making changes in the instructional and bureaucratic structure of NPS towards improving academic achievement for our children and schools. I understand there were personnel changes involving some longstanding and very good staffers and administrators. Again, I saw/see these changes as necessary too, to change the culture within our district. I believe this might have been part of the political reasoning for his removal. I ran into two NPS employees this morning at Charlies and they report morale across the district is down. That’s really unfortunate. I see Dr. Bentley’s theme last year was “Believe” and this year “Commit.” Unfortunately, our city did not commit to him and his plan, which should be a long term considering the nature of education and the recent history of NPS, to bring change. I saw Kerry’s piece and what Phil S said about bringing in an “outsider” to make changes. That was my thought with my vote for Dr. Bentley and my understanding of what he was doing. I know this was not easy for the current board but we need untethered leadership to tackle the needs of our educational system. Underperforming schools are a hindrance to the advancement of our city in so many ways. I wish that view was understood by all so we would prioritize its health and welfare. Glad to be back but sad to see the same ol’ state of affairs in my fair city.

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