About the Race
The election of the 5th District representative for Richmond School Board takes place on November 3, 2020, sharing a ballot with the U.S. presidential election. Activist Stephanie Rizzi is running against administrator Dr. Decardra Jackson, local CEO David Jones, and fellow activist Jennifer Aghomo.
About the District
Richmond is an independent city and the Commonwealth’s capital. It lies on the fall line of the James River between Chesterfield and Henrico counties. Richmond City’s population is roughly 200,000, although the greater metro area has a population of over 1 million. Richmond’s 5th District is located in the southwest part of the city. The 5th District trends Democratic with Rep. Don McEachin (D) winning over 85% of the vote during the 2018 congressional election.
Stephanie Rizzi is a lifelong educator who has also worked in Richmond as an activist for change with groups such as Richmond For All to advocate for schools that are more equitable to educators and students of all backgrounds.
Rizzi believes that empowering teachers and giving the community a voice in school matters is the best way to improve education. She believes that top-heavy administrative bureaucracies are counterproductive to educator success, and that teachers’ input on changes to school curriculum and day-to-day school life should be solicited first before new policies are imposed on them.
In order to see that all Richmond students thrive, Rizzi advocates having input from educators, parents and communities before implementing pre-packaged curriculums. She also wishes to reimagine school discipline to focus on preventing infractions or dealing with them within schools, rather than resorting to calling in law enforcement officers.
Her first opponent, David Jones, is the CEO of a local construction company. He also runs an organization to support student athletes in Richmond, which he started because he wanted to provide students at Richmond Public Schools with the same level of athletic opportunity and training as students in the surrounding county schools. Jones is very focused on closing the achievement gaps for male students of color and has worked with Mayor Levar Stoney on reaching out to students. However, Jones has not put forward a platform as comprehensive or progressive as Rizzi.
Her other opponent, Dr. Decardra Jackson, works as the Richmond Public School Director of Testing Assessment Literacy and Research. Her platform is centered on ensuring that all students in Richmond Public Schools have equal access to 21st century learning tools. Jackson wants to reach out to local businesses, libraries, and police to build partnerships to support students. She also supports universal pre-K. While Jackson’s platform is moderately progresive, it does not provide the same level of policy engagement and agency for teachers and parents that Rizzi’s platform does and relies heavily on maintaining a large administration rather than transferring decision making power directly to the stakeholders.
Rizzi’s final opponent, Jennifer Aghomo is also a Richmond education activist. She was PTA president of John B. Cary Elementary School in 2014-2015, when it was facing possible closure, and led efforts to rally parents, teachers, and community members to make sure the school stayed open. However, she does not have the same thorough, progressive platform for educational reform that Rizzi does.
Given her commitment to empowering educators, taking into account the individual needs of students from all backgrounds, and her beliefs on school discipline, Stephanie Rizzi is the most progressive choice in this race.