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The purpose of the “Looking Back, Moving Forward” conference has always been to initiate or continue dialogue about race, class, opportunity and school boundaries in the metro-Richmond area.

To that end, please join the conversation by reviewing resources, press coverage and the conference archive, joining our email list and chatting via Twitter.

Opportunities to Join the Dialogue

An Overlooked Choice? Regional Magnet Schools in Richmond

January 23, 2014—Last March, more than 300 public education advocates, practitioners, researchers, community members, policymakers and students gathered for the Looking Back, Moving Forward conference, a two-day event to highlight diversity and equity as critical to success for all students in our region. The event generated interest about new ways to expand these opportunities, including the exciting possibility of magnet schools.

Magnet schools may be a new approach in our region, but they have a strong track record of success. What could they offer here? Why and how do they work? Come meet a national expert to learn more about the untapped potential of magnet schools and what that could mean for schools, students and families in the Richmond region.

Choice, Equity, Diversity and Student Success: The Magnet School Way: An evening with Scott Thomas, Executive Director of the Magnet Schools of America

VCU Student Commons in Richmond Salons III and IV

February 25, 2014, 6:00 to 7:30 p.m.

Thomas will discuss federal funding, sustainability, the difference between magnet and charter schools, the history of magnet schools and desegregation, the contemporary role of magnet schools in changing urban and suburban communities, and more.

Co-hosted by The School of Professional and Continuing Studies and the Center for Leadership in Education at the University of Richmond and the Virginia Commonwealth University School of Education, this event is free and open to the public, but space is limited.

Richmond Public Schools Rezoning Information

September 10, 2013—The organizers and Strategic Action Committee of the Looking Back, Moving Forward conference on school diversity and equity released a policy memo: “Increasing Diversity in the City Schools: Unexplore Paths of Opportunity.” Read the full memo or review the goals statement below.

In its school rezoning and closure process from May 6 – June 3, 2013, the Richmond School Board voted to close 3 schools and change 14 elementary school zones despite opposition that overwhelmingly outweighed support at both public hearings. Though there were a wide range of concerns cited, including the rushed timeline, lack of transparency and absence of clear criteria for closing and rezoning these schools, many stakeholders expressed particular disapproval related to the potential increase in racial isolation that would result from the plan, formally known as Option C.

While regional efforts to promote school diversity—a central theme of the “Looking Back, Moving Forward” conference—remain critical, the school board actions present a specific challenge which could be addressed within a single school system through innovative policies with a record of success in other locales.  To that end, this memo has three broad purposes. 

  • We identify key demographic changes that present opportunities and challenges for promoting school diversity in Richmond Public Schools (RPS).  We also provide a synthesis of more than six decades of social science research showing that integration is still a deeply worthy policy goal.
  • We outline the racial impact of current student assignment policies, in addition to the projected impact of the June 2013 rezoning.
  • And perhaps most importantly, we close with a vision for moving forward in a way that more comprehensively fosters the many benefits of school diversity in Richmond City.

School Closures and Rezoning Hearing

June 3, 2013—A public hearing was held Monday, June 3, 2013, beginning at 5:00 p.m. at City Council Chambers, 2nd floor of City Hall, 900 E. Broad Street. The hearing focused on proposed closures and a rezoning plan that would impact current racial and economic composition and diversity efforts at 14 RPS elementary schools.

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Contact Us

Virginia Commonwealth University
Dr. Genevieve Siegel-Hawley
School of Education–Educational Leadership
(804) 828-1940

University of Richmond
Dr. Tom Shields
Center for Leadership in Education
(804) 289-8524