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Carver, Munford Principals Weigh in on District’s Rezoning Proposal to Merge

Carver Elementary
Richmond’s school board is set to start formally weighing rezoning options Monday. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News).  

Tiawana Giles has been principal at Carver since July 2018. She’s looking forward to some new initiatives this year: like a math curriculum pilot, and classroom libraries. 

“We're really excited about where we're headed,” Giles said.  

What she’s not so excited about? Richmond’s rezoning proposal to merge Carver with Munford Elementary.

“If I had to choose, of course, I would like Carver to stay the way it is and become a magnet school,” Giles said.

Tiawana Giles
Tiawana Giles is principal at Richmond’s George Washington Carver Elementary. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News).
 

The district’s rezoning committee finalized four rezoning options last week that they plan to formally present to the school board Monday. One option, option X, proposes sending kids in grades K-2 to Carver, and grades 3-5 to Munford. 

Giles isn’t sure her students would receive the attention and services they need at Munford, especially with recent negative attention directed towards Carver. A state audit revealed a cheating scandal at the school last year. 

“I've heard from other communities who don't feel that Carver is good enough,” Giles said. “And I can tell you that we feel like we are.”

Only two percent of students at Carver are white and nearly 95 percent are from low income families. The majority of Munford students are white and a little over 10 percent are low income.

Greg Muzik has been principal of Mary Munford since the ‘90s.   

“I know that if you paired Munford with Carver, there's a lot of families that just wouldn't go,” Muzik said. “They wouldn’t send their kids to Carver.”

Greg Muzik
Gregory Muzik is principal at Richmond’s Mary Munford Elementary. (Photo: Crixell Matthews/VPM News).

That concerns Muzik, because he's spent years recruiting parents - particularly white parents - to the school. He says this was a specific directive from the superintendent at the time, Lucille Brown, who’s African American.

“They didn't want to have a school that was going to be all black and all low income,” Muzik said. “And so it was a way of bringing families into the school system and maybe even back into the city.”

But Muzik admits Munford doesn’t reflect the diversity of the city, now, as more upper and middle class families have moved to the West End. 

“We still lose kids - even here - to private schools,” Muzik said. 

While Muzik may lose families because of the schools merging, he’s more concerned about how the changes would be implemented and how long it would take. Right now, the timeline between the scheduled vote on rezoning plans and when they would take effect is about six months. 

“If we had a better idea of what it would look like and how that would work, it's certainly something that I would consider really pushing,” Muzik said. 

For example, if there was a clear plan for whether teachers would stay, or move between schools. Also, if there was a plan about how kids would be transported to the different schools.

Carver principal Tiawana Giles says she was bussed across town herself as an elementary student, and says it didn’t really affect her. She adds, regardless of what the school board ultimately votes to do or what parents say, all of the kids will be just fine.

“You’re speaking to someone who was part of integration,” Giles said. “Kids are very resilient and they're going to be okay. We just gotta make sure that they get the best education...it’s the adults I worry about most. So I will say it again: I want the best for the kids at Carver. Our families don't always get a voice and they're not always heard, but I'm certain that they want what's best for their kids.”

There is another proposal on the table to merge Munford with Cary Elementary -- instead of Carver. The school board is expected to vote on a rezoning plan during its meeting Monday night,  December 2nd. 

The district is holding three additional hearings for the public to weigh in on the options:

  • Monday, November 18, 6:30 – 7:30 PM at Ginter Park Elementary
  • Monday, November 25, 6:30 – 7:30 PM at Bellevue Elementary
  • Monday, December 2, 6:30 – 7:30 PM at E.S.H. Greene Elementary