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State Lawmakers Pushing Proposal to Have Chesterfield Manage Petersburg Schools

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CHESTERFIELD / PETERSBURG (WRIC) - State lawmakers are pushing a proposal that could have Chesterfield County managing Petersburg City Schools.

Supporters say the idea is to help failing schools in Petersburg. Critics say it will just lower the city system's morale.

The proposal would not force either school system to go along with the plan, but it is a strong suggestion from lawmakers that they do come to some agreement that would allow chesterfield to oversee Petersburg schools. Otherwise, they say the state will get involved and make changes neither locality may like.

It's a proposal pushed by Senator Thomas Norment, allocating $1.6 million as an incentive to get Chesterfield to manage Petersburg City Schools.

"I feel that we've lost a generation of children in Petersburg," he says. "Unfortunately Petersburg has been failing for more than a decade to get their educational program moving in a more positive direction."

Norment says it's an idea already working between Fairfax County and Fairfax city which he says could help failing schools in Petersburg but not everyone is on board.

Senator Henry Marsh says it sends the wrong message.

"To suggest that they have to be taken over by a neighboring jurisdiction which doesn't want them, and they don't want to go is a bad policy," he says. "It could be demoralizing to staff and morale for teachers and students."

"Senator Marsh is part of the problem and I think he's trying to aggravate the situation, and I don't think that this is sending a negative message to staff and teachers," Norment says.

The idea is getting mixed reaction from parents.

"Anyone that they get that can help better the school is fine by me," says parent Sharron Leverette 

"I think it's not too good of an idea," says parent Tanya Andrews. "I don't think the city of Petersburg is ready for that change right now.

"The division is aware of the budget amendment and we're surprised to learn of the proposal," Petersburg Spokeswoman Nicole Bell says. "We will stay abreast of developments from the General Assembly regarding this issue."

Chesterfield says they "will continue to monitor the budget language, and would respectfully refer any questions to the Virginia legislature."

All this could change as both the House and Senate debate the budget.


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