RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — The Richmond School Board has approved Superintendent Jason Kamras’ most recent budget proposal with amendments made by RPS board’s Jonathan Young, after dozens of those in attendance held signs reading “Let Kamras Lead” and implored council members to approve the budget set by Kamras’ during the public comment period before the vote.

The FY23 twice-revised budget proposal was presented by Kamras after being vetoed by the school board at a past budget work session on Feb. 16, as well as at a school board meeting on Feb. 22.

A few of the previous revisions included: increasing the hourly rate for food service workers, increasing investment in mental health supports for staff, and withdrawing a previously proposed cut of an Arts Specialist.

Wage increase proposal

One of the previous proposals from the RPS School Board included cuts to the RPS Leadership Team, including cutting the Chief Operating Officer, formally occupied by Alana Agosto Gonzalez, as well as the currently vacant position of Chief Student Wellness Officer.

In the budget proposed by Kamras, the positions were not cut, as Kamras said without those two roles he could not “effectively lead” the division.

“RPS needs a Chief Student Wellness Officer,” Kamras explained. “Our students are facing unimaginable trauma from the pandemic and from the myriad challenges they faced before COVID-19, challenges that only worsened over the last two years: gun violence, housing instability, poverty, and more. And, as a reminder, this role does not add new cost to the budget, as it was created from an existing chief vacancy.”

Richmond schools parent and 7th district member, Jason Alley said, “The prospect of losing a Chief Operations Officer from any organization is daunting. Losing a Chief Operations Advisor for an organization of this size, of this importance, seems reckless.”

“My kids are kind of a mess right now,” Alley continued. “They need all the support they can get.”

The issue of funding for Richmond Virtual Academy was also a major topic throughout the public comment periods over the course of the three budget meetings.

Kim Jones, a teacher for Richmond Public Schools, said, “Our kids should be able to stay in Richmond Virtual Academy because they thrive in that environment.”

“I was once a child that had no other options, our students deserve to have a virtual option,” said Second Grade Richmond Public Schools Teacher, Alicia Winning.

Kamras’ original budget for the fiscal year 2022-2023 included a 5% pay increase for employees and bonuses for full-time and part-time employees. It also included salaries for “10 positions at a re-imagined Richmond Virtual Academy.”

Richmond Virtual Academy was launched at the beginning of the school year to give preschool and elementary school students the opportunity to learn from home. 8News learned through previous reporting that as of early February, the academy had 80 staff members, and more than 550 students enrolled. This means that with Kamras’ proposal, 70 staff members would be cut from the program.

A motion for amendments to the most recent budget proposed by Kamras was made by Jonathan Young, which approved the entirety of Kamras’ budget. The amendments included changes to retain 20 teachers to the Richmond Virtual Academy in addition to the 10 previously proposed by Kamras, and allocate $1,006,031 additional funds to the academy from Kamras’ previous proposal. The motion was seconded by Kenya Gibson and passed with all board members voting unanimously in favor