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Richmond School Board could be reshaped by upcoming election

School Board Members sit at their desk as Beazley and Parks deliver remarks at a podium
Shaban Athuman
VPM News
Members of the Richmond School Board and Chief of Student Wellness Renesha Parks listen as Director of Care and Safety John Beazley gives a presentation on Monday, July 10, 2023 at Huguenot High School in Richmond.

As of May 21, five candidates are running unopposed for the nine-seat body.

Several candidates seeking re-election to the Richmond School Board first joined the panel in 2020, amid the peak of the COVID-19 pandemic. At least one member is seeking a position on a different city body and another current member has not yet filed paperwork to run.

As of May 21, five candidates are running unopposed.

In April, Jonathan Young, who represented Fourth District, resigned.

Kenya Gibson, who represents the Third District, is seeking a Richmond City Council post. And Nicole Jones, who represented the Ninth District, left her school board seat at the end of 2023 to serve on City Council.

Since Richmond's school board elections do not require party affiliations, they do not appear on June 18 primary election ballots. Candidates who complete the necessary paperwork will appear on the general election ballots this fall.

The list below will be updated as new information becomes available.

First District

Elizabeth Doerr was selected to fill now–state Sen. Glen Sturtevant’s seat after he won a 2016 race for the post. She told WRIC earlier this month that she won’t be seeking re-election.

Matthew Percival

Percival was among those who applied to finish out Sturtevant’s term. He currently works in IT and is unopposed in the race.

In 2016, Percival said he didn’t have “political aspirations.”

Second District

Mariah White

White is a Department of Defense employee who previously served in the military for 26 years, according to her campaign website.

The incumbent lists equitable resources for all students, as well as addressing overcrowded schools, among her priorities.

Third District

Keyna Gibson currently holds the seat, but is not seeking re-election because of her bid for City Council. Regardless of the race’s outcome, a new school board member will serve the Third District.

Ali Faruk

Faruk has worked for the organizations Housing Opportunities Made Equal and Families Forward Virginia. On his campaign website, Faruk also lists involvement in a number of community boards, including Community Building Committee of the United Way of Greater Richmond & Petersburg and Virginia Interfaith Center for Public Policy.

The candidate says the three pillars of his campaign are community, transparency and accountability.

Charlene Riley

Riley is a Richmond Public Schools mother who was critical of the division’s actions prior to and in response to the Huguenot High graduation shooting.

Fourth District

In April, Jonathan Young stepped down from the position after an interaction with an RPS student was cleared by a review, but deemed “weird.”

Wesley Hedgepeth

Hedgepeth is a teacher at Collegiate School in Henrico County. He's also president of the National Council for the Social Studies.

In announcing his candidacy, Hedgepeth said he aims “to prioritize the well-being of our educators, the protection of academic freedom, and the pursuit of policies that place the focus on increasing student outcomes over political divisiveness."

Garrett Sawyer

On Monday, the board met to discuss an interim appointment for the Fourth District position and selected Garrett Sawyer. He previously was a city mayoral candidate. While he hasn’t completed the required paperwork for a school board run, he previously announced his intention to run.

Fifth District

Stephanie Rizzi

Rizzi, the incumbent, serves as the board chairperson. She’s worked in a variety of roles at Virginia Commonwealth University and currently is interim associate dean of the school’s University College.

Sixth District

Shonda Harris-Muhammed

Harris-Muhammed has been an educator for 30 years, according to her website. The incumbent currently isn’t facing a challenger.

Harris-Muhammed was among the first school board members to call for an independent investigation into the Huguenot graduation shooting.

Seventh District

Cheryl Burke

Burke, the incumbent, hasn’t filed completed paperwork to run as of May 21, but in an email to VPM News said she’s running again for the post. She previously has voiced her opposition to Richmond schools soliciting an outside investigation of the Huguenot graduation shooting.

No other candidate has yet filed to run in this district.

Eighth District

Dawn Page, who currently represents the district, announced in May that after serving on the board for 12 years, she wouldn’t mount a re-election campaign.

EJ Jafari

Jafari has unsuccessfully sought the school board position before and twice run for clerk of Richmond Circuit Court. He’s the owner of African American Tours of Richmond.

PH "Cruz" Sherman

Sherman works for the Richmond-based Owens & Minor health care company. In addition to counseling and instructing students at area public schools, he also serves as a chaplain with the Richmond Police Department, he wrote in an email to VPM News.

Sherman said full accreditation of RPS schools, safety, and fiscal responsibility and accountability are areas he plans to work on if elected.

Ninth District

Shavonda Dixon

Dixon was appointed to the Ninth District seat following Nicole Jones taking a City Council post in January. Dixon began her term the following month.

Dixon is an entrepreneur and runs the Jesus Groupie Clothing company.

Mary Gresham

Gresham announced her candidacy for the position in February on Facebook, but has not completed the city’s required paperwork. She currently serves as manager of custodial services at Richmond Public Schools, according to her Linkedin profile.

To find district and voting precinct information, visit the city’s Department of Elections site.

VPM News is the staff byline for articles and podcasts written and produced by multiple reporters and editors.
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