It seems the city passed on more than just a redevelopment proposal from former city manager Robert Bobb earlier this year. Bobb was also eyeing a return to public office as superintendent of Richmond Schools.
Not long after Superintendent Deborah Jewell-Sherman announced in July she was leaving, persistent but vague rumors began swirling in certain government circles that Bobb — well-respected and tough-minded as a city manager — would be a good fit for the struggling inner-city school system.
Some City Hall sources tell Style Weekly that Bobb was contacted about the post. Last week, Bobb confirmed the rumors, although it's unclear if community activists or Richmond School officials contacted him. “They were trying to get him to take it,” says a school official who spoke on the condition of anonymity.
“I knew it was out there,” Bobb says, confirming too his interest in returning to Richmond. “Of all the places I've lived, Richmond is clearly among the top cities. … I'd never hesitate to come back to Richmond if the situation is right.”
Evidently, it wasn't right for all parties. Since the School Board appointed a superintendent search committee earlier this summer, Bobb says he's had no contact with anyone involved in the search.
He adds that he's had no contact with Mayor-elect Dwight Jones about any other city administrative jobs.
Bobb served as city manager from 1986 to 1997 before leaving for Oakland, Calif. He's president of the Washington D.C. Board of Education, and, to hear him tell it, itching to roll up his sleeves and get involved in turning around another urban school district.
“The ideal situation for me … would be to go into a real troubled urban school system,” he says, adding that he's still interested, specifically, in the Richmond superintendent's job.
“I spent 10 months studying urban school systems,” Bobb says, referring to his participation in the well-regarded Eli and Edyth Broad Foundation's fellowship program to train urban-school administrators. Acting Richmond Superintendent Yvonne Brandon also is a graduate.
“One thing I've learned about school systems, like cities, there are more people cheering for your failure than for your success,” Bobb says. “The adults become the issue. … there's no focus on children. When you have adults focusing on their own livelihoods … the children and the parents are the ones that are suffering.”