Two years after coming up with a playbook on how Richmond's public schools will benefit from the Washington Redskins, officials disagree about whether it's being followed.
The school district played an integral role in bringing the team's summer practice session to the city. In 2012, the former Westhampton School was plucked from possible sale for a deal with Bon Secours Health System, which established a nursing school there as part of its agreement to buy naming rights to the Redskins training center.
In finalizing the deal, an agreement called for several streams of money to come back to help the public schools. They included $1 million from Bon Secours toward capital projects, paid in $100,000 installments over 10 years, and $195,000 from City Council toward educational programming. The agreement also called for the training camp facility to be open to student use, and for quarterly meetings between the School Board and the team's charitable foundation.
Today officials are at odds about how they can keep tabs on that agreement.
Former 5th District City Councilman Marty Jewell held his vote for the Redskins training camp until the schools agreement was set up. "With all the benefits they were selling," he says, "it was hard to not give hope a chance."
"Two years in," he says, "there's an unquestionable failure of all those benchmarks they've proposed and I don't see how things are going to get better."
Others in City Hall see things differently. Mayor Dwight Jones' administration says the intent is clear — more money for schools and collaboration between the team and the district. The city has delivered on both, Jones spokeswoman Tammy Hawley says.
1. The Money
No one questions that Richmond Public Schools received its first $100,000 payment earlier this year from Bon Secours, as agreed, but it wasn't without a procedural hiccup at the hands of City Hall.
In February, former School Board member and blogger Carol A.O. Wolf learned the city had failed to establish a process for collecting and disbursing the payments. At the time, City Councilman Chris Hilbert, a key architect of the schools' training camp agreement, criticized the city for not following through.
It's the $195,000 annual payment from City Council that's a matter of dispute.
Richmond School Board member Kim Gray, who represents the Leigh Street neighborhood where the city built the training camp, says council still owes schools the $195,000 in funding as stipulated in the agreement.
Not so, says Hawley, who cites funding increases from the mayor and City Council to the schools during this year's budget session.
City Council President Charles Samuels cites the nearly $5 million increase as proof of the city's holding up its end of the deal.
"It seems like Richmond Public Schools got way more than $195,000," he says. "It doesn't feel like an issue."
"I think to just say, 'Oh, it's in that big lump of money that you got,' is not honoring the agreement," School Board Vice Chairman Kristen Larson says. "Why would you make the agreement if it's not above and beyond what you normally get? Why bother to spell it out?"
"They're continually using funny math," Gray says of the mayor and City Council. "We need to be more clear about what the intent of the ordinances are."
2. The Foundation
As for the Redskins' Charitable Foundation, of which Jones has become a member, Gray says there have been no meetings, much less quarterly ones.
While there may not have been official meetings as specified in the agreement, Hawley says the foundation has worked directly with the school district on such initiatives as youth programming and a $200,000 grant to John Marshall High School for a new football field.
"In their view, this constant communication is a demonstration of a true partnership — significantly exceeding meeting only four times per year," Hawley says. She adds that the foundation would welcome a chance to meet with the board.
3. The Fields
A spokeswoman for the Richmond Public Schools says there are no plans for students to use the fields this year, saying the lack of bleachers presents "somewhat of a logistical challenge that we would first need to address for our desired use."
Larson says she wants to push the School Board to reach an understanding with the city about where exactly the Redskins money is going.
She notes that the schools agreement was meant to make up for renting, instead of selling, the former Westhampton School, valued at $7.6 million. "We had a building that we surplused with the expectation of receiving the funds," she says, "and we've yet to see the benefit of having that building taken offline."
For Larson, the confusion doesn't bode well for discussions on how the city could use another major property the district uses on Arlington Road — where Jones plans a redevelopment around the current minor league baseball stadium.
"The management of the whole thing has created some distrust in terms of our assets and giving them back to the city," Larson says. "I'm frustrated that we're still talking about this. We need to resolve it."