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Richmond Times-Dispatch - High Stakes Newsletter | RTD's Education focused news each week
Tuesday, September 22nd, 2020

Spread the word: Do you know others who want to stay informed about education in Virginia? They can subscribe to this weekly High Stakes newsletter at Richmond.com/Newsletters.

You say hello and I say goodbye

Hey team,

I write with some bittersweet news. This week is my last at the Richmond Times-Dispatch. I start next Monday as a communications specialist with Hanover County Public Schools. 

This will be an abbreviated version of the newsletter, with this space dedicated to some thoughts of mine, Kenya Hunter with a brief making the rounds and the because you made it this far section that, according to poll results, is a crowd favorite.

I came to Richmond in the summer of 2016 with no connections to this city, only a motivation to do good work in my first real newspaper internship. It didn't take long for me to fall in love with this place, the newspaper and its insanely talented staff, and the city, with its good food, hiking trails and heat. 

Over the course of those 10 weeks, I covered a lot of things. Feral cats getting neutered. A special tribute for a D-Day veteran. Tim Kaine's return to Richmond after being announced as the Democratic vice presidential nominee.

If you opened that last story, you'll see that it was co-bylined with Louis Llovio. Louis was the first real education reporter I ever met. I was so fascinated by his job. The local newspaper in the small northern New York community where I grew up didn't have a dedicated Indian River Central School District reporter. Most of you know this, but I'd go to local school board meetings for fun when I was in school and served as the token student representative on school board committees. This son of two teachers loved education policy.

So when the RTD offered to have me come back in 2017 after graduating from college and cover education, it seemed like a perfect fit. I readily accepted and truly cherished the next two and a half years. I got to know teachers, administrators, parents and students. My love for school board meetings waned a little bit (looking at you, Richmond School Board) but there was no greater feeling than writing a story that informed the Richmond community about what was happening in our schools. 

As you know, I've spent this year on our state government team, covering the historic General Assembly session, the pandemic, reckoning on race, and just about everything in between, including state education stories. It's been incredibly fulfilling.

You've likely seen me say in this newsletter before that I believe in doing the next right thing (shouts to Emily P. Freeman). Well, this is the next right thing for me to do. Personally, I'm preparing for marriage and fatherhood and refuse to let myself be burnt out by the time the two most important assignments of my life begin. Professionally, I can't wait to follow in the footsteps of my parents and work for a public school system while being given the privilege of informing parents, educators and other stakeholders.

No, this was not an easy decision. Yes, I'm sure there will be times when I miss journalism. But this opportunity was simply too good to pass up.

This newsletter has been one of the highlights of my three years at the RTD. It started as an idea in the summer of 2018, launched in Februrary 2019 (on the Monday after the weekend when Virginia politics went wild) and eclipsed 5,000 subscribers last month. Thank you for subscribing and for trusting me to deliver you the news you need to know on Virginia education. It's been an honor.

Before I sign off, I wanted to share a few, non-taco stories I've written here that I look back on fondly. Thank you for reading and for everything.

  1. From September 2017: For Richmond student, Trump's DACA decision could mean deportation.

  2. From May 2018: She graduated from Collegiate on Friday. She died on Saturday.

  3. From March 2019: 'The land that time forgot': Charles City struggles to keep pace with neighbors
  4. From April 2019: To honor dying mother, a Powhatan student graduated in her hospital room
  5. From April 2019: How Richmond's Rodney Robinson became a finalist for National Teacher of the Year
  6. Bonus, from August 2019: Dallas Dance's 2nd act: How a rising education star reconciles with jail and his mother's death 
  7. Double Bonus, from March 2018: A Richmond student's poem on gun violence

You can reach me at jmattingly@timesdispatch.com through Thursday. After that, you can find me at jmattingly306@gmail.com or 315-778-6925. Please stay in touch. Go team, as they say.

(ABOVE PHOTO BY MARK GORMUS/TIMES-DISPATCH: Andrea Dungee with her son Caeden in their work space inside their Chesterfield County home Fri. July 31, 2020.)

Making the rounds

Kenya Hunter brings you this week's brief making the rounds section:

  • Colleen Curran reports that parents who are essential workers are struggling to find tutors for the upcoming year.
  • Teachers have kids. How on Earth are they going to figure out the upcoming virtual school year? Holly Prestidge writes.
  • Wayne Epps and Zach Joachim tell us how local nonprofits are trying to fill the void of in-person instruction.
  • Virginia Military Institute won't remove its Confederate statues, Justin Mattingly reports.

(ABOVE PHOTO BY ALEXA WELCH EDLUND/TIMES-DISPATCH: Christy Bare stands with her 12-year-old son Reid Bare and 13-year-old daughter Abigail Bare outside their home Wednesday, July 29, 2020.)

Because you made it this far

  • On this day in 1949, the Basketball Association of America and the National Basketball League merged to form the National Basketball Association (NBA). Three years earlier, Santa Claus Land, the first themed amusement park, opened in Santa Claus, Indiana. In 2019, 23 people were killed in a shooting in El Paso.
  • Happy birthday to President Bartlett, Martin Sheen. He portrayed Robert E. Lee in the 1993 film “Gettysburg,” which is sadly not available on any streaming service. It’s also Martha Stewart’s birthday.
  • It’s National Georgia Day. There are lots of fun facts about the “Peach State” but my favorite is it’s the name of my girlfriend’s wonderful dog. Georgia is believed to be a 7-to-8-year-old abandoned hunting dog. She was found behind a cupcake shop in Surry County in April and has been a welcome quarantine addition to our lives for the past three months. Georgia has extensive medical issues (two surgeries in the past week alone), but is full of joy, especially when Chick-Fil-A nuggets are around. So shouts to Georgia and all the other rescue pups.


Justin Mattingly

Your host, Justin Mattingly, covers Virginia politics and policy for the Richmond Times-Dispatch. He likes baseball (go Cardinals), a good book (especially biographies) and one stop light small towns. Drop him a line at jmattingly@timesdispatch.com.