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State Police: Crime is down at VCU, but still higher than at other schools

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By Tim Corley

Crime at Virginia Commonwealth University has dropped in recent years, but the crime rate, especially for thefts, is still higher than at most schools in Virginia and most large universities nationwide.

In 2018, VCU recorded 1,275 crimes, according to the Virginia State Police. Most of those offenses were property crimes, but the total also includes “crimes against persons,” such as assaults, and “crimes against society,” like drug violations.

Last year’s total represented a 5% decrease from 2017 and an 8% decrease since 2016. VCU has seen drops in the number of assaults, thefts from buildings, incidents of credit card and ATM fraud, and drug and weapon-law violations, for example.

Even so, VCU’s crime rate — the number of offenses per 1,000 students — is higher than at most colleges and universities in the commonwealth, according to an analysis of the State Police data.

In 2018, VCU had 41 crimes for every 1,000 students, based on State Police statistics. The overall rate for the 27 Virginia schools that have police departments was about 18 crimes per 1,000 students.

Only four schools in the state had higher crime rates than VCU last year: the University of Richmond, with about 77 crimes per 1,000 students; and Norfolk State, Christopher Newport and Radford universities, with 42 to 44 crimes per 1,000 students.

Old Dominion University, by comparison, had about 26 crimes for every 1,000 students in 2018. The rate was about 16 offenses per 1,000 students at the University of Virginia, 15 at Virginia Tech and 13 at George Mason University.

“The closest school to compare to VCU is probably George Mason,” VCU Police Officer David Pulliam said.

Geographically, VCU faces challenges that many other schools don’t. Its two campuses — the Monroe Park Campus and the MCV Campus — are in the heart of Richmond, whereas many other schools are in less populous areas. The VCU Police Department serves not only the student population but also local residents who may be on or near university property.

“When comparing VCU to other big schools like Virginia Tech, we have a city surrounding us,” said Riley Chapple, a senior criminal justice major at VCU who also works as a sheriff’s deputy in Henrico County. “There are multiple communities interacting and overlapping. In Blacksburg and many other schools, the main population is the student body, and the campus is very spread out.”

As a result, the VCU Police Department must investigate more crimes committed by nonstudents.

“While a lot of crimes on campus are committed by staff and students, there is almost an equal percentage of crimes committed on campus by people not affiliated with VCU at all,” Pulliam said. “One of the things that makes VCU great is that VCU has strived to immerse itself in the culture of Richmond.”

Besides responding to crime, the VCU Police Department is active in promoting crime prevention and safety.

“Departments are striving to become more positively in touch with the community by actively supporting and meeting with community leaders to help solve issues before they become crimes,” Pulliam said. “The idea is to be the friends of the community so when the community needs you, they feel safe and trust you to help without causing problems.”

Like the Virginia State Police, the FBI also compiles data on crimes at colleges and universities. The FBI’s data set covers institutions of higher education throughout the United States.

The bureau looks at just a handful of crime categories: four types of violent crime (murder, rape, robbery and aggravated assault) and three types of property crime (burglary, larceny theft and motor vehicle theft).

According to data released this fall by the FBI, VCU recorded 505 crimes in 2018. The vast majority (486) were property crimes.

Based on the FBI’s crime categories, VCU’s crime total last year was down 2% from 2017 and down 7% from 2016.

Still, the crime rate at VCU is higher than at most other large-enrollment schools, according to an analysis of the FBI data.

The FBI statistics indicated that VCU recorded about 15 crimes per 1,000 students in 2018. Of the 131 schools in the data set with at least 25,000 students, only six had a higher crime rate. The University of New Mexico had the highest rate — more than 21 crimes per 1,000 students.

Many VCU students say that they feel safe and that they have confidence in the VCU Police Department.

“I think they are doing the best they can,” sophomore psychology major Catherine Hotsenpiller said. “It is hard managing who is on campus and who is not, or who is supposed to be there. Being in a city, I expect to have at least some reports of robberies, and I occasionally get those emails.”

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RPS to close January 27th after more than 700 teachers request off to attend Fund Our Future rally

Richmond Public Schools may be closed today for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, but next week will also be a four day week for students and teachers after more than 700 faculty members requested off work to protest at the Fund Our Future rally at the State Capitol.

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Richmond Public Schools may be closed today for the Martin Luther King, Jr. holiday, but next week will also be a four day week for students and teachers after more than 700 faculty members requested off work to protest at the Fund Our Future rally at the State Capitol.

The rally, to be held Monday, January 27th, will see educators from across the Commonwealth descend upon the Capitol to advocate for more state funding for schools.

RPS Superintendent Jason Kamras sent a note out on the school system’s website explaining that he was “proud” of the level of participation and that it would simply be impossible to find enough substitute teachers to cover for those attending the rally:

Dear RPS Family,

I’m reaching out to share an important change in our school calendar: RPS will be CLOSED on Monday, January 27. Please allow me to explain.

On that day, the Virginia Education Association (VEA) is hosting a “Fund Our Future” rally at the State Capitol to advocate for increased school funding. Based on data we collected last week, it appears that nearly 700 (about a third) of our teachers will be taking personal leave to participate in the VEA rally. We are proud that so many of our educators will be turning out to advocate for RPS and all of Virginia’s public schools.

Unfortunately, however, it is simply not possible to secure enough substitutes for this many classrooms. As a result, non-participating teachers would face unreasonable class sizes that would make meaningful instruction nearly impossible and potentially create significant safety concerns.

Given this – and after conferring with the School Board – I have decided to close RPS on Monday, January 27.

I recognize doing so will create an unexpected childcare burden for our working families. On behalf of RPS, I sincerely apologize for this. I also want to acknowledge that some of our families face food insecurity and depend on school meals for their children. In light of this, our nutrition team will be preparing “to-go” bags for students to take home on Friday afternoon.

Please note that our school calendar includes extra time to account for inclement weather and other unforeseen circumstances. As a result, at this time, no additional days will need to be added to the calendar.

Thank you in advance for your understanding of this decision. If you have any questions, please do not hesitate to contact me directly at jkamras@rvaschools.net.

With great appreciation,

Jason Kamras

Superintendent

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St. Gertrude School moving to Benedictine campus in Goochland, two to remain independent

The schools were once 400 feet apart in the Museum District and will soon be a mere 600 feet apart when St. Gertrude’s moves to Benedictine’s 50-acre campus in Goochland in 2021.

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St. Gertrude High School in the Museum District, an all-girls Catholic school, will soon join their male counterpart, Benedictine, in Goochland County.

The two schools made the joint announcement on Friday. While the two will remain single-sex and independent, the combined entity will be known as The Benedictine Schools of Richmond.

Full release from the two schools follows:

The future of Richmond Catholic secondary school education just became a lot brighter. Today, after many months of collaborative strategic planning, we are proud to announce:

The Benedictine Schools of Richmond

This newly-formed entity will unify these two pillars of Richmond’s Catholic community — Saint Gertrude High School and Benedictine College Preparatory — on the same campus. Both schools will retain their names and operate distinct, single-sex educational programs. Of equal importance, this formalization places both schools in strong positions for growth and program development.

Beginning in the 2021-22 school year, just in time for its Centennial Celebration, Saint Gertrude will begin relocating to the 50-acre property in Goochland County currently home to Benedictine Prep. The boys’ school will remain in its current facility. For the girls, a new, state-of-the-art academic building is being planned. Together, the schools will share a peaceful, modern, and sprawling campus including the campus’s new, world-class athletic facilities.

Our schools have long been united in our distinct missions and spirit, in our belief in the unique benefit of single-sex education, and in our educational philosophies rooted in the Rule of Saint Benedict. For the better part of a century, our schools even shared a city block. Where the schools were once located 400 feet apart in the Museum District, they’ll soon be just 600 feet apart in Goochland County.

Indeed, this announcement is about much more than a new home for Saint Gertrude. It is about strengthening the foundation of Catholic education for our young men and women, now and well into the future.

As the Sisters and the Monks began to discuss the possibilities of a new, formal partnership and co-location, we considered diligently this opportunity through the lens of our respective values, missions, and visions. Our Orders feel wholeheartedly that such a partnership meets that high bar.

As Benedictine has experienced since its move from downtown (and as Saint Gertrude will experience in the coming years), the Goochland location is ideal not only for reflection and peace, but also for growth and innovation in education. And while single-sex education will always be a cornerstone of our schools, such a partnership will foster an even closer and nurturing community through which we strengthen each other. Proximity will allow the schools to share in their long-standing traditions while maintaining each school’s distinctiveness.

We understand you may have questions about what this exciting announcement means for you and your family. We encourage you to join our Heads of School Sister Cecilia Dwyer, OSB (Saint Gertrude) and Mr. Jesse Grapes (Benedictine) as they welcome our communities for a series of Town Hall meetings.

Current Parents:
Tuesday, January 21, 5:30 p.m. at BCP
Wednesday, January 22, 7:30 a.m. at SGHS

Alumni/Friends:
Wednesday, January 22, 5:30 p.m. at SGHS
Thursday, January 23, 7:30 a.m. at BCP

Prospective Parents:
Thursday, January 23, 5:30 p.m. at SGHS
Friday, January 24, 7:30 a.m. at BCP

Members of either school community may attend whichever meeting best suits their schedule.

On behalf of the Monks and Sisters of our Benedictine Orders, we look forward to beginning this journey with you and with your beloved children.

Sr. Joanna Burley, OSB
Prioress
Benedictine Sisters of Virginia

Fr. Jonathan Licari, OSB
Canonical Administrator
Mother Mary of the Church Abbey

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Moody Middle School seventh-grader captures Henrico Schools’ divisionwide spelling title

Ananya Nanduru topped competitors from across Henrico County Tuesday night to become Henrico Schools’ 2020 Division-wide Spelling Bee champion.

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Ananya Nanduru topped competitors from across Henrico County Tuesday night to become Henrico Schools’ 2020 Division-wide Spelling Bee champion. The Moody Middle School seventh-grader won in Round 8 by correctly spelling “breviary,” a book of daily prayers, hymns, and psalms.

The contest features spelling champions from 46 HCPS elementary schools and 12 middle schools, and determines who will represent Henrico County Public Schools at the regional competition. Pocahontas Middle School sixth-grader Weston Kasberger was runner-up.

Among the words Nanduru spelled to win the title were “schadenfreude,” “tritium” and “kielbasa.”

With Nanduru’s win, Moody retains the spelling title and Henrico Schools’ spelling trophy. Last year’s champion, Vishnoy Vadakkancheri, was also a Moody student. The trophy, topped with a whimsical bee, was made possible by a donation from four-time Henrico spelling champion Tejas Muthusamy. Muthusamy, now a student at Maggie Walker Governor’s School, donated money for the trophy to the Henrico Education Foundation, which had the trophy made.

Nanduru will compete next in the Richmond Times-Dispatch Regional Spelling Bee March 21 at the Library of Virginia. The regional winner will advance to the Scripps National Spelling Bee, which is held in late May and televised by ESPN.

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