High-ranking RPS official resigns; cites interference from school board members

RICHMOND, Va. (WRIC) — Richmond Public Schools Director of Exceptional Education Zenia Burnett is resigning, citing interference with three school board members.

8News has obtained a copy of Burnett’s resignation letter and a memo to the superintendent.

“It has been disheartening for me to observe the politics that occurs at the detriment of children and their families.”

In that memo, she says her department has recently had to respond to at least five high-profile cases that included the school board members.

Burnett goes on to say one school board member encouraged a teacher to correspond with her directly, using a blind copy on an email.

Burnett did not name the board members, but sources tell 8News the concerns center around board members Mamie Taylor, Tichi Pinkney Eppes, and Shonda Harris-Muhammed.

Burnett calls their involvement a conflict of interest and says it exceeds the school boards role of governance.

Burnett writes: “It has been disheartening for me to observe the politics that occurs at the detriment of children and their families.”

However, school board member Pinkney Eppes, who attended IEP meetings with a parent, told 8News, “In a perfect world a board member should not have to participate in an I.E.P., but it’s allowable.”

She added, “I go in as an advocate, I take off my board member hat when I go into an I.E.P. I went in at the request of a parent.”

That parent is LaQuetta Massey.

“Well, basically I wanted her to be a moving force so my son could get what he needed- a higher level because I’ve exhausted the chain of command,” Massey told 8News Reporter Jonathan Costen.

The Richmond parent added she could invite anyone to her child’s I.E.P. meeting and she added she felt she was being bullied by school administrators.

This is a developing story. Stay with 8News online and on air for the latest updates.

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