NORFOLK-Gov. Bob McDonnell says he's disappointed that the Norfolk School Board has joined a lawsuit that would stop the state from taking control of failing schools.
In a visit Tuesday to one of those low-performing schools, Lafayette-Winona Middle School, McDonnell said Opportunity Educational Institution, passed this year by the General Assembly, will benefit the students. It calls for those schools to be run by an executive director and a group of people appointed by the legislature and the governor's office.
Lafayette-Winona, along with Ruffner Middle School, have failed to meet accreditation standards for at least the last three years.
"The time for accepting the status quo for failing schools is over," McDonnell said.
The governor said the OEI will focus on turning around chronically failing, or underperforming, public schools and he touted successes in Louisiana and Tennessee, where Recovery and Achievement districts were created and are producing positive results.
The State School Board Association is challenging the takeover, saying it violates the Virginia constitution.
Following the governor's event, the Norfolk School Board issued a statement, saying in part, "We have a strong partnership with the Virginia Department of Education for Lafayette-Winona and all of our schools. We also have an aggressive Strategic Plan that will ensure all of our children begin to meet and exceed state standards."
Under the new law, OEI would have up to five years to turn the school around before handing it back over to local school boards.
In the end, McDonnell said, the Virginia Supreme Court may have to decide whether the state can take control.
There are four schools facing takeover-the two in Norfolk, one in Petersburg and one in Alexandria.