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Virginia Journal of Education

VEA News & Advocacy

A Lament Heard Across the Land

Black was all the fashion rage in public schools across Virginia on Friday, February 17, dubbed “Black Friday” by the VEA and observed by thousands of educators. Wearing black to school that day was a silent protest by school employees against funding cuts and other actions harmful to public education taken by the 2012 General Assembly.

“We are in mourning because of the open disrespect and disdain shown Virginia’s public school teachers by members of this General Assembly and the Governor,” says VEA President Dr. Kitty Boitnott said. “We certainly do not need more reasons for good people not to enter the field of education, but these attacks are making an extremely challenging job even harder. It’s hurting the morale of our teachers, who are continually asked to do more with less, and it’s harmful to students because programs and positions are being slashed.”

Boitnott went on to point out that educators’ continuing contract rights and retirement benefits were both attacked by state legislators, at a time when Virginia has already fallen to 41st in the nation in class size and seen Standards of Quality funding cut by $1.4 billion.

Going Public

Members of both the Virginia Beach Education Association and the Mountain View UniServ unit took teacher time concerns to the public recently, holding “grade-ins” to draw attention to the hours teachers must put in outside the classroom. VBEA held theirs at a school board meeting and Mountain View took over the food court of a local mall.

Warming Up the General Assembly

"Turn up the heat!" was the chant of educators at a rally at the State Capitol on VEA’s annual Lobby Day in January, and not just because of the damp and chilly setting.

The chant, which went on for several minutes, was in response to VEA President Dr. Kitty Boitnott telling the crowd, in a reference to legislators in the General Assembly, "If the folks up the hill are going to cook up a budget good for children - they are going to need a little heat. I ask each of you to turn it up! Do not allow them to fail our children!"

PWEA Members Show Solidarity, Muster Community Support

Members of the Prince William Education Association have had enough. They’re looking at the possibility, laid out in the superintendent’s proposed budget, of no pay raises until at least 2015. County schools already have the largest class sizes in the state and the lowest per-pupil investment among Northern Virginia localities. 

“We want to bring the pressing need to adequately fund our schools to the public’s attention,” says PWEA President Bonnie KIakowicz. “Our hope is that parents, and every other stakeholder group in the county, will step up and advocate for the support we need to maintain our world-class school system. We’d also like to offer hope to our educators for some kind of salary increase.”

 To alert the public to the needs of the schools, PWEA members voted to launch a four-pronged solidarity campaign:

• Step 1: An extensive e-mail and letter-writing campaign directed at members of the Board of County Supervisors and School Board, with members detailing some of the obstacles they face because of underfunding and overcrowding. Letters to the editor of local publications are also encouraged.

• Step 2: Fill the rooms at School Board and Board of County Supervisor meetings, wearing blue PWEA shirts and speaking publicly when possible.

• Step 3: Hold “Days of Solidarity” at individual schools, which could include wearing the same color, entering and leaving school as a group, or other acts of unity decided by members at the site.

• Step 4: Begin a “work to the rule” effort, in which school employees work only the hours specified in their contracts to draw attention to all the extra hours it takes to provide an excellent education.

The first two steps are in full swing across the county; the final two steps are being implemented on a school-by-school basis, with the full support of PWEA leaders. “Each step is a different form of job action,” says Klakowicz. “Together we have a loud, strong voice.” 

VEA Elections

This spring, VEA is set to hold elections for the offices of President, Vice President, NEA Director and Education Support Professional Member-at-Large on the Board of Directors.

For the offices of President and NEA Director, Meg Gruber and Kelly Blair Hardt, respectively, ran unopposed and have been declared winners by the VEA Board of Directors. Here are brief statements from both of them, followed by the other candidates:

I am both honored and thrilled to have the opportunity to serve as the next VEA president. While this is a difficult time for all of us in public education, this is also a time of great opportunity. We have the opportunity to build a stronger Association and a stronger profession. Together, we will continue to make a difference for our students, public education, and our members. I look forward to working with you to address the issues we face and strengthen our profession.  Working together, we will improve the working conditions of school employees and strengthen our advocacy to ensure a great public school for every child.

I have been an active member of our Association for the past 15 years, beginning with my leadership in SVEA. Several of you have been and continue to be my mentors. It is now time for me to utilize the skills I have learned from you. I am a passionate advocate for students, our profession, and the Association. I am proud to part of the state level leadership of VEA. I believe that leadership is measured by positive action that encourages people to become engaged.  As your newest NEA Director, not only will I represent Virginia on the national level, I will continue efforts to encourage membership recruitment and active Association engagement by motivating and mentoring our novice leaders to take an active role in advocacy in order to elevate the prosperity of VEA. I look forward to serving you and working together.

Candidates for VEA Vice President

I am both humbled and honored to ask for your support as a candidate for VEA Vice President.  Public education faces unprecedented attacks, and the VEA will need leadership that is pro-active and innovative to fight back. We will need to combine the advances in technology of today with the good old-fashioned organizing of the past in order to prevail. I believe that I have demonstrated an innovative approach in my work as a VEA leader. 

Changes I have introduced as VBEA President include: the 10-minute meeting PowerPoint presentations for Building Reps, an electronic newsletter, and using the NEA electronic phone banking system to organize a successful Grade-In at a school board meeting to protest teacher time issues. I am ready to lead the VEA into battle in the 21st century and beyond. Please vote for me for VEA Vice President. United, we will make a difference.

Leadership.  Commitment. Advocate . Three words that define each of us when we talk about the Virginia Education Association and public education in general. They are also three words that I offer you as a candidate for the office of Vice President.

Leadership.  I will be in your local, assisting your leaders to recruit more members, strengthen your Association representatives, and engage members to become more involved in the VEA. Strong leaders only strengthen our Association.

Commitment. I will be committed to this Association and to its work to advance and protect public education in Virginia and to protect the rights of all members of the VEA.

Advocate.  I will work to ensure that your voice and the voices of our public school students will be heard. I will work to bring the best of both sides of an issue to the table.

Leadership.  Commitment.  Advocate.  I ask for your support in my election as VEA Vice President.

Candidates for ESP Member-at-Large

Many students call Arthur Anderson “Pop”—a teacher assistant, he’s a role model, mentor and father figure to many. For the past three years, he has formed the kind of partnership with teachers necessary to provide students with the opportunity and means to be successful. Arthur works in classes that have high numbers of students with special needs and he is there to make the task a bit easier. He’s very effective in helping keep the students from distracting themselves or others. He also helps grade quizzes and tests, and contacts parents concerning attendance. We credit Arthur with creating and implementing a behavior modification system that includes both rewards and consequences. He has also helped with SOL testing, helping special needs students get passing and even advanced scores. This is but one example of a truly successful staff member in our building with a professional focus.
Written by Friends of Arthur “Mike” Anderson

I have worked in public education for 18 years, in aspects as polar-reaching as teaching Alternative Education to my current position as an autism technician.

My goal is to work for every ESP in the state. As a VEA ESP Member-at-Large, I introduced legislation to VEA that helped us acquire the current grievance procedure that every support staff employee in public education in Virginia now has the security of.

I have also worked for the Virginia Education Association as a trainer, traveling around the state helping support staff be deemed “Highly Qualified” under ESEA standards, and taught workshops for my district and local.

I have served in the capacity of local President four times, and was the first support staff person ever elected in my district as a local president.

I have served on the VEA Executive Committee, and now sit on the Resolutions Committee and chair the Education Support Professionals Committee.


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