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VEA Members Train for Greater Advocacy at RSOS

“Now I have a better understanding of how politics and the economy work and affect public education,” Erin Edwards, vice president of the Pulaski County Education Association, said as she left VEA’s Reggie Smith Organizing School (RSOS). “Hopefully I can go back to my local and work to make needed change.” 

She is far from alone:  Some 200 Association members from across the state headed back to their communities similarly equipped after a stirring wrap-up of the 2012 RSOS, featuring the final public appearance of Dr. Kitty Boitnott’s VEA presidency and a firsthand account from Fairfax member Dr. Violet Nichols, the recent focus of a widely-publicized attempted firing.

Boitnott encouraged members not to leave their newfound expertise on the University of Richmond campus, site of the RSOS. “We are the education experts and we need to use our voices,” she said, to a standing ovation. “The truth is on our side, but it won’t matter if we don’t speak it.”
Nichols detailed her case, seen by many as a textbook one for protecting teachers’ continuing contract rights. After more than 30 years of “exceeds expectations” evaluations, a principal moved to fire her for what appeared to many to be capricious reasons. Nichols went public, drawing lengthy coverage from The Washington Post, leading to the school division eventually dropping its attempt to remove her.

“Without the VEA and without due process rights, I wouldn’t be standing here today telling you my story,” Nichols told the audience.

 To help safeguard continuing contract rights from another attempt to dismantle them in next year’s General Assembly, VEA has created a resolution for local school boards to adopt. Local associations are asked to seek the support of their boards for the statement, which reads in part, “continuing contract laws benefit public school students, their parents, the community and the Commonwealth.”

RSOS featured three days of training on subjects including strengthening local associations, media relations, supporting emerging leaders, political action, workplace issues, coalition-building, organizing, and building better teaching and learning communities.

The closing session also featured the installation of new VEA officers Meg Gruber as president and Dominic Melito as vice president. They officially begin their roles August 1.

View photos: Click here to view conference photos.



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