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VEA News & Advocacy


VBEA Hosts Current, New School Board Members

Members of the Virginia Beach Education Association didn’t rest on their laurels after helping their endorsed candidates win all five seats that were contested on the city’s November school board elections.

After the dust from the campaigns had settled, VBEA held a roundtable discussion at Landstown High School, drawing 10 current and newly-elected school board members and more than 85 VBEA educators.

“We strengthened our lines of communication with members of the school board,” says Trenace Riggs, VBEA president, “and our members had a chance to discuss their concerns and questions with them. We know that they’ll take those concerns and questions back to their open sessions, and they’ll have some questions to ask administrators, too.”

Riggs is excited about the new batch of school board members. “They’re past educators and they’re ready to listen,” she says. “They can see some of the things that need to be done.”

Moving forward, VBEA hopes to hold similar sessions periodically.



York Educators Talk Dollars and Sense

When the York Education Association (YEA) surveyed school division employees about their compensation, the results didn’t surprise local association leaders. But they may have come as a bit of a shock to county officials and citizens who heard those results at YEA’s “Teacher Next Door” event during American Education Week.

The survey showed that just under half of York public school employees have a second job to supplement their income, leaving them with a difficult balancing act, splitting their energies between teaching, family and still another job.

Some of the comments from York educators who responded to the survey were displayed at the event:

• “I am a single mother with two children to support. I am on the verge of losing my house and every month is a struggle to see if we can make it.”
• “Teachers should be able to support themselves on this salary and not feel like they have to get an extra job just to get by.”
• “I cannot afford my house payment anymore and am having to move.”
• “I am seriously considering leaving the field I love because I cannot pay my expenses. I don’t want to leave, but side jobs and stipends don’t cover my school loans, house payments, food, etc.”
• “I go to a food bank.”


YEA members had a chance to share their stories at “Teacher Next Door,” which featured a panel discussion by educators, a question-and-answer session, and the screening of the film “American Teacher.”

Delegate Mike Watson, York County School Board member Cindy Kirschke, and a representative from the governor’s office were among those there to listen, along with community members.



VEA Offers Retirement Help

Planning your retirement in the next couple years? To help you make the transition smoothly, VEA is holding a series of workshops around the state this spring. The sessions will offer detailed information on the Virginia Retirement System and some sound advice. Contact your local UniServ office for details on the meeting near you.

March 13 Richmond
March 14 Fairfax
March 19 Newport News
April 9  Virginia Beach
April 11  Hampton
April 17  Abingdon/Washington County
April 17  Winchester
April 18  Roanoke
April 18  Shenandoah Valley
April 23  Danville



Start Making Your Plans for ‘Read Across America’

March is on the horizon and to literacy-loving educators, that means The Cat is back, to mark NEA’s annual Read Across America, a nationwide celebration of learning. The annual event is now in its 16th year, continuing to motivate young people to read through school events, community partnerships and reading resources.

It’s held on or around March 2 every year, the birthday of the late, great children’s author Dr. Seuss.

“Every year on NEA’s Read Across America Day, the imaginations of children across the country are ignited when they open up a good book,” says NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.
 
To ignite imaginations in your school or community, check out the Read Across America website, which is chock-full of ideas and resources. You’ll find it at www.nea.org/readacross.
 
And remember: “You’re never too old, too wacky, too wild, to pick up a book and read with a child.” 



Ask a VEA Attorney

QUESTION:  Can I lose my teaching job if my students don’t do well on standardized tests?

ANSWER:  Unless we stand up for ourselves, maybe.

If you’re a probationary teacher—that is, you haven’t achieved continuing contract status—the answer is clearly yes. You have no due process rights without a continuing contract and can be denied contract renewal for any reason school administrators choose, including student test scores. If they choose to, administrators can deny contract renewal even if you have excellent evaluations and your students ace their standardized tests.

If you have reached continuing contract status, you’re entitled to hearings and representation before you can be dismissed. By law, teachers can be fired if administrators can prove your incompetency, immorality, noncompliance with school laws and regulations, disability as shown by competent medical evidence, conviction of a felony or crime of moral turpitude, or other good and just cause. 

Administrators could use your students’ test scores to show incompetency, but with VEA support and representation you could contest that. Most education professionals understand that test scores alone are not an accurate gauge of a teacher’s ability. Consult your UniServ Director as you respond to school administrators and document your teaching performance. 

All this points to the absolute necessity of protecting teachers’ continuing contract rights. In the 2012 General Assembly, VEA members were just barely able to turn back legislation doing away with continuing contracts. The issue will surely be raised again in the 2013 session.

To help ensure that teachers maintain their continuing contract rights, you can become a VEA cyberlobbyist, get updates on education issues before the General Assembly, and use email or social media to make your positions known to legislators. Also, contact your Delegate and Senator to let them know why student test scores don’t accurately measure your teaching performance.     



Local Associations Gathering Support for Continuing Contract

VEA members around the state, understanding the importance of protecting continuing contract rights for teachers, have been busy getting their local school boards to show their support. Among the school boards who have either adopted VEA’s “Resolution Supporting Continuing Contract” or have added continuing contract support to their own legislative agendas are, at press time:

• Arlington County
• Bristol City
• Dickenson County
• Fairfax County
• Lee County
• Rockingham County
• Russell County
• Scott County
• Washington County


Check in on Facebook, Save Some Money

NEA Member Benefits has taken to Facebook to make it even easier for you to snag some savings. Check NEAMB’s page for discounts on all kinds of products and services, information on course offerings from NEA Academy, and special deals available only to members. You’ll find the page at www.facebook.com/NEADeals.
 
And while you’re online, don’t forget to stop by VEA’s Facebook page, too. You’ll find all the latest Association information, as well as opportunities to connect with colleagues from all over the Commonwealth, at www.facebook.com/VirginiaEducationAssociation.


 

A MESSAGE FROM THE VEA PRESIDENT


We Must Invest in Teachers!
By Meg Gruber

First, I’d like to say that I’m pleased that Governor McDonnell recognizes that Virginia’s public school teachers are underpaid. It’s true, and has been for a long time. The 2 percent raise that he’s proposed is long overdue, and is the first time the state has been willing to ante up anything for an increase in teacher salaries since 2008.

I appreciate that he’s taken that step—it’s definitely a step, albeit small, in the right direction.

The VEA has always known that professional salaries are vital to recruiting and retaining the kind of high-quality teachers our students need and deserve. Sadly, many of the professionals currently doing this incredibly important work in classrooms every day have not gotten a genuine raise in three or four years. And, as health care costs climb, some have even seen their take-home pay decrease.

There was a time when the Commonwealth’s public school teachers had come within just a few hundred dollars of the national average salary for teachers, a fact that just makes it even more difficult to accept our current situation, which is more than $7,000 below that average. How can the 8th wealthiest state in the nation justify such a figure?

Something else that’s difficult to justify is what that figure has caused over the last several years. As pay has stagnated, more teachers have chosen to retire earlier than planned because they realize their retirement benefits are being affected. And, in the face of a bleak economic outlook for jobs in education, who knows how many intelligent and savvy new college graduates have shifted gears and turned away from teaching careers?

Great public schools are staffed with outstanding, caring teachers. Lately, far too many teachers who fit that description have found themselves walking away from the classroom, no longer able to provide for their families.

In 42 school divisions in the Commonwealth, a dedicated teacher who has earned a bachelor’s degree can spend 10 years in the classroom and still be making less than $40,000. In 19 localities, a teacher with a master’s degree and 10 years of experience hasn’t hit the $40,000 mark, either.

That is unconscionable. Yes, most teachers have chosen a career in the classroom because they see it at least as much of a calling as a job, but we are taking advantage of their altruism. Nobody, no matter how well-meaning, wants to be taken advantage of—or can afford to be. 

We are not alone in feeling this way: Today, as I write this, the Roanoke Times has published an editorial which mentioned teachers’ “long-awaited raises” and accuses Gov. McDonnell of “starving public schools.”

Two percent is a start, but only a start. The Governor and members of our General Assembly need to hear from you and me about this. Join the VEA’s cyberlobbyist force by signing up on the Association’s website at www.veanea.org/home/521.htm. Let Richmond know it needs to invest in our teaching force!

 

 


 


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