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Virginia Journal of Education


VEA News & Advocacy

Reggie Smith Attendees, Local Presidents Called to Action

“One of our members brings home only $2000 a month and still has to pay $900 just to get health care for himself, his wife, his child and their baby on the way,” VEA President Meg Gruber told nearly 200 VEA members at the Association’s annual Reggie Smith Organizing School (RSOS). “There’s no way that any education professional should have to live that way today.”

Calling that situation just one among many, Gruber issued a call to action to VEA activists gathered at the University of Richmond in July for RSOS, telling them how badly they’re needed every day in our schools.
“We’ve got obstacles to conquer and barriers to overcome,” she said, “and we need to be laser-focused on professionalism.”
Association leaders who came to RSOS signed up for workshops focused on one of three subjects: political action, organizing and training of trainers, which helped prepare members to be presenters at VEA professional development seminars.
In the political action strand, members, among other things, learned to reach and mobilize voters; talked with VEA members who currently hold elected office; and created strategies for effectively using social media.
In organizing, participants dealt with topics including building group power and building personal relationships to better understand the needs, desires and stumbling blocks of colleagues, administrators, elected officials and families.
Members who went through the training of trainers now prepared to oversee VEA workshops, including The MODEL Teacher, iTeach and Effective Classroom Management.

Local Presidents Training. “We are the champions for public education, and public education is what will keep our country on the right track,” VEA Vice President Dominic Melito told Association leaders from around Virginia, gathered for the annual Local Presidents Training, which was held the two days before RSOS, also at the University of Richmond.

Melito also assured the presidents that they’d never be in the battle alone. “We’re all here for you,” he said. “We’ll do this together. We’re facing great challenges but we’ll help you get access to whatever you need to be effective in your local associations.”
This year’s gathering was planned and carried out almost entirely by the local presidents themselves, led by co-chairs Melito and Jaim Foster, president of the Arlington Education Association. For example, the breakout sessions, which dealt with topics including building public awareness of your local association, running successful meetings, and developing working ties with other organizations, were presented by current and former presidents, including Sam Eure of York, Malia Huddle of Chesapeake, Felicia Fox of Henrico, Rebecca Jasman of Louisa, James Fedderman of Accomack, Denise Davis of Wythe, Brian McGovern of Gloucester, Joy Kirk of Frederick, Trenace Riggs of Virginia Beach, Carol Bauer of York, and Jessica Jones of Pittsylvania.
In addition, presidents learned how to navigate the Association’s organizational structure, were updated on all that’s available through NEA Member Benefits, reviewed their financial responsibilities as Association leaders, and were given plenty of time for networking and planning.



We’re 150—And Stronger Than Ever
This year we’re celebrating VEA’s 150th anniversary and, as I’ve read more about our history, I’ve been struck by three things that have remained consistent through the years—and remain so today.

 We’ve always had an enduring belief that we can make things better for Virginia’s children, a burning desire to make it happen, and a commitment to the unmatched importance of public education.

As public school educators, we’ve had so much thrown at us in the past few years: massive amounts of new paperwork, new evaluations, more and more testing. All that—and frozen salaries and cuts to benefits, too.

Some of these issues may be new—but believe me, educators who preceded us here faced just as many barriers to their work. They, like us, found their solutions and their support in their Association.
Because we’re fighting so hard to meet new challenges, we don’t always stop to take stock of all we’ve accomplished. So I want to talk about some very important victories we’ve had in the past year, because victories help supply the energy we need to reach even greater heights.

Last summer, we committed ourselves to preserving continuing contract rights for teachers. Many of our local Associations lobbied their school boards to pass resolutions supporting continuing contract, our lobbying team worked tirelessly, and we pushed in our negotiations with the Governor’s office for fairness and due process. Because of the work we all did, continuing contract continues!

We helped guarantee that the neutral hearing officer in a dismissal case be truly neutral by removing language that would have allowed a school board member or school division employee to act as that hearing officer.

Without VEA’s daily work and our members’ e-mails to legislators, and without the work we do to get the media to report our positions—is there any doubt Virginia’s educators would have lost the protection of continuing contract completely?

We also won passage of a study to examine what it takes to adequately fund our Standards of Quality. The last time this exhaustive study was done it led to $1.5 billion in new funding for schools.

 And we got another study going, this one to explore the feasibility of a statewide health insurance plan, which could save the state millions of dollars and our members lots of heartache.

We’ve done even more to make our 150th year one of our very best:

• We’ve revamped some of our already outstanding professional development workshops, including MODEL Teacher and Classroom Management, and added a new one, called iTeach.

• We’ll be holding an instructional conference November 22-23, featuring not only the work of our members, but that of a wide range of experts, including Diane Ravitch, the internationally-known education author and advocate, and NEA President Dennis Van Roekel.

These are things of which we can rightly be proud. I can only imagine what we’ll be celebrating after the VEA’s next 150 years.


If a Tree Doesn’t
Fall in the Forest…

Delegates to this year’s VEA convention have made it possible for members, if they choose, to opt out of the printed copy of this magazine. The Journal’s content is available on the Association’s website,, by clicking “VEA News & Advocacy” and then “Publications.”

If you’d prefer to access the Journal online, simply call your local UniServ office and staff members there will make the necessary arrangements.


Political Prep 101

Just about everything that has an impact on your working conditions—class size, standards, funding, salaries—is determined in the political world. To help members gear up for the elections and General Assembly session ahead, VEA is holding a series of pre-legislative workshops around the state.

The dates and locations are listed below. Check with your UniServ office for details, because reservations will need to be made quickly.

September 30       Hampton
October 1              Norfolk
October 17           Annandale
October 28           Abingdon
October 29           Roanoke/Salem
October 30            Staunton
November 7          Danville
November 18        Brunswick
November 19        Richmond


Religious Leave Clarified For Northampton Members

Educators in Northampton County on Virginia’s Eastern Shore had a division-wide policy that allowed one day of “religious leave” each year. That’s a nice benefit. Trouble was, trying to use it was confusing. Was it a paid day? Did it count as one of an employee’s personal days?

Only the superintendent could designate a day officially as religious leave, so only he could answer those questions.
“If it counts as a personal day,” says Ted Warner, president of the Northampton County Education Association, “then it’s not really religious leave. It’s just a personal day with a different label.” That’s not especially helpful for school employees who celebrate non-Christian holidays, since the school calendar is more closely aligned with Christian celebrations.
After members brought their confusion about religious leave to Warner, he brought it to the county’s school board, after talking with a VEA attorney and others, in an attempt to get clarification for all school employees. Hearing Warner’s presentation, the superintendent agreed that the policy wasn’t easy to follow and promised to look into it.
Not long after, he made good on that promise and today, NCEA members have easy access to a day of religious leave that does not count as a personal day.
“That's a small victory, I know,” says Warner, a special education teacher, “but we saw an unclear policy, and got clarification and a positive change. The result is helpful to our members.”


VEA Statewide Elections Set

VEA will hold elections in 2014, with voting to take place at next spring’s Delegate Assembly, for the following statewide offices: President, Vice President, NEA Board of Directors (one seat), Education Support Professional Member-at-Large of the VEA Board of Directors, and VEA-Retired Member of the VEA Board (two seats).

All positions are for two-year terms beginning next August or September, with the exception of the NEA Board seat, which has a three-year term.

Interested candidates must file a petition by January 10, 2014. Petitions are available by writing to VEA at 116 South Third St., Richmond, VA 23219, or by email to


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