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Virginia Journal of Education

VEA News & Advocacy


Big Names, Big Debates, Big Honors Mark VEA Convention

Raucous cheers and spirited debate rocked Roanoke’s Civic Center for three days this spring as delegates from all around Virginia gathered for VEA’s 2014 convention. Among the highlights from the Association’s annual gathering:

Big-name appearances.  Governor Terry McAuliffe and U.S. Senator Mark Warner both traveled to Roanoke to discuss public education issues with VEA members, and to thank them for their support. McAuliffe spoke about the vital importance of educators’ work to our future, saying, “If we’re going to create jobs, we’re going to need the best-educated workforce we can get. You’re helping make that happen every day.”

He also took advantage of the opportunity to sign a piece of legislation in front of delegates, putting his pen to a bill protecting the rights of educators who are also nursing mothers. The bill came from a New Business Item at last year’s convention initiated by Stafford member Carol Huebner.

“Having the governor sign legislation right there on our stage—that was historic,” says York County member Carol Bauer.

Warner brought convention delegates to their feet with comments like, "Doesn't it make sense, when making education policy, to talk to the people who actually do the job every day?" and "How a child learns is more important than how well he can memorize facts for a test."

Warner is seeking re-election this November.

Delegates take action. New Business Items proposed by delegates and passed by the assembly include a call for making the funding formula of the Standards of Quality more accurate; the abolition of the Dillon Rule, which would allow localities to levy a tax for school funding separate from property taxes; reducing the importance of standardized test scores in teacher evaluations; setting a statewide maximum on class size; and increasing the Association’s digital media presence.

Worthy recipients. The Association bestowed a number of annual awards, including the Friend of Education, VEA’s highest honor, which went to Beblon Parks, our own director of field support, organizing and minority engagement. She will retire this month after 34 years with VEA.

Other winners included Precious Crabtree of Fairfax, who won the Award for Teaching Excellence; Bristol Superintendent Mark Lineburg and Assistant Superintendent Rex Gearhart, who received Presidents Awards of Distinction; Sharon Stokes of Fairfax, the Education Support Professional of the Year; and Spotsylvania’s Renee Beverly, who earned the Mary Hatwood Futrell Award for Distinguished Leadership in Education. 


Delegates Choose Association Leaders

Convention delegates also heard campaign speeches and spent some time at the ballot box choosing statewide Association leaders, including some first-time officers.

One leader who won’t be a first-timer is President Meg Gruber, who was re-elected by delegates to a second two-year term beginning August 1. An earth science teacher from Prince William County, Gruber is a former VEA vice president and member of the National Education Association Board of Directors.

Floyd County’s Jeff Pennington ran unopposed for vice president and will also begin a two-year term in August. It will be the first time in statewide office for the award-winning special education teacher in Portsmouth who moved to the western part of the state two years ago.

Another new face is James Fedderman, president of the Accomack Education Association, who was elected to a three-year term as one of VEA’s representatives on the NEA Board of Directors. A choral music teacher, he also has written in this magazine about the issue of workplace bullying.

Winning seats on the VEA Board of Directors were Gwendolyn Edwards of Prince William, a technology specialist, for Alternate ESP-at-Large; and, for Retired-at-Large, Eddie Fifer of Washington County, a former physical education teacher, and Dennis Pfennig of Fairfax County, who taught history.




You Say You Want a Revolution?

The theme of VEA’s 2014 convention was “Revolution Starts with Me,” and while that may sound strong to some, it’s really not. It’s nothing more than following in the footsteps of our profession’s leaders, who fought to bring education to every child, whether born into wealth or poverty, from Bristol to Virginia Beach, from Danville to Alexandria.

It was revolutionary when Rev. Dr. William Henry Ruffner, the 8th president of the VEA, proposed a statewide system of public schools in Virginia 144 years ago.

It was revolutionary when our Association predecessors decided that the knowledge required of a teacher must be spelled out, and began building a professional knowledge base through our Virginia Journal of Education and through summer institutes and instructional conferences.

It was revolutionary when those who preceded us won a statewide pension system, sick leave, planning time, retiree health benefits, funding for National Board Certified Teachers, and so many other great achievements.
There are several revolutions I think we need to start right now!

How about a revolution in respect? Right now, our critics too often have the stage. They say our public schools are failing and that educators are more interested in salaries and “tenure” than in quality education. We know that’s not true—but their message is reaching too many members of our communities.

We’ll break through when each of us loudly and publicly refutes these lies—at the city council meeting, in letters to the local newspaper, at the Rotary Club, and during the neighborhood cookout.

How about a revolution in investing in education? Yes, generous—or even adequate—funding of public education would be truly revolutionary!

We live in the ninth wealthiest state in the nation but our state funds its schools at a lower level than it did five years ago. The economy is coming back, as are corporate profits and Wall Street—but around Virginia there are questions being raised about how much we can “afford” to put into our public schools.

We know education is the best investment Virginia can make—but we have to do more than just believe it. We need to tell our stories about what’s lost when budgets are cut. We must show up at school board and government meetings. We need to get behind representatives who will place a priority on schools, and we have to make it really uncomfortable for elected officials to deny adequate funding for Virginia’s children.

How about a revolution in professional autonomy? Who knows best what curriculum and instructional strategies are most likely to succeed with the students we have in our classrooms right now? Who’s in the best position to exercise professional judgment to turn around a struggling reader?

We are! Yet so-called experts and politicians are constantly seeking ways to “reform” our work.
Leading is our role, and each of us must be prepared to take a stand. We must speak the truth, and do it loudly and persistently. It could start another revolution!



VEA Welcomes New Staff Members

Danielle L. Wilkerson has joined the UniServ staff and will work out of the Fairfax office. Before coming to VEA, she worked as communications, organizing and advocacy specialist with the Denver (CO) UniServ Unit and, prior to that, as a political and community organizer for several organizations including the American Federation of Government Employees and Working America.  

Bryan G. Pfeifer has begun work in Southwest UniServ’s Abingdon office. He comes to VEA after working as an organizing coordinator for the American Federation of Teachers-Kansas, and has also worked for the Wisconsin Bail Out The People Movement and as a project staff organizer for AFSCME.


Local Associations Raise Their Voices

Sign-toting Fairfax Education Association members made their presence felt at a meeting of the county’s Board of Supervisors; More than 200 members of the Gloucester Education Association wore black to school on a Friday to mourn continued underfunding of county schools;  Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association, spoke to local media during a press conference urging leaders in the nation’s wealthiest county to invest more in schools; Prince William Education Association members pack a County Board of Supervisors meeting, many wearing their trademark “Class Size Matters” blue T-shirts; Bedford County Education Association members Suzanne Warner, Linda Smith, Dina Linkenhoker and Cheryl Sprouse, helped get a 2-cent tax increase passed in the county.  


UniServ Office Seeks Assistant
VEA’s Mountain View UniServ office, located in Fredericksburg, is seeking an administrative assistant.

Duties include answering the telephone, routine correspondence, maintaining electronic membership data, invoice processing, banking, financial reporting and assistance with budget preparation. 

To apply, send resume, cover letter and three references to or ATTN:  Peter Pfotenhauer, 15 Riverside Parkway, Suite 205, Fredericksburg, VA 22406. Deadline: June 23, 2014.





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