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Virginia Journal of Education

 VEA News & Advocacy


Association Leaders Hit the Books This Summer

In one building on the University of Richmond campus, teachers and paraprofessionals tried to work through the challenges of inclusive classrooms: How do you juggle the roles of several educators, students with a variety of special needs, parents who may have unrealistic expectations, and administrators who are themselves under pressure to produce results?

A couple buildings over, another group of educators listened intently as members of the Chesterfield Education Association laid out the details of their “Just Let Me Teach” campaign, which got the attention of the school board and led to wide-ranging revisions in county policies.

Others were preparing for a field trip to a local neighborhood, where they would go door-to-door on behalf of a candidate for state Senate.

In still another building, teachers walked through the process of creating SMART goals, an integral part of Virginia’s new system for evaluating teachers.

That’s just a snapshot of what went on at the 2015 Reggie Smith Organizing School, an annual gathering of Association members for intensive training on education issues. In the teacher evaluation strand, for example, participants each got a copy of their school division’s evaluation policy. “We were able to compare our policy with the state’s,” said Ora Briggs of the Sussex County Education Association, “and we talked about how we might organize our members around this particular issue."

Just prior to Reggie Smith, more leaders gathered for the Local Presidents Retreat, also at UR, and checked off two major items on their summer to-do lists: First, they sharpened some key skills for the big tasks that lie ahead, such as building bridges with local government; and second, they acquired valuable information for their members, such as how one colleague saved over $1,000 on car insurance through NEA Member Benefits, or the value of allying with homeowner associations on community issues.


Popular VEA Instruction Conference
Coming to Richmond in November

As educators, we pride ourselves on encouraging students to become lifelong learners—and on modeling that practice for those in our charge. Put that together with the fact that our best learning often comes from spending time with our colleagues, and you’ve got two great reasons to be in Richmond in November for VEA’s annual Instruction and Professional Development Conference.

Kicking off on Friday, November 21, the conference offers you the chance to attend sessions, both large and small, on a wide variety of public education topics. You’ll pick up effective instructional strategies, ideas on meeting the needs of all students, and updates on issues that affect educators and students at all levels.

Classroom teachers, education support professionals, Student VEA members and education retirees are all welcome. To learn more about this training opportunity, and to register, visit the VEA website at


Apply for VEA
Mini-Grants Now!

Innovation should not only be encouraged, but rewarded. If you’ve got an innovative idea, but lack the cash to make it happen, you should know that VEA awards Mini-Grants every fall to educators around the state who want to launch projects that are a little out-of-the-box.

Grants are for up to $500, and the deadline for this year’s awards is approaching, so the time to get your proposal together is now. They’re due at VEA headquarters by October 2.

To get forms and guidelines, visit


 Connecting on Social Media

Your Association and your colleagues are taking the message of public education to social media every day.
• VEA’s Facebook page has more than 5,000 “likes.” Join them at
• VEA’s Twitter handle is @VEA4Kids. Check us out there, too.


Doing Our Virginia Government Homework

Once the dust settles from this November’s elections, the winners will go about the business of legislation. What they do then will have a huge impact on educator salaries and working conditions and on student learning conditions.

To help you understand how you can make a difference in the next General Assembly session, VEA will hold a series of pre-legislative workshops. Date and locations are below—check with your UniServ office for details.

October 5   Hampton
October 6   Norfolk
October 7   Fredericksburg
October 19   NOVA
October 26   Abingdon
October 27   Salem
October 28   Staunton
November 5   Danville
November 9   Brunswick
November 12   Richmond


Social Media Savvy

As the new school year gets underway, just a few reminders for educators to protect themselves on social media, from VEA’s Office of Legal Services:

• If your school division has a social media policy, read and follow it.

• Never post about students or colleagues, even if you don’t use names.

• Never post anything negative about your job, school or administrators.

• Post nothing you’re not comfortable with students, parents and administrators seeing. Avoid re-posting inappropriate posts made by others.

• On Facebook, adjust your privacy settings so your posts are only visible to your intended audience. However, don’t assume that this will be a foolproof way of controlling who sees your posts.

• Do not accept Facebook “friend” requests from students on your personal FB page. If you use FB to communicate with students for school-related purposes, set up a separate page unconnected to your private account.

• Do not reveal any confidential information.


Hill Joins VEA Staff

Patricia (Pat) Hill has joined VEA’s statewide staff of UniServ Directors and will work out of the Prince William Education Association office. Most recently a Field Marketing Manager with California Casualty, Hill also brings experience as both an educator and human resources professional to her new position with the Association.
She holds a bachelor’s degree from Virginia Union University and a master’s from the University of St. Joseph in West Hartford, CT.




Meg Gruber

The Source of My Pride

As the 2015-16 school year gets underway, I want to start it by expressing how proud I feel. I’m so proud of our public schools here in Virginia, which year after year rank among the best in the nation. It makes me very proud to be a part of providing our young people with the quality education and opportunity they deserve.

I’m even more proud of you, our members, for making that kind of quality possible. Without the excellent work being done every day by educators like you, there’s no way our schools would excel the way they do. I’ve gotten to meet many of you in my travels around the Commonwealth, and have been so grateful for your talents, hard work and commitment. Thank you, from the bottom of my heart, for the incredibly important work you do. You are part of the most important profession there is.

I’m also very proud of our Association. This summer, many of our members gave their time and energy to events including the NEA convention, the Local Presidents Retreat and the Reggie Smith Organizing School, sharpening their skills and helping to make a difference. Even more of you give of yourselves year-round, making our Association strong through your presence. Because of you, the voice of students and educators is heard in Richmond and in every community in Virginia. And that makes me very proud.

There will be, of course, tough issues and battles ahead. There always are. While we’ve been able to build increasing support for public education through our ongoing Put Kids First campaign with the Virginia PTA, there will always be those who don’t understand the value of public schools, or see them as a way to rake in profits. We’ve got some very important elections this fall. The results at the polls will have a great deal to say about what kind of learning and working conditions we’ll have in schools down the road.

Because of the challenges we’ll face, and because our members are so capable, we’ll need all of us more than ever, together, to make a stand. When it comes to knowing what’s best for our kids and our schools, no one knows better than you, the professionals who do it every day. However, our voices are too often overlooked when crucial decisions are made.

That’s why I’d like to ask one important thing of you as we head into the fall. The more of us there are, the more effective advocates we can be. Talk with your colleagues who are not yet Association members, and share with them the value of a united commitment to our kids and our schools. Share with them the reasons you’ve become a member of your professional community, and invite them to do the same. Their membership, like yours, will benefit them throughout the course of their careers.

Again, an enormous thank-you for all you do, and for all we’ll continue to do together. I wish all of us nothing but the best for the new year.


Virginia Capital

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