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VEA Leaders: Ready to Take On the World

"We must change to meet the challenges of the future," VEA President Jim Livingston says, and change was, indeed, the focus of three days of concentrated training at the Association’s 2018 Reggie Smith Organizing School.

      Some 100 local leaders spent those days immersed in workshops on diverse topics including basic organizing, digital communications, reaching out to new educators, working with journalists, political activism, social justice, and teacher evaluation.

     RSOS sessions, broken into political action and instructional issues tracks, were geared to helping educators across Virginia "answer the call," as Livingston put it. "For too long," he says, "the Commonwealth of Virginia has not met its responsibility, not only to our teachers, but to our children. It’s time for us to stand up together, march together, and demand together."

     Standing up together was exactly what members came to do. "I wanted to learn to be more politically active and how to strengthen my local association," says Maggie Gannon, a Culpeper County Education Association member. An Association Representative for Culpeper members in grades 3-5, she believes she accomplished that, adding, "We have a sound plan to take back home to build our ability to organize."

     So does Sid Neighbours, president of the Education Association of Suffolk. "We had a good year advocating for our teachers and staff," he says, "but I’m a lifelong learner and there’s always more to know. I came to be rejuvenated and to be a more astute leader."

     Members also had a chance to hear from guest speakers who are serious education reformers, including Schuyler VanValkenburg and Cheryl Turpin, both VEA members who were elected to Virginia’s House of Delegates last year, and Alexis McKinney, a recent graduate of Howard University who was among the leaders of Howard Resist, a student group that occupied the school’s administration building for nine days earlier this year.

     "We really are stronger together," VEA Vice President Dr. James Fedderman reminded attendees before they headed home, leaving them with a fiery mission: "Clear your voice and speak out for what’s right! Speak from a spirit of truth. Stand on the side of the right, each and every day!"

To see photos of this year’s RSOS, visit VEA’s photo site at

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