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RSOS Participants Off and Running

A power-packed lineup of general session speakers, combined with breakout workshops run by VEA members and staff, left Association members heading out of the 2016 Reggie Smith Organizing School (RSOS) energized and ready for a new school year.

They got some of their marching orders from Virginia Secretary of Education Anne Holton, who told attendees that they're the "heart of our education system" and urged them to form relationships with the legislators who represent them. "Public education needs every dollar we can get, and your representatives need to hear from you," she said.

Holton, the wrap-up speaker of the three-day event, also encouraged educators not to squander the opportunities offered by the new Every Student Succeeds Act (ESSA) , calling it "a once in a generation opportunity."

"Let's be bold!" she said. "The business community is with us on this--it's an exciting time in education."

John Ford, president of the Jefferson County (CO) Education Association, opened RSOS two days earlier with a rousing call to action, describing JCEA's work, along with community organizations, to successfully recall three school board members who supported destructive school policies. JCEA lined a major local avenue with sign-carrying protestors (twice), held a march over an interstate overpass at rush hour, and received support in the form of walkouts by both teachers and students.

"You have to figure out a way to agitate people," he said, "because everyone wants good schools."

Next, Steven Staples, Virginia's Superintendent of Public Instruction, visited the University of Richmond campus to speak with RSOS participants about ESSA and the restructuring of Virginia's high schools.

Around those high-powered presentations, attendees also worked in one of six strands: All Politics is Local, Association Activist, Compensation, Experienced Leaders, Jump Start (National Board Certification preparation), and Organizing. Some 100 members had a chance to hone skills in areas including building community support, improving member communications, dealing with local government, analyzing local power structures, growing Association influence, strategic planning, and sharing public education's successes and stories. In addition, members geared up for November's elections, including the two proposed constitutional amendments on this year's ballot.

VEA's new president, Jim Livingston, and vice president, James Fedderman, were also sworn in, and the Association said its farewells to outgoing president Meg Gruber and vice president Jeff Pennington.

To see photos of all the RSOS activity, go to

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