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VEA's Local Leaders Buckle Down at 'Boot Camp'

It felt a little like a boot camp, only a much more fun version of one: Presidents, vice presidents, secretaries, and treasurers from VEA local associations reported to the University of Richmond on a Sunday in July for VEA’s 2018 Local Officers Retreat and left Tuesday evening after two days of vigorous preparation for the new academic and Association years.

     “I had a lot to learn,” says Marcia Crowder, the newly-elected secretary of the Halifax Education Association.

     She was far from alone. “At times I felt like I was drinking from a fire hose,” says Ashley McLaughlin, president-elect of the Smyth County Education Association. “But everyone was so supportive and helpful.”

     Part of that help was a mentoring program matching experienced local association officers with newbies, providing sounding boards, new friendships, and a veteran’s perspective.

     LOR kicked off by showcasing some success stories from around the state, as officers from Pulaski, Chesterfield, and Bristol discussed their working relationships with local education officials. Each of those three locals made their presentations jointly with either their superintendent or school board chair.

     VEA leaders also got an ESSA update from the Virginia Department of Education; heard from VEA President Jim Livingston, Interim Executive Director Tim Dedman, and Government Relations Director Kathy Burcher on school funding and teacher salaries; planned for the year ahead; and attended breakout sessions on topics including promoting social justice, community engagement, educator rights, digital communications, and working with UniServ staff.

     “I have a keen interest in social media,” says Crowder, “and I’m taking some tools and resources home that I know I’ll use. I also needed to make sure I was doing the right things in my role as secretary.”

     Unlike most boot camps, LOR had a bit of comedy, too. Members were treated to an evening appearance by Micah “Bam-Bamm” White, a comedian and former teacher who left a trail of comic relief behind.

     To see photos of this year’s Local Officers Retreat, visit VEA’s Facebook page or the Association’s photo site,

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