Saturday, March 28, 2015

VEA Members Wrap Up 2015 Delegate Assembly

VEA members wrapped up 2015’s three-day convention Saturday in Hampton by passing new business items calling for better accommodations for special education students and those who work with them, policies that protect educators from the misuse of electronic devices in the classroom, and ongoing information and training on changing systems of teacher evaluation.

Delegates also left the Hampton Roads Convention Center with a clear destination: the State Capitol on April 18 for the Put Kids First Rally. “We’re tired of hearing the empty talk of politicians when it comes to public education,” Philip Forgit told the crowd. “So we’re going to do some talking of our own on April 18. When they see all of us there, it’s really going to change the conversation.”

 Educators and education advocates who took home awards at Friday night’s awards banquet were also announced. Winners were:
·         Renee Serrao of Chesterfield, who received the Award for Teaching Excellence;
·         Tonya Hutchinson of Hampton, the 2015 ESP of the Year;
·         Kerry and Glenda Eans of Wythe County, who received the Fitz Turner Award;
·         The Loudoun, Prince William, and Amherst Education Associations, which received VEA Community Advocacy Awards, as did the Radford SVEA chapter, which will receive their award at the SVEA convention in April;
·         The Floyd County, Greensville, and Loudoun EAs, which earned A+ Awards for Membership Growth; and
·         The Chesterfield and Loudoun Education Associations, which earned VEA Activism Awards.

Below, SVEA President Sabrina Hayes, a student at Old Dominion University, spoke from the floor in support of the Put Kids First campaign.

Debate Winds Down

With input from some 500 educators from across Virginia, delegates to the 130th annual VEA Delegate Assembly debated more than 30 items of new business.

Gruber Calls Out Public Officials

"Politicians are very good at making school visits and then declaring themselves to be 'friends of education,'" VEA President Meg Gruber told delegates Friday, "but then they don't follow through on doing what's best for kids. It's time we say 'Enough!'"

Pointing to the fact that Virginia ranks 39th in the nation in state per-pupil spending and that state funding for schools, after inflation, has dropped 16 percent in the last five years, Gruber demanded of elected officials, "Show us how you put kids first!"

Through the Put Kids First campaign, including its April 18 rally, "We're going to change the conversation about public education in Virginia," Gruber said. "We're going to make some serious noise and we're not going to stop until our schools get the support they deserve."

Association Honors Educators, Advocates

Among the awards presented at last night's awards banquet were the Fitz Turner Award, which went to Kerry and Glenda Eans of Wythe County (top); the Award for Teaching Excellence, won by Renee Serrao of Chesterfield County (middle); and the Education Support Professional of the Year, won by Tonya Hutchinson of Hampton.

Friday, March 27, 2015

Friends in High Places

Several members of Virginia's General Assembly were given VEA Legislative Champion Awards for their work on behalf of public education during the 2015 legislative session. Among the recipients in attendance to receive theirs were Delegates Ken Plum (top) and Jackson Miller.

The Democratic Process

Members from around Virginia, like Louisa County's Rebecca Jasman, made their voices heard during the New Business section of Friday morning's convention session.

Day One Wrap-Up

When an unfriendly legislature in North Carolina made things difficult for that state’s students and educators, members of the North Carolina Association of Educators fought back, led by their president, Rodney Ellis. They got involved in elections, took to social media, held rallies, filed a lawsuit, and took part in “Moral Monday” protests at the State Capitol. One of those protests led to Ellis’ arrest.

                “Anything it takes, I’m willing to do it,” Ellis told delegates to the 2015 VEA Delegate Assembly in his keynote address Thursday night in Hampton. “If you’re going to lead, you’ve got to lead by example.”

                NCAE’s battles serve as both an object lesson and inspiration, Ellis said, urging VEA members to get off the sidelines to defend public education: “We can’t be about ‘Go get ‘em’ anymore—it’s got to be ‘Let’s go get ‘em.’”

                The convention’s opening session also featured the introduction of Joey Mathews, president of the Loudoun Education Association, as the newest VEA representative on the NEA Board of Directors (shown here), and a stirring invitation by Bristol VEA Co-President Tracey Mercier to delegates to join her at the Put Kids First Rally in Richmond next month.

                To see convention photos, visit