Friday, October 23, 2009

Seven Stops in Seven Virginia Locations for Deeds Educational Opportunities Bus Tour

Photo: The first bus stop on the Deeds Educational Opportunity Bus Tour
Charlottesville, VA, October 19, 2009

I have just finished three of the more intensive days of my presidency so far. I stumped around the Commonwealth traveling almost 1000 miles in those three days trying to reach out to our members and the state's secondary media markets with the message that we have less than two weeks before the Virginia election for statewide offices and all 100 House of Delegates seats, and we are in need of pumping a little excitement and enthusiasm into our otherwise voter fatigued citizenry.

My appeal is especially to my VEA members and education colleagues who have much riding on this gubernatorial election. We have two clear choices. Creigh Deeds who has been a proven friend of public education and the 93.5% voting record to prove it, or his opponent, who is a champion of merit pay, vouchers and tax credits, and whose own voting record from his days in the House was only 52%.

Hmmm. 93.5% = A. 52% = F.

Could our choice for electing a friend of public education--one who believes in the opportunities to be afforded to Virginia's citizenry through public education--be any clearer? I don't see how.

I started out our statewide trek in Charlottesville on one of the most beautiful autumn mornings we have had so far this fall. From there, we headed back east to Petersburg for an afternoon stop in front of the Petersburg Courthouse. We wound up the first day of our tour with a stop in Richmond.

On the bus, we had First Lady of Virginia, Anne Holton, who is committed to helping Creigh Deeds become our next Governor of Virginia. We also had Creigh's son, Gus, with us in Charlottesville before he peeled off for other campaign duties.

While Gus needed to be somewhere else, we met up with others throughout the day who helped us to carry our message from differing perspectives. In Charlottesville, for example, we had Dr. Fred Diehl, a professor from the University of Virginia with us. He spoke to his understanding of Creigh's commitment to higher education in Virginia as well as his well-known record in K-12 education over the course of his 18-year history in the General Assembly both as a Delegate and as a Senator.

In Petersburg, we were joined by parent, Stella Edwards, a long time friend of the VEA, and Senator Henry Marsh who shared his own experience working with Creigh over the years.

In Richmond, we continued on with the First Lady and Senator Marsh, and we were joined by Mayor Dwight Jones and several other city and state officials and candidates for office. The neat thing about the Richmond stop is that we were joined by school-aged children who attend the Peter Paul Development Center's after school program. How appropriate to have children with us since it is for the children that we teach that this election is the most critical regarding its outcome.

Immediately upon the conclusion of the Richmond bus stop, I took off for northern Virginia where I stayed in Falls Church in order to be positioned for the first stop of that day at the VT Northern Virginia Center in Falls Church. By Wednesday, I was the only person on the tour who had completed the first day of traveling. The First Lady had to deal with other responsibilities, and Gus Deeds and Dr. Diehl and the others were replaced on the tour by former Delegate Jim Dillard, Republican, from Fairfax.

Many of our members know Delegate Dillard not only as a retired delegate from the House and a long time friend of public education, but he is also a retired educator from the Fairfax County Public Schools and FEA-Retired. Jim's message was powerful because as Chair of the House Education Committee while he served in the House, he had opportunities to work with both of the candidates for Governor. In spite of his long time standing with the Republican party, Delegate Dillard supports the Democratic candidate, Creigh Deeds, and he laid out clearly the reasons for doing so.

In addition to having Delegate Dillard join me in Falls Church, we were privileged to be joined by Congressman Jim Moran who also spoke quite eloquently and forcefully to the reasons for electing Creigh to be the next Governor of Virginia.

From Falls Church, we traveled to Leesburg where we were joined by Senator Mark Herring and House of Delegates member and candidate for re-election, David Poisson. Both men joined me and president of the Loudoun Education Association, Sandy Sullivan, in speaking to why we need to work hard between now and November 3 to get out the vote for our candidate.

From Falls Church, we traveled to Winchester and there, in front of the Charlotte Dehart Elementary School, we were joined by former Senator Russ Potts, a long time friend of the VEA and a fierce advocate for education. Senator Potts chaired the Senate Health and Education Committee. He, too, is able to speak straight from his experience in working with both candidates for Governor, and in spite of his long time stance in the Republican Party of Virginia, Senator Potts is endorsing Creigh Deeds for Governor.

It should be hugely telling to our moderate Republican friends and Independent voters that the judgment of Delegate Dillard and Senator Potts along with the endorsement of former Senator John Chichester and others that they are backing Creigh Deeds for Governor. They are crossing party lines and breaking ranks with their own party for the good of Virginia. We at the VEA need to help them get that message out. It is an important message that has been largely lost in the campaign rhetoric until now, but we still have over a week to get the message out among our members, their families, and their neighbors.

From Winchester, I headed south on I-81 and spent the night in Roanoke where I wound up our three-day, seven-stop tour in front of the Jefferson Center, joined by Sarah Patton, NEA Director from Covington and former Delegate and current Chair of the Virginia Democratic Party, Dick Cranwell. We were also joined by parent activist and public education advocate, Butch Johnstone.

For my closing remarks about just how critical I believe this election is, please click on the link below and you can hear first-hand my plea to the assembled crowd to help get out the vote. Time is running out, but it's not too late for us to make a difference in spite of what the polls say.

The only poll that matters is the one that is taken on Election Day, and we can make the critical difference if we turn out in sufficient numbers!

Kitty Boitnott appearing in Roanoke, Virginia, October 22, 2009 with a message to Virginia voters.

As I write this post, we have 11 days to make a difference. Everyone who cares about the future of Virginia is turning out from President Obama to Governor Kaine to Senators Warner and Webb along with Creigh's Republican supporters and dozens of other organizations that have committed themselves to Creigh's success.

No one is more committed to Creigh's success, however, than I am, as president of the Virginia Education Association. I understand the significance of this election on the three core values that I have and that drive me as I perform the duties of president of the largest association of educators in the Commonwealth of Virginia--preserving public education, promoting the education profession, and advocating for the students we teach every day.

I know that Creigh shares those goals and values with me.

I urge you to get out and help Creigh in these last days of the election.

Volunteer in these last days and you could win an opportunity to meet President Obama when he makes his Virginia appearance at ODU Tuesday, October 27th. For more information, click here.

I'll be leaving Richmond again in just a couple of days. I have a breakfast scheduled with members in Staunton Monday morning, October 26 before my VP, Meg Gruber, and I head west for Abingdon for our fourth Pre-Legislative Dinner and budget and resolutions hearings. From Abingdon, we'll head back to Salem for the Pre-Legislative Dinner scheduled there, and then back to Staunton where we will complete the sixth of our nine scheduled Pre-Legislative Dinners combined with the hearings on the 2010-2011 budget and resolutions.

From there, I will be heading to the Tidewater area next weekend, I think, to help with the GOTV efforts for some of our friends in the region as the last days of the election season wind down.

I'm doing all I can to help our friends finish a successful bid for their respective offices. Please join me.

The VEA CAN make a difference in this election--I just know it.

Until next time.