Sunday, September 12, 2010

From Shenandoah County to Alexandria City to Radford for my First SHAM Meeting

Board Members of the SCEA

Once again, time has gotten away from me, and it's hard to believe that it has been so long since I last offered a posting. August and the first two weeks of September have been busy for the VEA and for me.

I went to Shenandoah County on the 27th of August and was privileged to be allowed to speak to the Shenandoah County teachers and support personnel at their annual Convocation.

This particular Convocation was a special event that included the presentation of high school diplomas to veterans who served our military in some capacity or another during World War II, Korea, Vietnam, Iraq or Afghanistan. Over 60 men and women received diplomas either for themselves or for loved ones who have deceased. It was a moving ceremony, and I was glad that I was able to attend and be a part of it.

I also had the privilege of taking the SCEA Board out to dinner on the evening before the Convocation, and we had a great time. I was struck by the enthusiasm and energy of these wonderful young women. They were excited about getting back into the swing of things. I heard not one complaint about a lack of money or resources. They were all about getting ready to make this the best year ever for their students. I wished I could bottle their enthusiasm up and take it along with me. I was also struck by how much they enjoyed each other's company, and it was clear to me that they like each other and enjoy working with each other. I hope they do well with their membership drive. They have the ingredients needed to make for a successful year in that regard.

Since last posting, I was also privileged to to be allowed to speak to the Alexandria City Public Schools employees at their Convocation. This Convocation was also special on two counts that had nothing to do with my being there to speak. First, Secretary of Education Arne Duncan was the keynote speaker, and he offered thoughts on what we need to do to meet the needs of today's students. I listened carefully, and all I can wish is that his rhetoric matched what is coming out of the Department of Education where he works. He said all the right things, and he certainly sounded sincere. Perhaps by the time we actually undertake a serious revision of ESEA, his philosophy will have trickled down into the various departments in the DOE. Keep your fingers crossed.

In addition to having the Secretary of Education in attendance, this particular Convocation was a special occasion for ACPS because Mr. Ferdinand T. Day was also honored in a special presentation of the American flag that was flown at the Capitol on the day that President Barack Obama was sworn in as the first African American President of the United States. Mr. Day was an early civil rights leader and the first African-American school board chairman in Virginia. Mr. Day is 88 years old, but he stood tall and was visibly touched by the special presentation of the flag.

Those two events were special and I was only present because of the privilege that I experience as President of the VEA. It is always an honor to represent our members, but I admit, some days are more memorable than others because of my ability to participate in these kinds of events.

On Friday, September 10, I traveled with Philip Forgit, the new VEA Executive Director to Radford for our first meeting with Staff Hired Around the Mountain--or more affectionately, SHAM. SHAM is made up of UniServ Directors who serve the Southwest Region and include Ernie Roberts from Cumberland Mountain, Helen Marlowe from Southwest Virginia UniServ, Marshall Leitch from New River, Pat Wood from VEA UniServ 4, Ron Emery from VEA UniServ 5, Karen Olivares from Valley UniServ, Chris Daniel from Edu-Serv, and Jay Deck from Skyline. Also in attendance was Doris Boitnott who is currently serving as one of the two temporary Membership Organizing Specialists and Beblon Parks who is the Southwest Regional Manager for UniServ Directors.

This was my first meeting with SHAM members, and the cause of the occasion was to introduce Philip Forgit to the staff members from the Southwest Region. The fact is that Philip had already met with and has even dined with several of the members of SHAM during his first week on the job back in August, but we have committed to getting around to all of the regional staff meetings during these first few months that he is on the job so that he can meet all of the staff, learn what is going on in the various regions, and help to get a better sense of the diversity of the state in which we work.

In the coming week, I will be attending a rally in Loudoun where the LEA leaders will be kicking off the first of several "work to the rule" weeks, and I will be attending a couple of political events, capped off on Friday by attending a special unveiling of a portrait of Barbara Rose Johns, one of the teen activists who took a stand as part of the Civil Rights movement at the old Moton School in Prince Edward County. The Moton School is being converted into the Robert Russa Moton Museum. The museum serves as a center for the study of civil rights in education. The VEA is a supporter of the Robert Russa Moton Museum and its efforts, and I will be proud to be in attendance at this important ceremony. Governor Bob McDonnell will be unveiling the portrait in a special, by-invitation-only ceremony at the State Capitol.

Coming up at the end of this month, we will be convening our first of the 2010-11 VEA Board of Directors meeting with a special retreat/training that is going to be held in Williamsburg. Stay tuned. We will be undertaking a lot of important business at that meeting, and when we have completed the business, I will be reporting on actions that we took.

Until next time.