Newsletter 2022 Issue 2
Executive Director
Gina G. Patterson
From the Executive Director
Let me first start by saying, Happy School Board Appreciation Month. VSBA thanks our school board members for their hard work and commitment to improving outcomes for students across the Commonwealth. Your service ensures that decisions about local public schools are made by those most familiar with the needs of the community’s children and families. As school board members you deserve recognition, appreciation, and thanks for your dedication to Virginia’s children. 
It was great to meet so many of our new members at the New Member Orientation in January. Now that you are back home, I’m sure you are ready to share all you learned. Where do you start? Hopefully, you made the most of your time at the VSBA conference, meeting board members/superintendents from other parts of the state. Now that you are home it is time to build upon the relationship you started and think about how these new acquaintances can benefit your division in the future. There are some follow-up tasks to complete after a conference to ensure that the benefits continue long after the event is done.
Review your notes and share with others on your board that didn’t attend what you learned. The first thing to do is make a list of the things you think are worth sharing with all your other members. Get that done as soon as possible or you may forget some of the finer details. At your next board meeting ask for time to report on what you learned, have a written report for all the other members, and expect the same from your fellow members. Visit the VSBA website for post-conference information. There are power points from presenters so that members can share the information with others that were not there.
Follow up with VSBA staff. Many individuals have ideas and thoughts for future conferences that would be helpful for the team at VSBA to know about. Share with VSBA staff ideas you have for keynote speaker options, or sessions that you or your board may like to see in the future. The staff at VSBA wants to meet the needs of the membership, so any thoughts and ideas are appreciated. Be sure to do this while it is fresh in your mind; consider what worked well and what didn’t. If you and your board got motivated to do a board governance session, remember VSBA can help facilitate topics at your request.
Commit to the changes you will make. Was there a speaker you heard that gave you something to think about in terms of how to improve your board? Discuss with someone else what you plan to do in a different way after listening to a speaker or presenter.
March marks the beginning of VSBA Equity in Education Month, sponsored by Sodexo. This month-long initiative was created by the VSBA Board of Directors in an effort to encourage divisions to evaluate and share how we are serving students equitably. VSBA has created a toolkit for divisions to use to plan relevant activities throughout March. During March, VSBA will also be hosting a series of webinars focusing on a range of topics related to equity in education. We look forward to learning more about what equity looks like in each of your divisions and encourage you to share with us and one another by using #EquityInActionVA on all social media. For more information, and resources for Equity in Education Month visit the VSBA website here.
March will also mark the beginning of the VSBA Regional Spring Network Forums. This year the forums will be held virtually but will still feature student art contest awards and updates on key education issues and association events. This year Kajeet will be joining us at each forum to announce the Regional Winners of the Broadband Grant. These events are designed to gather board members to discuss issues facing your region, share ideas, and provide you with an opportunity to feel supported. Your regional chair is your representative on the VSBA Board of Directors and is your direct link to the activities on the board; your input is invaluable to them. VSBA will have a Hybrid Hot Topic Conference on April 20th at the VSBA offices in Charlottesville. For a complete schedule and brochures for each meeting click here. I look forward to seeing everyone as we meet with each of you this spring.

Thanks for all that you do. 

VSBA Welcomes Assistant Executive Director!
Starting March 1, 2022, Tom Brewster will be the new Assistant Executive Director for the Virginia School Boards Association.

Thomas Brewster currently serves as Dean for the School of Education and Social Sciences at Bluefield College.

Brewster's career in public education includes serving as a high school social studies teacher, assistant principal, high school principal, university professor, student service coordinator, deputy superintendent, and school superintendent.

Born and raised in Southwest Virginia, Brewster holds a doctorate from Virginia Tech, an MS from Radford University, and a BA from Bluefield College. He is also an alumnus of the University of Virginia's Darden School of Business Executive Educators Leadership Institute.
2022 VSBA Capital Conference
On Monday, January 24th, 2022 the Virginia School Boards Association kicked off the two-day hybrid 2022 Capital Conference at the Richmond Delta Marriott. Attendees heard from a panel of school board members answering important questions on why school board advocacy is important, as well as hearing from speakers with commentary on the new political scene both in Virginia and nationally, a review of the Governor's budget and presentations that offered an outlook on the 2022 session of the General Assembly.
J.T. Kessler, Government Relations Specialist
2022 Session Reaches Midway Point
The 2022 session of the Virginia General Assembly crossed the half-way point on February 10th. Lawmakers are entering a crucial stage of the legislative session with crossover, the deadline for each chamber to complete work on legislation originating in that chamber (except for the budget bill), taking place on February 15th. The legislative session has seen the impact of divided government, with House Republicans and Senate Democrats at odds over approaches to setting policy. As legislation from each chamber crosses over, it is likely that these differences in governing philosophies will continue to define the 2022 session.

House, Senate Money Committees Unveil Spending Plans

The House Appropriations Committee and Senate Finance and Appropriations Committee released their proposed state budgets on February 20th. Key K-12 items include state funding for school support employees and a proposed loan-rebate program to generate up to $2 billion to replace or modernize public school buildings.

However, the House Appropriations Committees and the Senate Finance and Appropriations Committees went entirely different directions on pay raises for teachers, for whom then-Gov. Ralph Northam proposed 5% raises in each year of the two-year budget he introduced in December before leaving office.

The House proposed to split the proposed increase between 4% raises and 1% bonuses in each year, while the Senate kept the 5% raises and added a $1,000 bonus for teachers and other school workers effective June 1.

To view the K-12 Budget overview from the House Appropriations Elementary and Secondary Education Subcommittee report, click here

To view the K-12 Budget overview from the Senate Finance and Appropriations K-12 Subcommittee report, click here.

The VSBA Government Relations team provides daily updates on committee hearings and analysis on the hundreds of bills tracked during session on the VSBA Legislative Update Blog. Please click here to access the blog and check back often during session.

In the next newsletter, we will provide a greater overview of key pieces of legislation passed and defeated in the 2022 session. If you have any questions regarding legislation and the happenings at the Virginia General Assembly, please contact me at

2022 Virginia General Assembly- Remaining Key Dates and Deadlines
  • March 2: Deadline for each chamber to complete work on other chamber’s budget proposal and revenue bills and appoint conferees.
  • March 7: Deadline for committee action on legislation by midnight.
  • March 12: Scheduled adjournment sine die.
  • April 27: Reconvened session for consideration of Governor’s amendments and vetoes.

The VSBA Government Relations team provides daily updates on committee hearings and analysis on pending legislation on the VSBA Legislative Update Blog. Please click here to access the blog and check back often during session.

If you have any questions regarding legislation and the happenings at the Virginia General Assembly, please contact VSBA Government Relations Specialist, J.T. Kessler, at
VSBA Federal Relations Committee Holds Meetings with Virginia Delegation
On February 1, 2022, members of the Virginia School Boards Association Federal Relations Committee (FRC) hosted virtual meetings with Virginia’s Congressional Delegation as part of VSBA’s Virtual Advocacy Institute. The day-long event began with remarks from 2022 VSBA FRC Chair, Cardell Patillo (Portsmouth City), and a presentation from VSBA Government Relations Specialist, J.T. Kessler, on the current legislation being considered by the United States Congress and a review of the issues for members of the FRC to address in their meetings.

FRC members had plentiful discussions on issues related to education at the Federal Level with Virginia’s Congressional Leaders. Congressman Bobby Scott (VA-3), Congresswoman Abigail Spanberger (VA-7), and Congressman Morgan Griffith (VA-9) joined committee members to solicit feedback from participants. Additional meetings with key congressional staff from delegation offices were held throughout the day.

The 2022 VSBA FRC Advocacy Institute concluded with a robust meeting with Senator Tim Kaine and Senator Mark Warner where FRC members addressed needs of school divisions in a post-pandemic climate, school construction and modernization, staff and school bus driver shortages, broadband access, and full funding of IDEA.

It is the goal of FRC Chair Patillo to reconvene members of the committee for a follow up meeting this spring where they will assess the issues discussed with the Congressional delegation and make plans for further advocacy for the rest of the year.
2022 School Board Appreciation Month
Photos from Around The Commonwealth
Virtual Reality Brings Learning to Life for SCPS Students
In recent months, students in Shenandoah County have toured the Annex of Anne Frank in Amsterdam; journeyed to the forests of Kenya, Borneo, and Raja Ampat; and explored coral reefs in Palau, Micronesia. How did students in rural Virginia experience these amazing places? They used the Oculus Rift virtual reality headsets in the Mountain View High School library.
In 2019, Librarian Lisa Gibson applied for a grant from the Moore Educational Trust, which awards funding to Shenandoah County Public Schools teachers and staff to support special projects. Her project, “Oculus Rift - Creating a Career-Ready Student in a 3-D World” was fully funded for $21,300.00, which allowed her to purchase four Oculus Rift stations for the library.
Oculus Rift has been recognized as one of the best virtual reality (VR) headsets available for educational purposes. Oculus has worked with the California State Library, conducted research with MIT and Harvard, and partnered with other schools and institutions in the US for VR apps, training, and studies focused on education. With Oculus Rift, students can completely immerse themselves in a teachable environment. They can see all around themselves (in front, behind, above, and below) and sensors read their body and hand movements as they move. Students can visit locations all around the world. They can walk through a body and travel through the heart. Students can drive a tractor or handle a forklift. They can build an engine, dissect an animal, work a cash register with actual customers, and design and construct a building.
The grant also allowed Ms. Gibson to purchase three Oculus Quest virtual reality headsets. Additional Quest headsets were purchased through a technology grant and through library funds, to provide a total of ten Oculus Quests in addition to the Oculus Rifts. The Oculus Quests provide a high-quality virtual reality experience with the Quest 2 model being the preference when purchasing new headsets. While the Oculus Rifts require a PC to operate, the Oculus Quests do not. This allows students to use the Oculus Quest headsets in any space, without being tethered to a PC station.
The 2020-21 school year was challenging due to the pandemic. Shenandoah County Public Schools students learned entirely virtually for the beginning of the year The division transitioned to a hybrid learning model in October. Once students returned in person, Ms. Gibson began working with teachers to enhance their lessons with the VR technology. Grade 8 science students applied information learned about the properties of light in a VR experience where they used their knowledge about reflection and angles of incidence to manipulate orbs and mirrors to bend streams of light to charge their energy cells. Gifted and Talented Education (GATE) students performed surgery via the Oculus Rift stations. Since COVID required students to be six feet apart, physical education classes used Oculus Quest headsets to engage students in physical activity, such as boxing, soccer, golf, and bowling.
During summer school, students from the neighboring North Fork Middle School visited the library to use the Oculus Rift stations to provide field trip experiences. Some things they experienced included Virry Safari, where they could engage with wild and endangered species in their natural habitats; Titans in Space, a journey through a holographic solar system; and Operation Apex, where they used full locomotion in virtual reality and put on diving gear to explore ocean reefs and the underwater world.
When students returned to fully in-person learning for the 2021-22 school year, more teachers began to incorporate VR to support their instruction.
Music students used the Oculus Rift stations to create music using LyraVR. LyraVR is a music creation app that allows students to compose music in 3D space. They experimented with compositions and intricate loops and sounds.
In a Contemporary Social Issues class, students chose from three experiences: Ecosphere: Journey into Kenya, Borneo, and Raja Ampat; Coral Compass; or The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience. In the Ecosphere experience, they journeyed to some of the wildest places on earth, where indigenous and community-led efforts are creating space for humanity and wildlife to thrive together. In Coral Compass, students traveled to Palau, a small island nation in Micronesia, home to coral reefs that draw visitors from around the globe. In the experience, they saw how Palau is adapting to climate change to combat its effects on its reefs and economy. The Stanford Ocean Acidification Experience allowed students to experience first-hand what coral reefs are expected to look like by the end of the century due to ocean acidification - the process by which the ocean becomes more acidic as it absorbs CO2 that has been emitted into the atmosphere.
Most recently, all 8th grade English students visited the Annex of Anne Frank. They explored each room of the Annex and were able to interact with their surroundings. The opportunity helped students visualize and experience both the historical elements of the text as well as the literary elements. Each room had audio recordings of portions of the book, so they could listen to relevant passages as they experienced some of what Anne would have seen as she was writing. The VR experience helped them authentically engage and personally connect with Anne Frank. 
Virtual reality brings the world to students’ fingertips and immerses them in experiences that would otherwise be inaccessible. The teaching opportunities using VR are limitless, but due to the complexity of creating full VR content, much of what is currently available was created by professional developers. To allow students and staff to create their own VR experiences, Shenandoah County Public Schools is currently working with Shenandoah University to develop an app that will allow GoPro 360-degree video footage to be converted into a VR experience with interactive elements, such as embedded assessments. This will open up an even greater range of possibilities for the use of virtual reality in instruction.
March is VSBA Equity in Education Month!
In an effort to encourage equity in education, the VSBA Board of Directors has designated the month of March as VSBA Equity in Education Month. The 2022 VSBA Equity in Education Month is proudly sponsored by Sodexo.

Equity in education is a significant challenge nationwide. According to the National Center for Education Statistics, most public school students were students of color, and more than half of public-school students qualify for subsidized meals due to low family income.

In Virginia, 40% of our students are considered economically disadvantaged with approximately 1/3 white (not Hispanic), 1/3 Black, and 1/3 Hispanic. We believe Virginia should lead the country in serving ALL our students with excellence.

With the added inequities that have resulted from the COVID-19 pandemic, and the challenges that we are faced with economically, it is more important now than ever before that we as advocates and servants of public education are addressing these inequities head-on. We must ensure that all students no matter their zip code, area of the state they reside, or size of their school division receive the support necessary to achieve positive academic outcomes. When inequity in education persists, there is a cost to all involved including missed opportunities for economic development, greater dependence on government supports, and fewer Virginians ready to serve and lead.
February is Love The Bus Month!
School Bus WiFi: A Tool to Support Equity & Anytime, Anywhere Learning
February is Love the Bus Month! It’s a great time to celebrate your hard-working bus drivers! This is also an important time to consider whether your school division is using the “School Bus” as a tool to support learning and digital inclusion.
On any given school day, nearly one million Virginia students are transported to and from school and school-related activities, on more than 15,000 school buses. In the United States, K-12 students spend an average of 40 minutes per day on a school bus, amounting to a total of 120 hours, or 20 instructional days, per academic school year.
The School Bus isn’t merely a big yellow bus. When equipped with WiFi, today’s school bus is transformed into a virtual classroom or library, a safe mobile place to add learning time and a powerful tool to solve the digital divide. For the 200,000 Virginia K-12 students without reliable Internet access at home, having the ability to complete homework or study online while traveling to and from school on a bus equipped with WiFi can be the difference in student attendance, engagement, and academic success. For all students, the “morning commute” becomes more than a ride – it’s a vital time to review work, study for an exam, or put a finishing touch on an assignment. Drives to sporting events become an opportunity to support student-athletes, attend virtual courses, or complete homework. School bus WiFi can even allow older students to complete schoolwork, before returning home to care for younger siblings or to go to work.
Kajeet is the #1 provider of school bus WiFi in North America. Everyday, Kajeet’s education team hears stories about how school bus WiFi is transforming the bus ride into learning time. In Virginia, Kajeet connects more than 3,800 Virginia school buses with its SmartBus™ WiFi solution, a safe, easy-to-use platform that enables up to 65 students at a time to keep learning while on a school bus. In total, Kajeet is a proud, trusted partner serving over 80 Virginia school divisions, as well as over 2,500 K-12 districts and 1,000+ bus fleets nationwide.

School Bus Driver Retention 
School bus WiFi also helps school bus drivers, administrators, coaches, and communities. When students are seated and engaged while on the bus, it creates a safer and more enjoyable experience for drivers and students with fewer disciplinary incidents. In the Raytown School District of Missouri, the District saw a 45 percent decrease in disciplinary referrals after installing Kajeet’s educational WiFi on six of its buses. The District estimates that by adding school bus WiFi to the fleet the District saves 112 hours of administrative time each year. Plus, with nearly every community gripped by a shortage of school bus drivers, increasing driver job satisfaction by reducing disciplinary incidents is an effective tool to retain bus drivers.
Community WiFi Access
Throughout the pandemic, school divisions across the country also parked WiFi equipped buses in strategic locations throughout the community for students, families, and staff. School buses equipped with WiFi can connect devices up to 150 feet from the bus, allowing students, community members, and school staff to access the WiFi. These buses were deployed in apartment complexes, district meal pick-up locations, mobile home parks, and school or library parking lots, among others to further expand access.
Paying for School Bus Wi-Fi 
School divisions are using several federal funding opportunities to equip school bus fleets with WiFi, including the Emergency Connectivity Fund (ECF) and the American Rescue Plan Elementary and Secondary School Emergency Relief Fund (ARP ESSER)
Kajeet is also partnering with the Virginia School Boards Association to offer nine school divisions across the Commonwealth up to $30,000 to roll out the wireless solutions of their choice, including school bus WiFi, for the 2022-23 academic year.
To learn more, contact Colette Johnson at, the Senior Kajeet Executive serving Virginia.
Key Questions for School Board Members
  1. How many minutes per day - per week - per month – are your students on a bus?  
  2. Is the school bus fleet equipped with high-speed WiFi?  
  3. Does your school division have a digital inclusion policy? 
  4. Did your school division apply for the Virginia Education Broadband Grant?
VSBA Profile in Leadership- Meet Julie Nix, VSBA Blue Ridge Region Chair
2022 VSBA Business Honor Roll
Local businesses have the power to shape community attitudes about public schools, and the VSBA Business Honor Roll is a way for local school divisions to recognize local businesses for their support, especially as schools face increasing budget uncertainty. The Business Honor Roll helps divisions say “thank you” for their vital contributions.

Businesses large and small, corporate-owned or family-run, play a key role in supporting our communities and local schools. They contribute to our school divisions in many ways, including helping schools with in-kind or financial contributions, donating to scholarship programs, supporting extracurricular activities, offering internship opportunities, volunteering in the schools, and sponsoring field trips. This type of support is invaluable. 

If you are working with a local business that deserves recognition, your division can add up to three names to the VSBA Business Honor Roll by passing a resolution and submitting the online nomination form by April 1, 2022.  Please see the attached guide for complete information, including submission guidelines. A signed resolution from the entire school board must be submitted.

Later this year, VSBA will publish the Business Honor Roll in the association newsletter and issue a news release about those honored through this program. We also will provide personalized recognition certificates and letters of congratulations for each business to division superintendents in time for boards to present to them at May school board meetings. 

Please contact Brittany Moore at or 800-466-8722 if you have any questions.
VSBA Affiliate Member Profiles
In each issue of the VSBA newsletter, we will feature three VSBA Affiliate Members.
Thank you for your support of the VSBA and Virginia's public education system.
Steps 2 Connect Inc.
Providing Leadership, Professional Development, Customer Service, Training, Business Consulting, and Support Staff assistance

Ty McCoy
Phone: (877) 777-7002
ABM Education
ABM Education – helping K-12 schools excel. ABM provides multiple services that keep non-instructional costs down, control spending and protect priorities; ensure a healthy learning environment; improve facilities that support achievement.

Corinne Hummell  
Phone: (267) 272-1902
Cunningham Recreation/GameTime
Industry leaders in design and installation of playground equipment, shade, fitness equipment, sports equipment, bleachers, safety surfacing and site furnishings.

Michele Breakfield  
Phone: (800) 438-2780
Visit for a complete list of VSBA's Affiliate Members.
200 Hansen Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Tel: 434-295-8722 Fax: 434-295-8785