Newsletter 2023 Issue 5
Gina G. Patterson
Executive Director
From the Executive Director
The Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA), like the United States itself, is a collective of school boards working together for a common goal, united despite our differences. We are driven by our member school boards, recognizing that our membership requires an adaptive, tailored approach that is responsive to the pace at which the world around us is changing.

We live in a time when issues are too often polarized, and people feel pressured to choose sides and are rarely encouraged to compromise. Binary thinking convinces us that every issue simply has a right side and a wrong side, but we all know that today’s policy issues are quite complicated and require comprehensive discussion and balanced decision-making, especially concerning education policy.

We understand that personal experiences, values, beliefs, and biases shape individual interpretations of the world, leading to varied perspectives on the same event. For example, one school board member from a background of discipline and order may see a policy on uniform dress code completely different from a board member who values individual expression and creativity. Both board members are looking at the same event – the implementation of a dress code policy – but perceive it very differently due to their personal life experiences. This is why it is important that VSBA is made up of a diversity of viewpoints to ensure a wider range of perspectives contribute to our fundamental commitment of ensuring the success of every student in Virginia.

The complex landscape of school board operations often creates diverse perspectives. At times, actions of the VSBA might be applauded by some while criticized by others. Some members might appreciate our training and services, but they may find issue with a legislative position we've taken. Similarly, the views of a conference speaker might not align with a member, while the rest of the conference proves beneficial. We understand and respect these differing viewpoints, recognizing them as the lifeblood of our democratic process.

For example, our legislative positions are the result of collective decision-making by member boards, not individuals. They are a manifestation of our unity, despite the diversity. We appreciate that some members may find conflict in our value proposition from time to time. This is a natural outcome of a member-driven association committed to shared goals and helps us refine our strategies, enhance our offerings, and stay true to our ultimate mission.

This is no time for division. VSBA members may not always agree, but our diversity is a potent weapon against those who want to see public education fail and are actively working to that end. We are united and committed to navigating our differences with respect and openness. When differences of opinion or perspectives seek to divide us, our shared goal of student achievement must remind us that we are stronger together.                              
Thanks for all that you do!  

VSBA School Board News Podcast - Episode 49
Listen to the latest episode of the VSBA School Board News podcast as guest Fabiana Parker (Spotsylvania) joins Gina Patterson, VSBA Executive Director, to discuss Fabiana's recognition as Virginia's Teacher of the Year.
2023 VSBA Conference on Education

Join us for the 2023 VSBA Conference on Education on July 13, 2023 at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa at Short Pump. The conference will kick off with 2023 Virginia Teacher of the Year, Ms. Fabiana Parker from Spotsylvania County Public Schools. During the conference there will be over 20 break out sessions available for attendees to participate in. Titles include Avoiding FOIA Pitfalls, Flying Unmanned Aircraft, Implementation of a Recovery Academy, Working for Your Future, and many more! To view the full list, you can click the button below.

You can watch the video below to get more information on what is offered during this conference. If you have not already, speak with your division's clerk to register for the 2023 Conference on Education!
Tom Brewster
Director, Member Services
Stepping in It: Strategies for Avoiding Troubling Outcomes in School Board Governance

In school board governance, decision-making often involves unanticipated challenges that can result in troubling outcomes. To avoid such situations, it is key for board members to adopt a collaborative code of conduct and norms and protocols, anticipate dilemmas using a problem-based approach, surround themselves with good people, and commit to doing things the right way with honesty and integrity. This article explores these strategies.

Define Your Standards:
One way to avoid troubling outcomes is by adopting a collaborative code of conduct. The Virginia School Boards Association's Code of Conduct is a useful framework that commits board members to advocate for students and public education. Boards should adopt a code that addresses their fundamental beliefs and sets high standards, as the board's actions will be viewed and judged by the individuals the organization serves. The VSBA Code serves as an example that can be updated or modified based on the preference of the Board.

Creating governance norms and protocols is also important for board governance. These norms and protocols provide a clear framework for decision-making, ensuring consistency and transparency. They also set guidelines for board members’ conduct, promoting accountability and integrity. Additionally, governance norms and protocols foster effective communication and collaboration among board members and the superintendent. They enable productive discussions and create a positive working environment. Well-defined norms and protocols also help address conflicts in a fair manner, maintaining public trust in the school district's leadership. Ultimately, establishing these norms strengthens the governance structure and improves the quality of education for students.

Anticipate Dilemmas:
Although it is impossible to anticipate all challenges, board members can prepare themselves by exploring real-world problems and challenges using a problem-based approach. This approach involves studying relevant real-life situations and asking what you would do in these situations. Board training and problem-based learning provide a forum to think strategically about current and future challenges and opportunities.

Building Your Team:
Effective board governance is essential to avoid troubling outcomes, and collaboration is key. Critical decisions must be made with input from all relevant stakeholders to ensure that the decisions align with the goals and values of the organization. Regularly scheduled facilitated trainings and retreats provide an opportunity for the board governance team to plan strategically, build relationships, and share valuable information with the entire group. These sessions help ensure that everyone is on the same page and working towards the same goals, reducing the likelihood of conflict and confusion.

Selecting the right superintendent is also critical to the success of the school division. The superintendent is responsible for performing the day-to-day expectations of the board and leading the division effectively. It's essential to choose someone who is a good fit for both the governance team and the division. A thorough selection process that includes input from all relevant stakeholders can help ensure the best fit.

To avoid troubling outcomes in school board governance, board members must be proactive in defining their standards and anticipating potential dilemmas, while building their board governance team. By implementing these strategies, board members can navigate the challenges of decision-making with confidence and ensure that their actions are aligned with their commitment to students and public education. Effective governance is crucial in promoting the success of the school division. Fortunately, the Virginia School Boards Association offers professional development activities through the VSBA Academy and Center for Board Development to address these important topics. If you are interested in learning more or taking advantage of these services, please contact Tom Brewster, Director of Member Services, at [email protected].
Seeking Applications - 2023 VSBA Advocate for Education Award
The importance of advocacy and grassroots engagement is a central component of the Virginia School Boards Association. It is imperative for board members to engage the stakeholders of their community including parents, business, community and higher education leaders, local community organizations, and policy makers in the work of building a successful public school system in each community across the Commonwealth.
VSBA invites your board to nominate a member for the annual VSBA Advocate for Education Award, to be presented at the VSBA Annual Convention in November. This award was created to recognize school board members who have demonstrated significant and outstanding leadership and commitment to public education and who have made contributions to public education that have impacted their region and the Commonwealth. The award recognizes board members who have actively participated in local, state, and federal advocacy on behalf of their division, VSBA, and public schools.

Each local school board may submit one name/nomination for consideration. The nomination must be approved by the school board, and the nominee must be a current school board member. Nominations are due no later than August 18, 2023. Please submit your nomination via email to J.T. Kessler, VSBA Director of Legislative Services, at [email protected]. Nominations will undergo a review by the selection committee which will determine the award winner. You can access the nomination form by clicking the button below.
Registration for the 2023 VSBA Annual Convention Will Open Friday, July 14, 2023!
Attendees can now contact their division clerk to register for the 2023 VSBA Annual Convention to be held November 15-17 at the Colonial Williamsburg Lodge. This year's Keynote speakers are Liz Huntley, attorney and author, Sarita Maybin, communication expert, and Michael Thurmond, chief executive officer.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Mikaela Coffey, Director of Meetings and Conferences, at [email protected].
Schools Cannot Do It Alone Video Series
Jamie Vollmer, an acclaimed keynote and workshop presenter, has put together a shareable playlist online containing 25 videos. The purpose of this playlist is to help public school teachers, administrators, support staff, and Board members increase public support for their schools.

Vollmer is a featured past Annual Convention speaker. You can view the full playlist by clicking the button below!
Video for School Board Candidates
The linked video may be shared with school board candidates who are looking for information about serving on the school board. Please feel free to distribute this video through your community to possible candidates or those considering running for school board!

We hope that you find this video helpful. If you have any questions, please feel free to reach out to VSBA by emailing [email protected] or by calling 434-295-8722.
2023 School Law Conference Recap
The 2023 VSBA School Law Conference took place on June 2, 2023 at the Hilton Richmond Hotel & Spa Short Pump. We first heard from VSBA President, David Woodard, and Bradford King, Attorney at Sands Anderson, the sponsor for the day.

Our first presentation of the day was from Donna Michaelis, Director at Division of Public Safety Training and the Virginia Center for School and Campus Safety, and James Christian, manager. This presentation focused on the Preventative Behavioral Threat Assessment in the Educational Setting - Interrupting Potential Violence and Providing Supports.

The second presentation was on Special Education 101: The Essentials of IDEA, IEPs, and Due Process. The presenters were Emily Haslebacher, Associate, and John Cafferky, Partner, at Blankingskip & Keith, P.C.

After a networking break, Micah Schwartz, Attorney at Williams Mullen, talked on Teachers' Free Speech and Free Exercise Rights After Kennedy v. Bremerton School District.

Before adjournment and lunch, we received a legislative update from Virginia School Boards Association's J.T. Kessler, Director of Legislative Services and Stacy Haney, Chief Lobbyist.

Thank you to everyone who attended this year's School Law Conference! Next year's conference is scheduled for May 31, 2024.
Hampton City Schools (HCS) and Next Generation Storytellers are working with the entertainment industry and local organizations to transform education through our Bringing Hollywood to Hampton project. From June 18 to July 1, 2023, over 200 HCS high school Academy students and staff will participate in this unique project. These students will write, act, and produce high-quality short films in conjunction with entertainment industry professionals (Hollywood actors and film crew). The project will culminate in a film festival at the American Theatre in downtown Hampton the weekend of September 29-October 1. The winners earn a chance to compete at a professional film festival, receive their own IMDB credits, and obtain sponsorships from the Virginia Film Commission. 

Next Generation Storytellers is led by screen actors Jacob Young (two-time Emmy award-winner known for The Girl Next Door, The Bold and the Beautiful, General Hospital, and All My Children) and Trent Garrett (known for Disney’s Andi Mack, Netflix’s Army of Thieves, and Fox’s New Girl). Also supporting the Hollywood to Hampton experience and film festival are two-time Emmy award winning director of photography Roy Wagner; assistant director for Midsommar Mercedes Williamson; associate producer of the Broadway hit Beauty and the Beast, Mark Rozzano; and special effects production designer Mick Strawn, known for his work on productions such as Nightmare on Elm Street 4 and the 1994 Fantastic Four. 

This program is supported by the Virginia Film Commission and sponsored by Sony Red and Black Magic, among others.
In each newsletter, VSBA will spotlight a recent initiative or best practice taking place in a school division in Virginia. If you have a story you would like to submit for inclusion in the spotlight section of the VSBA newsletter, please email it to [email protected] with the subject: Division Spotlight and your school division's name. Pictures and a link to the story on your division/school's website should also be included with the submission.
COSSBA's Urban Boards Alliance Symposium: Doing the Work- Every Student Every Day

Registration is now open for the 2023 UBA Symposium.

Programming will begin at 1:00 PM on August 24 and end at 3:00 PM on August 25.

Sheraton Grand Chicago Riverwalk
301 East North Water Street
Chicago, IL 60611
Vendor Solicitations
We are aware that some members are receiving email solicitations from vendors. While we are grateful to our corporate sponsors and vendors who generously support many of our events, VSBA does not share the contact information of our members.  
School board member contact information is publicly available on most school boards' websites. If you are receiving unwanted solicitations, please contact the companies directly to opt out.
The VSBA has three recognition programs that school boards and school board members may apply for each year. Please review the below information for a description of each award and a link to the nomination forms.

To be considered by the judges, the official nomination form and supporting materials for each of the award programs must be received by July 21, 2023.

Please do not hesitate to contact VSBA should you have any questions. For questions, please email [email protected] or call 800-466-8722
Thank you to the 2023 VSBA Business Affiliates

The Virginia School Boards Association appreciates the support for public education shown by its business affiliate members.

September 21, 2023 - Legislative Advocacy Conference
School board member voices need to be heard, the stakes for public education have never been higher and school board members must be prepared to advocate effectively for public schools.

Join VSBA at our 2023 Legislative Advocacy Conference where attendees will gain valuable insight into the issues that promise to have lasting impacts on the Commonwealth. This conference will inform and educate school board members as leaders to discuss implementing the Virginia Literacy Act, a glimpse into how current events will influence the direction of the 2024 General Assembly, and much more. This conference also includes a session designed to meet the requirement that each school board member receive COIA training.

Register today for this exciting and informative conference! This is a hybrid event so you can attend in person or virtually.

Location: Chesterfield Career & Technical Center
Cost: $220 per registration. Please reach out to your school division clerk to register for this event. For affiliate members, please reach out to Mikaela Coffey for registration at [email protected]
200 Hansen Road, Charlottesville, VA 22911
Tel: 434-295-8722 Fax: 434-295-8785