Newsletter 2023 Issue 7
Gina G. Patterson
Executive Director
From the Executive Director
The Importance of Civility
In today's rapidly changing educational landscape, the role of school board members is more crucial than ever. Board members have the power to shape the educational experiences of countless students and guide the direction of entire school systems. However, as with all positions of influence, the way they use this power can significantly affect outcomes. This is why civility is so important.

Trust and Communication
First and foremost, civility fosters trust. When board members communicate with each other, community members, teachers, students, and parents in a respectful manner, they establish a sense of trustworthiness. This trust is the foundation for effective communication and collaboration. On the contrary, a lack of civility can lead to misunderstandings, resentment, and a breakdown in communication, which in turn can hinder the progress of important educational initiatives and the work of the board.

Productive Decision Making
Disagreements are inevitable in any decision-making body. However, it's not the disagreement that poses a problem; it's how it's handled. With civility, differences in opinion become opportunities for constructive dialogue, leading to well-informed decisions. When members approach disagreements with an open mind and a willingness to understand opposing views, the board is more likely to reach decisions that benefit the greater good. You can agree to disagree in a civil manner.

Representation and Role Modeling
School board members are not just decision-makers; they are representatives of their community and role models for the students they serve. The way board members conduct themselves sets a standard for behavior. By embodying civility, it sends a clear message to students about the importance of respect, understanding, and collaborative problem-solving.

Promoting a Positive Culture
The tone set by a school board can influence the entire educational environment. A board that prioritizes civility is more likely to foster a positive, inclusive culture within the schools. This kind of environment is conducive to learning and encourages students, teachers, and staff to engage positively with one another.

Reducing Polarization
In a time where polarization seems more prevalent than ever, it's crucial for school boards to demonstrate that individuals with differing opinions can work together constructively. By prioritizing civility, school boards can show communities that it's possible to bridge divides and work toward the common goal; student achievement.

Civility in school board membership is not just a nicety; it's a necessity. The repercussions of neglecting civility can be widespread, affecting the morale of educators, the experiences of students, and the trust of the community. On the other hand, prioritizing civility can lead to improved communication, more effective decision-making, and an overall positive educational environment. It's a small but powerful step in creating a better future for our students and our communities. Thanks for all that you do.

VSBA School Board News Podcast - Episode 51
Listen to episode 51 of the VSBA School Board News podcast as guest Dr. Verletta White, Virginia 2024 Superintendent of the Year and Superintendent for Roanoke City Public Schools, tells us more about her division's English Learning Student Success Plan and her experience in her role as Superintendent.
VSBA School Board News Podcast - Episode 52
Listen to the latest episode of the VSBA School Board News podcast as Student School Board Representative guests Jonathan Machado-Aguilar, Dinwiddie County Public Schools, and Isabella Aversano, Prince William County Public Schools, tell us more about their experience as a student representative in their divisions.
Tom Brewster
Director, Member Services
The Four Imperatives of Great Board Leadership
School board leadership plays a pivotal role in shaping the future of school divisions and the students they serve. Steven R. Covey's quote, "The four imperatives of great leaders: inspire trust, clarify purpose, align systems, and unleash talent," provides a framework that best illustrates the essence of effective school board leadership. These four imperatives act as guiding principles for better outcomes for students, staff, and communities.

Inspiring trust is the bedrock of successful school board leadership. A great leader fosters an environment where trust permeates all interactions. They communicate transparently, actively listen to stakeholders' concerns, and act with integrity. By creating an atmosphere of trust, school board leaders can foster strong partnerships with colleagues, the superintendent, staff, parents, and the broader community.

Clarifying purpose is the second imperative, and it involves articulating a clear vision and mission for the school division. Effective leaders define shared goals and values, driving everyone towards a common purpose. By aligning stakeholders around a unified vision, school board leaders can channel efforts and resources strategically, ensuring all initiatives are aimed at improving student outcomes. Clarity of purpose also instills a sense of meaning and motivation in educators, encouraging them to go above and beyond in their roles.

Aligning systems is the third crucial imperative in effective school board leadership. Leaders need to develop and implement systems that support the achievement of division goals. This includes establishing norms and protocols for board operations, implementing an effective self-evaluation tool for the school board, and conducting a yearly superintendent’s evaluation based on the board’s strategic goals. When systems align with the overall vision, they model a cohesive framework that positively influences efficiency and accountability.

Unleashing talent is the final imperative. One of the board’s most important tasks is hiring a great superintendent that is the right fit for the school community. Effective boards understand the value of investing in their hire’s professional development, creating opportunities for growth, and empowering the superintendent and staff to bring their best selves to the table. By nurturing talent, school board leaders can cultivate a culture of continuous improvement, where the leadership feels valued and supported, resulting in increased job satisfaction and higher levels of student achievement.

In conclusion, Steven R. Covey's four imperatives of great leaders: inspire trust, clarify purpose, align systems, and unleash talent. A school board that embodies these principles not only inspires confidence and collaboration but also ensures that every decision made is grounded in a shared vision and driven by the best interests of the students. By adhering to these imperatives, school board leaders can lay the groundwork for a transformative educational experience that equips students with the tools they need to thrive in an ever-changing world. The VSBA stands ready to assist school boards by providing training, development, and services in each of these important areas. For more information, please email [email protected]
2023 VSBA Media Honor Roll Recipients
Reporters and local media outlets play an important role in public education. School division leaders rely on responsible reporting by local media representatives so that our community members receive timely information about division initiatives and programs. Considering the impact that media coverage can have on community attitudes and beliefs, the Media Honor Roll was created to recognize fair and balanced reporting about our schools and Virginia’s public education system.
Alleghany Highlands
The Alleghany Journal
The Recorder

Caroline County
Adele Uphaus, Free Lance Star
Ted Schubel, B101.5

Culpeper County
Culpeper Media Network

Falls Church City
Emily Leayman, Patch
Falls Church News Press
The Lasso, Meridian High School Newspaper

Gloucester County
Melany Slaughter, Reporter, Gloucester/Mathews Gazette Journal

Halifax County
David Conner II, The News & Record
Nick Long, WHFL 95.3
Hampton City
Katie Collett, WAVY-TV 10/FOX 43

King and Queen County
County Courier
Rappahannock Times

Lexington City
Hope Huger, The News Gazette

Louisa County
Destini Harris, NBC29
Isaac Parrish, The Central Virginian
John Harvey, The Daily Progress
Madison McNamee, NBC12

Martinsville City
Charles Koenig, Gloucester-Mathews

New Kent County
Andre Jones, New Kent/Charles City Chronicle
Rob Johnson, New Kent/Charles City Chronicle
Newport News City
WTKR News 3

Petersburg City
Sean Robertson, Sports Reporter, WTVR-TV CBS 6 News

Prince George County
Chris Powell and the Social Media Class of 2022-23, Prince George High School
Wayne Covil, CBS 6 WTVR-TV

Radford City
Duke Carter, WSLS 10
Heather Bell, Radford News Journal
Janay Reece, WDBJ 7

Smyth County
Linda Burchette, Smyth County News & Messenger
Stephanie Porter-Nichols, Smyth County News & Messenger

Stafford County
Adele Uphaus, Free Lance Star
Ted Schubel, Town Talk, B 101.5
Nick Minock, WJLA
JT Kessler
Director, Legislative Services
Legislative Update
Virginia General Assembly Adopts Revisions to the Biennium Budget

The Virginia General Assembly convened in Special Session on September 6, 2023 to address revisions to the 2022-2024 Biennium Budget (HB 6001/SB 6001). Key provisions of the 2022-2024 Biennium Budget revisions pertaining to K-12 education are:

  • Increases state support for public education funding by $645.3 million.
  • Provides $418.3 million General Fund (GF) in flexible one-time payments available for use through Fiscal Year (FY) 2026.
  • Provides $54.6 million GF for the state share of a 2% salary increase for SOQ funded positions, effective January 1, 2024.
  • Includes $152.3 million GF to fund additional support positions and amends ratio from 21 positions per 1,000 ADM to 24 positions per 1,000 ADM.
  • Establishes legislative workgroup to review and prioritize JLARC recommendations and develop long-range implementation plan due to the General Assembly by November 1, 2024.
  • Provides $20 million ($12.0 million GF & $8.0 million ARPASLFRF) for targeted flexible grants to support school security.
  • Provides $6.7 million Non-General Fund (NGF) (ESSER) to support expansion of the Virginia Literacy Act to include grades 4-8.

To review FY 2024 K-12 School Division Distribution Tables, click here.

To review the budget presentation provided by House Appropriations staff, click here.

To review the budget presentation provided by Senate Finance and Appropriations staff, click here.
November is VSBA Take Your Legislator to School Month

There is no better way to prepare your delegation for the 2024 session of the Virginia General Assembly than to participate in the annual VSBA Take Your Legislator to School Month. There are many benefits from participating in VSBA Take Your Legislator to School Month, including developing closer relationships between school divisions, local communities, and our elected officials, as well as creating opportunities for productive dialogue so that educational and political leaders can work together to ensure that we provide the best possible education for our students. In addition, when legislators visit your schools as part of VSBA Take Your Legislator to School Month, local students will have the opportunity to interact with elected officials and learn about the important roles and responsibilities of Virginia General Assembly members. Almost like a field trip that is coming to your school, a visit by your local legislator creates many different “teachable moments.”

Please click here  to view the 2023 Take Your Legislator to School Month toolkit where you will find resources to plan and execute a successful event, including tips and suggestions for the event, a sample invitation, a sample press release, and tips for meetings with legislators. You will also find a video announcement from VSBA President David R. Woodard. In addition to the toolkit, you may wish to view the 2024 VSBA Legislative Priorities as you plan your event. The priorities can be accessed by clicking here.

Thank you so much for all your advocacy efforts and your commitment to public schools in the Commonwealth. If there is anything I can do to assist you, please contact me at [email protected].  
Registration for the 2023 VSBA Annual Convention is OPEN!
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, Dr. David Jeck, author and retired superintendent, and Sarita Maybin, Communication Expert and international keynote and motivational speaker.

If you have questions or would like more information, please contact Mikaela Coffey, Director of Meetings and Conferences, at [email protected].
20th Annual VSBA 5k
Registration is open for the 5k at the VSBA Annual Convention! The race will take place on Thursday morning in front of the Williamsburg Lodge.

Individuals and teams are encouraged to dress up and participate, giving them the chance to earn the Team Spirit Award and/or Best Individual Spirit Award! Additionally, there are prizes for the fastest runner and walkers for all age categories.

The 5k is open to runners and walkers alike! Come celebrate the 20th anniversary of this great event.
Important Reminder for Virginia School Board Members:
COIA and FOIA Training Requirements
This announcement serves as a friendly reminder to all school board members regarding the legal requirements for training related to the Virginia Conflict of Interest Act (COIA) and the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).
COIA Training Requirement:
EVERY school board member is required to complete a training session for local officials on the State and Local Government Conflict of Interests Act (COIA) provided by the Virginia Conflict of interest and Ethics Advisory Council (the Ethics Council) within two months of assuming office and at least once every two years thereafter. A COIA training session was available at the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA) Legislative Advocacy Conference on September 21st, 2023. Board members who attended this session met the COIA training requirement. If you were unable to attend the conference, an alternative option is to visit the COIA website, where you can access a virtual training module to complete the necessary training at your convenience.
FOIA Training Requirement:
Every ELECTED school board member is required to complete a training session on the Virginia Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) provided by the Virginia Freedom of Information Advisory Council or the Board’s attorney within two months of assuming office and thereafter at least once every two calendar years. We are pleased to inform you that the VSBA will be offering a FOIA training session at the Annual Convention in November. Attending this session will fulfill your FOIA training requirement. For those unable to attend the convention, the FOIA website provides a convenient way to complete the training virtually, ensuring compliance with the legal requirement.
Record Keeping
School board clerks are responsible for keeping track of when each board member completed the required training, so be sure to let your clerk know when you completed the required training.
2023 Legislative Advocacy Conference Recap
On Thursday, September 21, 2023, school board members, school division staff, and legislators, attended the 2023 VSBA Legislative Advocacy Conference at the Chesterfield Career and Technical Center. Thank you to VAcorp for sponsoring this year's conference.
The first presentation was Focus Priorities of the Virginia Board of Education: 2023 and Beyond and was presented by Grace Turner Creasy, the President of the Virginia Board of Education. Next, attendees listened to a legislative panel discussion on the topic Anticipated Issues During the 2024 Virginia General Assembly. The panel's conversation was held with Virginia Senator Barbara Favola, Virginia Senator Ghazala F. Hashmi and Virginia Delegate Carrie Coyner.
Shortly after the panel discussion, attendees heard from J.T. Kessler, VSBA Director of Legislative Services, and Stacy Haney, VSBA Lobbyist. They spoke to attendees about how school board members can prepare for the 2024 General Assembly. After the lunch break, presenter Jenna Conway, Deputy Superintendent, Division of Early Childhood Care and Education, VDOE, spoke about Implementing the Virginia Literacy Act - What School Board Members Need to Know.
Finishing the day, Stewart Petoe, Executive Director for Virginia Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Council, provided attendees with Conflict of Interest and Ethics Advisory Training. Thank you to everyone who was able to attend this year's conference!
David R. Woodard: Partisan politics has no place
in Virginia's school boards
Op-Ed from VSBA President, David Woodard
In recent years, partisan politics has infiltrated every aspect of our lives, and Virginia’s public education realm is no exception. Once pillars of local community engagement, school boards have become battlegrounds for political ideologies. This trend is detrimental to the quality of education and undermines the essence of local control that the Virginia School Boards Association was founded upon.

VSBA, with its 131 members, stands as a testament to the diversity of voices in Virginia’s educational landscape. It is a membership-driven association, and it’s crucial to remember that not everyone will agree on every issue within this diverse group. That’s the beauty of local control; it allows communities to tailor their educational policies to their unique needs. However, the growing influence of partisan politics threatens this principle.
Unlocking the Wonders of the Universe: Virginia Space Flight Academy's Stellar Educational Initiatives
Guest article written by Kim Check, Executive Director for Virginia Space Flight Academy (VASFA)
In an era where space exploration continues to capture the imagination of students and families alike, there's a pressing need to provide educational opportunities that can ignite the spark of curiosity and passion for STEM disciplines. The Virginia Space Flight Academy (VASFA) stands at the forefront of this endeavor, offering an array of innovative and inspirational programs tailored to today's curious, young minds. For school board members seeking to enrich their students' educational experiences, VASFA's Space Adventure Camp and STEM Academy deserve close attention.
Space Camper at the NASA WFF Range Control Center.
Space Adventure Camp
Picture a week where students transform into cosmic explorers, embarking on an unforgettable odyssey into space science and exploration. This dream metamorphoses into reality through VASFA's weeklong Space Adventure Camp hosted at NASA’s Wallops. This distinctive and immersive residential program combines rigorous academic curricula with unparalleled adventure.

Engaging Hands-On Learning: At the heart of the Space Adventure Camp is hands-on learning. Through collaborative, interactive activities, young space explorers(ages 11 - 16) delve into the intricacies of space science, robotics, coding, and drones. They do not merely learn about rockets; they design, construct, and launch their own.
Access to a Working NASA Facility: Nestled adjacent to NASA's Wallops Flight Facility on Virginia's Eastern Shore, this camp provides unparalleled access to NASA Wallops, Rocket Lab, and the Virginia Spaceport Authority. Students get up close and personal with the latest developments in space exploration and learn from the best in the field.

Emphasis on Collaboration and Teamwork: Space exploration and STEM are collaborative efforts, and this camp emphasizes teamwork. Students collaborate in groups to surmount challenges, nurturing communication and problem-solving abilities vital in their future careers.

Inspiring and Accomplished Staff: Our staff and camp counselors hail from some of the country's best universities, such as Purdue University, Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, University of Alabama, Arizona State University, and Virginia Tech. We deliberately seek a diverse blend of STEM and Education degrees to ensure the utmost academic rigor. These passionate individuals serve as beacons of inspiration, motivating students by showcasing the remarkable possibilities that dedication and passion can yield.

Lifelong Memories: Beyond the curriculum, the Space Adventure Camp forges enduring memories. Campers form bonds with like-minded peers who share their enthusiasm for space, cultivating friendships that can endure a lifetime.
STEM Academy
While the Space Adventure Camp offers an intensive weeklong experience, VASFA understands that not all students can participate in person. Our STEM Academy shines on this front—a year-round virtual learning initiative meticulously designed to meet students where they are.

Flexibility: The Virtual STEM Academy provides flexibility that boosts the learning outcomes when paired with traditional classrooms. We have tailored the program for after-school and in-school settings, collaborating with classrooms and co-instructing alongside classroom teachers. Additionally, students can access courses and resources from the comfort of their homes, seamlessly integrating STEM education into their demanding schedules.

Diverse Course Offerings: Our academy boasts a broad spectrum of STEM courses that cater to various interests
The Honorable Glenn Youngkin and First Lady Suzanne Youngkin alongside NASA Wallops Director David Pierce, VASFA Executive Director Kim Check, and the Space Adventure Camp Staff and Camp Alumni, celebrating the Spirit of Virginia Award at Advanced Aerospace Camp Graduation.
and age groups (grades 2-8), from astronomy to robotics and coding, aerospace engineering to video game design. With even more courses under development for 2024, there is truly something for everyone.

Experienced Instructors and Mentorship: Students are guided by seasoned instructors fervently dedicated to STEM education. These instructors offer mentorship and unwavering support, aiding students in honing their skills and expanding their knowledge.

Interactive Hands-On Learning: Virtual need not equate to isolation. The STEM Academy fosters interactive learning through live webinars, collaborative group projects, and spirited discussions. Students actively engage with their peers and instructors, transforming learning into a collective experience. Moreover, students engage in hands-on activities employing specialized materials kits.

Real-World Applications: The academy strongly emphasizes the practical application of STEM knowledge, demonstrating to students how their learning can be relevant in real-world scenarios. This critical linkage between theory and practice is pivotal in igniting long-term interest and enthusiasm for STEM disciplines.

As esteemed school board members, you ensure students gain access to top-notch educational experiences that prepare them for the future. VASFA's programs offer a unique opportunity to enrich your student’s education in a manner that few other programs can match.
VASFA's STEM Education Specialist Geoff Bergen alongside student explorers during the STEM Academy's aerospace module.
By supporting and promoting the Virginia Space Flight Academy's Space Adventure Camp and STEM Academy, you are:

Promoting STEM Education: These programs are designed to infuse STEM education with excitement and accessibility. By making them accessible to your students, you nurture a passion for science and technology that can translate into future triumphs in these fields.

Fostering Career Opportunities: The skills and knowledge imparted through these programs open doors to a wide array of career prospects. Whether students aspire to become astronauts, engineers, or scientists, these experiences are the launching pad for realizing their aspirations.
Cultivating Lifelong Learners: VASFA's programs kindle curiosity and instill a thirst for knowledge that can last a lifetime. Students participating in these programs are more inclined to become lifelong learners, with our Alumni community providing ongoing support beyond their K-12 years.

Nurturing Future Innovators: Confronting the challenges of tomorrow will demand innovative solutions. By investing in STEM education through VASFA, you actively encourage the next generation of innovators equipped to tackle today's and tomorrow's complex problems.

Empowering Every Student: Through collaboration with school boards and foundations, we enable student access to our programs through scholarships. In the current year alone, we provided full scholarships to 35 students, granting them the opportunity to attend Space Adventure Camp and thereby dismantling barriers that may have otherwise impeded their progress. As a testament to our unwavering commitment to shaping the future, we remain steadfast in our mission to foster diversity and inclusion within STEM fields.

VASFA’s Space Adventure Camp and STEM Academy exemplify how innovative programming can ignite students' passions and prepare them for tomorrow's trials. Your support for these programs can leave an indelible mark on the lives of the students within your district. By extending these opportunities, you are enriching their educational journey and nurturing the potential of future scientists, engineers, and explorers who may one day reach for the stars.

To discover more, please visit or contact us at [email protected].
School board relations are tough. These tips can help
Written by Melissa Hite, from SchoolCEO
Article features VSBA President-Elect, Dr. Cardell Patillo
Of all the factors influencing your work, the most unpredictable is your school board. No other part of your job has the potential to change so drastically—and so quickly—with such intense effects on your day-to-day work. Research shows that when superintendents and school boards don’t have strong, positive relationships, student outcomes are worse. And that’s not all—antagonistically split school boards often weaken a bond referendum’s chances of passing.

For Dr. Steve Joel, this all means that superintendent-board relations are “mission critical.” Having served 37 years as a superintendent, Joel now works as a consultant for executive leaders in education—particularly on the topics of school boards and governance. More than once, he’s seen what happens when board relations go awry. “When a board and a superintendent aren’t in sync, the school district’s not going to be in sync,” he says. “And it isn’t going to take long before that trickles down to the classroom.”

So it’s clear that successful schools require collaborative boards—but how do you create that culture? We’ve learned it all comes down to strong relationships and clear procedures.
SchoolCEO is a quarterly magazine for superintendents and other leaders in the K-12 space. As the leading publication on school marketing, we equip our 20,000-plus readers with the actionable ideas they need to brand and market their schools in a highly competitive environment. Read more at
Video for School Board
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.
Quinton Elementary School:
Lessons Learned from Both Sides of a Pandemic
Guest article written by Stephan Halsey, AIA, REFP, Vice President, K-12 Sector Leader at Moseley Architects
Quinton Elementary School, the first new elementary school built in New Kent County, Va. in over 40 years, is a case study in navigating adversity and the impacts of unanticipated global and national events.
Planning for the new Quinton Elementary school began in early 2019, with programming and stakeholder engagement occurring in the spring and the preparation of bid documents occurring in the latter half of the year. The original project schedule included advertising for construction in early 2020 with an anticipated school opening in the fall of 2021. Bids were received on March 4, 2020, just 12 days before the widely accepted beginning of the Covid-19 pandemic. Compounding the issues related to the beginning of the pandemic, the low bid for the project exceeded its budget. Additionally, funding was not finalized while waiting to receive bid numbers.
Over the next 10 months, an extensive value engineering exercise occurred. This involved identifying areas of potential cost savings in the project scope, as well as determining alternate materials and systems options in light of emerging pandemic-related supply chain issues. Coordination between the needs of the project, ideas for cost savings, and potential alternate systems and materials was ongoing throughout the rest of 2020. Concurrent with the value engineering process, the County continued working with their financial advisor on a variety of funding options including bond sales and interest rate evaluation. The status of the project, given the state of the economy, nation, and world was fluid.
A key component to the success of this project was the general contractor. Typically included in bid documents is a window of time after the receipt of bids during which the apparent low bidder must hold their bid number for a specific number of days. Heartland Construction, the project’s general contractor, became an important and integral part of the team during the pandemic's early stages. The willingness to honor their original bid number was an important project benchmark. Having a firm starting point for the value-engineering process as the pandemic intensified was an important component in moving the project forward. The project team was able to work with a stable team of subcontractors and suppliers to evaluate materials and systems from the perspectives of both cost and availability.
The value engineering and funding process ultimately concluded when construction began in the spring of 2021. The eventual opening of the new Quinton Elementary School in September of 2022 marked the conclusion of a project and construction process that successfully navigated unforeseen, unique circumstances.
A roundtable discussion titled Quinton Elementary School | Lessons Learned from Both Sides of a Pandemic will be a part of the Early Bird Session on November 15 at this year’s VSBA Annual Conference. Participants in the roundtable will include representatives from New Kent County Public Schools, Moseley Architects, and Heartland Construction.
During the roundtable discussion, the panel will discuss this project and the adversity encountered in greater detail. Topics that will be discussed include the design process and community engagement; the funding process and engaging both the School Board and Board of Supervisors; as well as the value engineering and construction processes during a pandemic. Takeaways will include lessons learned before and during a pandemic that may apply to future projects.
Albert Harris Elementary School (AHES) celebrated the new school year with a new outdoor learning space for its students—a sensory garden.

Sensory gardens are designed to stimulate all five senses: touch, sound, taste, smell, and sight. The garden at Albert Harris, funded by a grant from The Community Foundation Serving Western Virginia, includes wind chimes (sound), an herb garden (taste), a sandbox and rock garden (touch), a bird feeder and bird bath to attract birds (sight), and, of course, plenty of beautiful flowers (smell).

It is also designed to be a quiet, calming space for students, with a butterfly bench nestled in the corner of the garden and calming colors used throughout. The painted rocks that fill the rock garden were created by this year’s first grade students and include positive messages and drawings.
Visitors to the garden are encouraged to take a rock with them or decorate one to leave behind. Ultimately, the goal is to have everyone at AHES—teachers and students alike—create a rock to leave in the garden.

The Green Schoolyard Initiative

The sensory garden is the newest component of Albert Harris’ Green Schoolyard, a longstanding partnership between the school and the Dan River Basin Association (DRBA), a local nonprofit which focuses on environmental education.

AHES STEM teacher Laurie Witt and DRBA’s education outreach manager Krista Hodges have played key roles in creating the Green Schoolyard, which aims to maximize students’ opportunities to learn science SOLs in a natural setting.

“Students enjoy being able to learn outdoors where they can apply what they are learning about in a real-world setting,” explained Witt. “It is wonderful to work with such a great community partner like DRBA to enrich our students’ learning.”

In addition to the new sensory garden, the Green Schoolyard includes raised beds, a vegetable garden planted by students who were learning about ways to reduce erosion, a certified monarch waystation to benefit local pollinators, and rain barrel systems to water the school’s many plants while simultaneously reducing the amount of water entering the school’s storm drains. Students participate in the care and maintenance of the Green Schoolyard throughout the year.
Virginia Naturally School
Albert Harris’ partnership with DRBA on the Green Schoolyard has earned the school recognition by the Virginia Department of Wildlife Resources, which has named AHES a Virginia Naturally School for two consecutive years. The Virginia Naturally School program is the official environmental education school recognition program in Virginia and recognizes exemplary efforts undertaken by Virginia schools to increase the environmental literacy of its students.

“This prestigious accolade serves as a testament to the profound impact that outdoor education, aligned with the Virginia Standards of Learning, has on our students’ learning experiences,” said AHES Principal Dr. Renee Brown.
Sensory Spaces

The sensory garden is the newest sensory area installed at AHES. The school already has a sensory wall, sensory walk, and three sensory rooms throughout the building to provide calming spaces for students. The rooms are outfitted with low lighting, soft music, soft floor pads, and even swings, a ball pit, and other fun and cozy items.

“Children with developmental disorders such as autism, intellectual disabilities, and down syndrome have difficulty regulating sensory stimuli like loud sounds, smells, food, and clothing textures,” explained AHES special education teacher Teresa Bragg, who has been instrumental in advocating for and installing sensory spaces at the school. “Providing these children with a safe environment to de-escalate and regulate their emotions is crucial. Sensory overload can cause students to cry, scream, and even engage in self-harming behaviors.”

Bragg said bringing students into the calming environment of the room and allowing them to rest on a bean bag, bounce in a bouncy house or on a trampoline, or even run and crash onto a crash pad can help these students regulate their emotions.

The new sensory garden will create the same calming space, but with the added benefit of the outdoors.
Empowering Success, One Learner at a Time
The dedication of the staff at Albert Harris Elementary to create engaging outdoor and indoor spaces for their students is truly remarkable. Their Green Schoolyard, sensory garden, and sensory rooms show an understanding of the diverse needs of today’s students and a commitment to nurturing the whole child. By stimulating the senses and providing calming spaces, they are setting their students up for success inside and outside the classroom. The sensory garden is the latest example of the creative solutions this school has implemented to support growth and learning. Their innovative spirit serves as an inspiration to educators everywhere who aim to design inclusive, enriching environments for our next generation.
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.
UBA Webinar Series Episode #3
Register today for the UBA Webinar Series - Episode 3. This will take place on Wednesday, October 18, 2023 at 4:00 pm EST.

"Join us for an insightful webinar as we address the unique challenges faced by over 9.3 million public school students in rural environments in ensuring their consistent access to high-quality education. In this engaging session, we are privileged to host two distinguished speakers: Dr. Donya Ball, an author and Charter School superintendent from California, and Yolanda Valdez, an experienced district administrative leader and superintendent of a rural school district in California."
Application Process for Regional Candidates
According to the VSBA Bylaws, Article XII, Section 3, A Nominating Committee will be appointed by the Chair of each Region at or prior to its annual spring meeting in any year in which there will be a vacancy in an officer position. It will be the duty of this Committee to select a slate of nominees for the offices of Chair and Vice Chair. Members of the Nominating Committee will not be eligible for nomination to any regional position. The slate shall consist of no more than two candidates for each office and be presented to the membership at the next annual fall meeting of the region. Nominations may be made from the floor. By a majority vote of the member school board it should notify the Chair of the Region and the region member school boards of an intended floor nomination prior to the fall regional meeting. . . It shall be the duty of every candidate to provide a written nomination, approved by the candidate’s school board, and a signed letter from the candidate confirming willingness to serve.

Please note that according to section 103.1, Board of Directors Composition, VSBA Operations Manual, no member school board may have more than one person serve on the Board of Directors at the same time. Goal 3 of the VSBA Strategic Plan is“[t]o increase engaged participation of member boards and stakeholders in all VSBA services and activities”. To achieve that goal, the VSBA Board strives for 100% member board representation in governance activities. Also enclosed is section 102.5 of the VSBA Operations Manual, Civility in the VSBA nominating and election process.

The below linked packet, approved by the VSBA Board, complies with VSBA Bylaws requirements. Regional vice-chair candidates are not required to submit the pertinent biographical information unless they so desire. Persons who wish to be considered by their respective Regional Nominating Committee for the VSBA regional chair position must submit both the completed form and pertinent biographical information. Since Regional Chair and Vice Chair positions are two year terms, Eastern, Southside, Southwest, and Valley regions do not have openings for the Chair positions in 2023.

All candidates’ information must be forwarded no later than two weeks prior to the fall regional meeting held at the VSBA Annual Convention in Williamsburg. The 2023 Regional Nominating Committees list is included in the below linked document. If you have any questions, please call your VSBA Regional Nominating Committee Chair.

Please return the nomination form and attachments by November 1 to the VSBA Nominating Committee. If you have any questions about the process, please call Gina Patterson, executive director, at 1-800-446-8722
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.
Thank you to the 2023 VSBA Business Affiliates
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.
Blue Line Solutions
Our photo speed enforcement program includes more than just enforcement. Citation processing, mailing, payment processing, full tracking.

Holly Miller 423-321-2933
Cooper Carry
Architecture, Interior Design, Environmental Graphic Design, Historic Rehabilitation and Adaptive Re-Use, Interior Design, Landscape Architecture, ands Urban Design and Planning 

Maureen O’Hara Wiechert, AIA, LEED AP, WELL AP 571-414-9938
GRASP (Great Aspirations Scholarship Program, Inc.)
GRASP is a nonprofit, charitable, college-access organization that assists students and families in obtaining funding for post-secondary education. GRASP believes equity and justice are paramount for all Americans.

Paula Buckley 804-527-7705

This workshop is designed to provide small group support to superintendents and board members responsible for assessing and updating their evaluation model. Participants will have the opportunity to review the guidelines in detail and then use them as they draft their own models. Individual consultation and support will be available throughout the session as participants work on their revisions.

Location: VSBA Offices or Virtual
Cost: $180 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]

October 24, 2023 - Budget Training Workshop
The Basics of Budgeting for Students Needs is a two-hour session designed to provide school board members and division superintendents with a general understanding of the essential elements of budgeting and allocating division resources in a strategically-focused manner that aligns with and supports the individual needs, goals and aspirations of students. Specifically, this session will provide a general overview of student-centered resource allocation models that are intended to promote hitting every students needs. In addition, attendees will look at a number of resource allocation/distribution models that are being utilized in school districts around the country to support the individual needs of students and schools based on multiple objective and measurable student characteristics. Finally, this session will provide attendees with a comparative view of a traditional budgeting model with that of a student-centered resource allocation system.

Location: VSBA Offices or Virtual
Cost: $185 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]

November 15-17, 2023 - VSBA Annual Convention
Don’t miss out on VSBA’s Annual Convention, the celebratory end-of-year gathering! This event is the largest meeting of the year, which brings together over one thousand school board members, superintendents, and school division staff from across the state of Virginia. Over the three day convention, attendees will hear from three different general session speakers, choose from over forty-five hot topic break-out sessions pertinent to public education issues, have the opportunity to meet with businesses dedicated to serving schools, and much more. We look forward to seeing you in November!

Location: Williamsburg Lodge
Cost: $390 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