Click on "Education Empowerment Scholarships" below to send prefilled email to all Delegates on the Education Sub-Committee in support of HB 2225. You can also amend the email with your own verbiage. (Please be sure to add your mailing address to the email so they know you are a resident of VA)
In order to provide direct comments on the bill, just go to this website and select the box HB2225 and then press next. You will be able to provide direct comments. Additionally, I have been informed that this will first be heard in subcommittee.
Del Glenn Davis of Va Beach is sponsoring a bill (HB2225) that will allow state tax dollars to follow the student. Specifically, it would allow state money to be allocated to students with special needs and students of active duty military members who choose to remove their children from public school. Currently, the average per student State allocation is approximately $4100.
Students with special needs often do not receive the services they need in order to succeed. Additionally, military students often do not have a choice of what school they can attend and may be forced into failing schools without any other options. Under this legislation, these students would have an option. With these Education Empowerment Scholarships, parents could use this money for their children to attend private school, homeschool, therapy services, tutors, etc.
This legislation will soon be heard in Sub-Committee. Please consider sending an email of support for this legislation. Full bill details can be found here. HB2225.
Summary of 1/12/20 School Board meeting on the topic of returning Option 1 students to school:
* Original motion made was to approve the Superintendent's amended plan that was changed just a few hours prior to the meeting. There was consensus among Board members that we didn't want to give him the authority to make changes to dates that would be set. Original motion was never voted on
* I made a substitute motion to approve the plan presented to the Board last week that has been supported by over 30 local esteemed physicians. Failed 4-7
* Ms. Weems made a substitute motion to approve Dr Spence's amended plan provided a few hours before the meeting to change the start dates by 2 weeks but to remove his authority to change the dates. I made the second to approve. Motion never voted on
* Ms. Owens made another substitute motion passed to her in a note by Bev Anderson. This motion was to approve the amended plan with start dates for first group of Feb 1 and second group Feb 22; however, there are stipulations. All 5 mitigations strategies must be met AND infection rates must have a 7 day decline before students are allowed to return to school. No details were given in the motion regarding the details of how those 7 days are measured. Motion passed 6-5 (nay votes-- Weems, Rye, Manning, Hughes, Franklin).
At the last minute, just hours before the School Board meeting, the Department of Health Director changed her view and stated that she could not support the plan proposed last week because her office could not do proper COVID tracing during the current metrics. Dr Spence told us late in the night that prior to the holiday break, he asked the VB Dept of Health if there was anything that VB Schools could do to help with contact tracing. It is now weeks later and he still has not received an answer from them. I fear that this organization will continue to prevent our students from returning to school and feel that we are letting 1 person's voice drown out the advice from over 30 other physicians who have indicated that students are safer IN school and that they believe community metrics could decline with students back IN school. Additionally, Chesapeake has already begun their employee vaccinations. VB will not even begin for at least 2 more weeks (possibly more) and there must be 4 weeks between the 1st and 2nd dose. City Council in their meeting last night expressed their frustration with the VDH vaccine rollout in VB.
If you want to get students back to school contact your state legislators to let them know this is not acceptable. Legislators on both sides of the aisle have called for not approving additional funding if students do not return to in person learning
I just received permission from these physicians to share this letter publicly. I have received numerous additional letters of support similar to this.
I have received quite a few emails from physicians in support of returning students to the classroom. They have indicated that it is safe for both students and staff. Here is an excerpt from one of the messages I received from a local ER Physician not associated with the current medical team advising our School Board.
There is also another new release from Harvard Doctors on the topic
THERE WERE NO CASES OF CHILD-ADULT WITHIN SCHOOL TRANSMISSION.
From a local ER Physician:
I was actually surprised to find that the evidence is overwhelming in demonstrating that in person learning is SAFE for both students and staff. In fact, a new study just came out on January 8, 2020 in the American Journal of Pediatrics that I believe is very relevant to the opening of schools. I want to the highlight the following from that study:
- This study examined 11 school districts in North Carolina (with nearly 100,000 students/staff) open for 9 weeks of in-person instruction.
- The study tracked secondary transmission of SARS-CoV-2 through the local health department.
- Through contact tracing, NC health department staff determined only 32 out of 773 infections were acquired within schools.
- There were no cases of child-to-adult within-school transmission.This means not a single child gave a teacher an infection.
- Most of the cases of secondary transmission in ABC district were related to absent face coverings.
- The counties housing the school districts had considerable community transmission at the time.
- The author concludes,“Our data indicate that schools can reopen safely if they develop and adhere to specific SARS-CoV-2 prevention policies.”
During an ongoing pandemic with widespread community transmission, cases of COVID-19 will occur regardless of whether schools are in- person or not. A key question exists for the Board: Is the within-school spread of COVID-19 greater, equal to, or less than that observed in the broader community??? I can tell you with certainty that studies unequivocally demonstrate that it is less and it is actually safer for children and teachers to be in school, where mitigation is consistent.
The School Board will meet and discuss proposed changes to the "Fall 2020 Reopening Plan" on Jan 5th at 4pm. The proposed changes have not yet been presented to the Board. However, we have received the demands from the VBEA Union (see below).* The VBEA is a subsidiary of the NEA and has been fighting hard to keep our students out of school. The most recent list of demands are arbitrary, unreasonable and not based in science. Several current School Board members have very close ties to the VBEA including continued membership in the organization.
Multiple physicians recently advised our Board that keeping children out of school is causing harm and that COVID spread is NOT occurring in schools. VBCPS, through the CARES Act, has spent millions of dollars to be able to safely return our students back to school (plexiglass, PPE, cleaning supplies, and more). Yet our classrooms remain empty and our children and families are suffering.
Nowhere in this message below from the VBEA President does it mention the long lasting negative impacts of continued closures on students. Achievement gaps continue to widen, anxiety and depression continue at all time highs and obesity in children will all have a lasting impact.
I do not blame teachers for the decisions that have been made. Most teachers want to be back in the classroom and I do not believe the VBEA represents even close to a majority of teachers. I believe most teachers are making lemonade out of lemons. However, students are continuing to fall behind and are NOT receiving the same type of instruction they would in-person. Especially our students with special needs and students in specialty programs such as Vo-tech.
**** The VBEA wants to "adjust curriculum standards and pacing guides"! Our students are already behind and the VBEA wants to continue to lower the bar??
**** VBEA wants parents/taxpayers to pay for childcare for employees. How many other employers are paying childcare expenses for employees while parents have to be home with their kids? The funding comes out of the taxpayers' pockets--- it doesn't grow on trees! What about parents and students?
You can provide your input regarding the VBEA demands to the School Board at email@example.com.
*I always get comments that state: "VBEA is not a union". They are a subsidiary of the NEA (National Teacher's Union). If you are a member of the VBEA, you are automatically a member of the NEA. See photo
As an athlete and the parent of athletes, I know first hand how important the sports season is to our teens. I fear what will happen if the winter season is canceled. Our teens are already at the brink and many haven't been in a classroom for over 9 months. Parents and coaches, this is a good segment on WAVY to watch.
VBCPS is planning to cancel the winter sports season, a final decision will be made tomorrow.
It is my viewpoint that our youth athletes are safer in school and safer playing their sports. Physicians advising our Board told us that it is causing harm keeping our kids out of school. I have read about teens around the country committing suicide after their sports seasons were canceled.
If you believe our youth should still have a winter sports season (even if you don't have a HS athlete), please email (ASAP) the
VB School Board: firstname.lastname@example.org
Superintendent Aaron Spence: email@example.com
Chief Schools Officer Donald Robertson: firstname.lastname@example.org
MOST IMPORTANT: PLEASE HAVE YOUR ATHLETE SEND AN EMAIL!!!
click "Please allow Winter Sports to Move Forward" below to send an prefilled email.
Physician Presentation-- 3 local doctors on our advisory panel (2 pediatricians and 1 ER physician) are strongly in favor of school reopening. They stated that science now shows closings schools causes harm. Childhood obesity caused by isolation will have long lasting negative impacts on health, ER departments are overflowing with mental health patients due to psychiatric facilities being at their highest levels ever (increasing at the highest rate ever). Pediatric mental health problems, suicides and suicidal ideations are at all time high. They felt that students are safer in school and that they are not transmitting the virus to each other or to staff. They also favor keeping the virtual option and continuing with the mitigations that have been put in place.
Director of VB Dept of Health- Dr Demetria Lindsay also gave her point of view. She said that she wasn't opposed to reopening schools but felt that it had to be done in a measured approach and was concerned about the community numbers.
The Superintendent seems to want to get schools open but also wants the support of Dept of Health. He also presented an idea of having a safety audit team that would monitor schools compliance with mitigation measures. I thought that was a good idea.
Several Board members still seem opposed to reopening.
Sports: A decision will be made by Dec 22nd regarding whether or not to cancel Varsity winter sports. It does not sound promising that they will happen.
The next scheduled school board meeting will not take place until Jan 12th. It was asked if the board could meet sooner and the chair is contemplating that question. If you want our kids back to school asap and want winter sports to continue, please email the school board. email@example.com
This is currently a book that is an approved part of VBCPS 9th grade curriculum. This "short film" was used to introduce the book at one school. I've received complaints from multiple parents at multiple schools who have concerns about their children reading this book. I've read multiple reviews of the book but attached is the most in depth literary review. I've also spoken to a teacher who has read this book (but said would never assign it to students) and the teacher said the review is very accurate.
Here is one excerpt from the book review: Kids at the harvest camp are thrilled to meet Connor, whose reputation precedes him. Risa is assigned to play with the band, which plays on top of the Chop Shop, the building where unwinding takes place. She feels like it’s unethical to watch kids meet their end, but Dalton, a bass player, insists it’s the only way to stay alive. Lev is at the harvest camp too, but for a very different reason. After leaving the Graveyard on the “work call,” people praised Lev and replaced his blood with explosive liquid. He, Mai, and Blaine are now clappers, and plan to blow up the camp. One evening, Roland tries to strangle Connor, but he can’t go through with it. Counselors take him to be unwound the next afternoon. The experience is horrific: he’s awake and terrified the entire time. Word gets out that Connor is slated to go next. Lev insists to Mai and Blaine that they have to act soon so they can save Connor. Lev is late getting to his spot, however, and the Chop Shop explodes just after Connor steps inside. Risa and the band fall when the roof collapses. Though Lev is in excruciating emotional pain, he can’t bring himself to clap, and instead stanches Connor’s bleeding and leads the rescue effort. Connor wakes up in the hospital and learns that nurses have given him a new identity—that of a member of a wealthy local family—which saves him from unwinding and also made him eligible for emergency transplants for his eye and his arm. To his horror, Connor realizes that he received Roland’s arm. He finds Risa and learns that she refused the transplant surgery that would cure the lower body paralysis she sustained in her fall. Now, as a disabled person, she can’t be unwound.
What are your thoughts in the current environment of children struggling with mental health issues?
*** Only comments that include a valid name and email address will be approved on the blog.
Attached is a letter that I sent to my Board colleagues asking they consider my request to reopen our schools. This will be discussed and up for a vote on Tuesday, Dec 1. If you believe our option 1 students should be back in school, please email and call the Board. The only way this will be possible is if the community speaks up. The group email is: firstname.lastname@example.org and the phone numbers can be found here. You may sign up to speak at this link or call the clerk on Monday: 757-263-1016. https://docs.google.com/forms/d/e/1FAIpQLSdMBT94omFTrkIDZlOn1q_wp_I8f4fONlb_go6_UCRG0wvuIg/viewform
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*user comments on blog posts must have a valid full name and email address or it will not be approved
Thank you to Kerry Dougherty for publishing my article: https://www.kerrydougherty.com/allposts/2020/11/19/reopen-public-schools-or-provide-school-vouchers
I will continue to stand up for our children suffering from mental health issues related to the COVID isolation.
I may not be able to respond to all of the emails and calls that I’m receiving, so I thought I would share my response here regarding the decision to return all students to virtual learning.
It is the prerogative of the Superintendent to make this decision. The Board voted on a reopening plan that included metrics. I did not agree with that plan nor the metrics to be used but it did pass on an 8-3 vote by your elected representatives.
My opinion based upon research, including talking with physicians and mental health providers, is that keeping students out of school has more negative impacts than returning them for in-person learning. According to the CDC, compared with 2019, the proportion of mental health–related emergency department visits during the pandemic for children aged 5–11 and 12–17 years increased approximately 24% and 31%, respectively.
I fear for the mental health well-being of all students. I am also concerned that students with special needs and students whose parents aren’t able to be home with their children will fall farther behind. Additionally, our students who have hands-on learning courses such as the Career and Technical Center, Advanced Technology Center, SECEP, Environmental Studies, courses with labs, etc are being further left behind.
I would like to note that even though we did enter the “Red” metric today for total cases, the VDH did report that their elevated case case count reported today, November 16 is due to a catch-up from the VDH data system being down for upgrades. While I believe any death is a tragedy, we did flatten the curve and hospitalizations and deaths remain low. The graphs shows hospitalizations and deaths for the Eastern Region.
I continue to believe that the cure should not be worse than the disease.
Fortunately, we will be sticking with the plan to return our older students 2 days per week beginning this Thursday. Thank you to Dr Spence and his staff for making the recommendation to stick with the plan.
I brought up the mental health issues that are negatively impacting our community and this must be factored into our decisions. My colleague Kim Melnyk attacked me and said that I should not be using mental health issues as a reason to return our students to school since mental health has always been a problem. I will continue to advocate for our students, especially those suffering from anxiety and depression!!!!
I will be communicating matters related to the school board here on my blog. If you wish to receive an email notification when a new post has been made, just sign up for the newsletter to the right of this post.
It is my goal to keep the public informed regarding issues being discussed by the School Board.
For weeks I have been asking for our teachers that are teaching both in-person and virtual to receive a higher stipend. My colleague, Carolyn Weems, is the chair of our budget planning committee. In her committee, she pushed for more pay for our employees and she was able to get the following allocated:
* 1 time bonus of $1,000 to all full-time equivalent employees (this includes FTE Bus Drivers)
* A stipend increase for all teachers providing dual instruction for in-person/virtual students. A lump sum of money was allocated for this purpose. The exact amount is not yet known but will be approximately double to triple the current stipend.
* A pay increase of .5% (point-five percent) will be given to all employees on steps 1-30. Step 0 will get .25% (point-25). Those above 30 will receive a .5% (point-five percent) COLA (cost of living adjustment).
Last night the Board approved these committees recommendations. Kudos to our CFO for his great fiscal management during this crisis.
City Council will need to approve the reversion money that is being allocated for these purposes.
If passed by council, we anticipate the bonus to be paid at the end of November
The Board voted last night to return our 7,8,9,10,11,12 grade students who chose Option 1 to in person school 2 days per week beginning Nov 12.
MIDDLE: Grade 7 Option 1 students will attend in-person on Tues & Wedn each week. Other days will remain the same as the current schedule.
Grade 8 Option 1 students will attend in-person on Thurs & Fri each week. Other days will remain the same.
HIGH: Option 1 students with last names that begin with A-K will return for in-person on Tues & Wedn. L-Z students on Thurs & Friday. Other days remain the same. (9th graders will also be on the hybrid model).
While I am glad that our students are getting back to some in person learning. I asked the Superintendent what his plan is to get all of our Opt 1 Middle and High students back to 4 days per week learning. He said that he doesn't have a plan nor is he working toward a plan at this time to make that happen. I fear that these students will not get back to at least 4 days per week for months and other students may not see the inside of the classroom all year.
Ultimately, the Superintendent said that it is a space issue for returning all option 1 students. however, 80% of our Middle Schools have between 26-56% of the students requesting option 1. 75% of our High Schools have between 39% and 56% of the students requesting option 1. Space should not be an issue with these numbers. The other few schools who have higher numbers could think outside the box and do something different. I was told it would be an equity issue.
I made a substitute motion for the Board to accept the administrations current recommendations while also directing the Superintendent to work toward getting all option 1 students back to school as soon as possible. The Board rejected my motion 3-8 (Weems, Hughes, Manning voted yes).
We were also told that there has not be 1 student case of transmission of COVID within our schools.
2 Important topics on the agenda for Tuesday's Board meeting:
1. Reopening plan for Middle and High School Students (Board will be discussing and voting). I am advocating to get all Opt 1 students back to school at least 4 days per week. Administration is advocating for a hybrid model where Middle/High students will only have part-time in person learning. Email AND call the school board with your input. Phone calls will be most impactful. Board member contact can be found here: https://www.vbschools.com/about_us/our_leadership/school_board/members#rye
2. Budget: $36 million in Reversion money that the Board will vote to allocate. (See further details in the agenda.)
I'm thankful that my suggestion to provide an additional stipend to our teachers is being considered and I am inclined to support the proposal.
Here is a summary of the compensation proposal:
• $13,000,000 to be re-appropriated to the School Operating fund 115 to:
- Provide a one-time bonus of $1,000 for all full-time equivalent (FTE) employees - $11,000,000
- Increase the stipend amount for teachers providing dual instruction for Option 1 (face-to-face) and Option 2 (virtual) students - $2,000,000
I was not able to attend last night's board meeting but I did listen to the workshop. The superintendent now states that he cannot allow all option 1 students to return to in-person learning 4 days per week. He is proposing a hybrid plan and not allowing 7,8,10,11,12 to return at least until Nov 12th. Here is an email that I sent to Dr Spence and the Board this morning sharing my concerns and questions since I was not able to be at the meeting. I am also advocating for a higher stipend for teachers.