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House, Senate disagree on teacher contract bills

The Virginia Education Association, which represents the state’s teachers, can breathe a little easier about legislation to overhaul how teachers are hired and evaluated.

VEA leaders were alarmed Monday when the House voted 55-43 for a bill that would end what critics describe as a tenure system for public school teachers.

Under the bill, sponsored by Delegate Richard “Dickie” Bell, R-Staunton, new teachers and principals would receive three-year contracts instead of continuing contracts – making it easier to fire them.

Bell’s House Bill 576 has been sent to the Senate and assigned to the Senate Education and Health Committee.

But on Tuesday, the Senate killed its version of the legislation, sponsored by Sen. Mark Obenshain, R-Harrisonburg. The vote was 18-20, as all of the Democratic senators opposed the bill and two Republican senators declined to vote.

The defeat of Senate Bill 438 bodes poorly for HB 576. That’s something of a relief to VEA President Kitty Boitnott.

Boitnott called the legislation “a huge, huge mistake.” Virginia teachers feel under attack, and some are considering leaving the state to pursue their teaching careers elsewhere, she said.

“We won’t be able to replace them,” Boitnott said. Instead of punishing teachers, she said, the most effective K-12 education reforms would be systemic and would focus on raising salaries to attract and retain high-quality teachers.

The association has announced Friday as a “VEA Day of Mourning” or “Black Friday.” The group is encouraging teachers to wear black “to illustrate your collective mourning over the attack that has been launched against Virginia’s teachers and students by legislators with open disrespect and disdain.”

As originally written, HB 576 would have put teachers on one-year contracts. The bill was amended to provide for three-year contracts – after the teacher or principal has served a probationary five-year term.

Also under the legislation, school boards would adopt an evaluation process based on state guidelines, and student academic success would account for 40 percent of the evaluation.

“If we had this when I was teaching, I would’ve embraced it,” said Bell, a retired teacher.

During Monday’s debate, Delegate Kirkland Cox, R-Colonial Heights, a high school government teacher, urged his colleagues to approve HB 576.
“This is one I really want to emphasize for the children,” said Cox, the majority leader in the House. “We’re kidding ourselves if we think mediocre teachers aren’t bad teachers.”

Boitnott said the idea of a bad teacher is too subjective.

“Everybody can probably think of at least one teacher that they had over the course of their career that they didn’t think was as effective as they could’ve been or perhaps should’ve been, (but) that same teacher may have made a huge difference for another child,” Boitnott said.

The bill would provide money for training principals to effectively and fairly evaluate teachers. Bell said this is a way to address the VEA’s concerns.

Cox said the bill was just one example of the reforms needed in K-12 education.

“We are naive if we think public education is perfect. We can make K-12 better by passing this bill,” he said.

Cox’s enthusiasm was also met with doubt by House Democrats.

Kenneth Plum and Kaye Kory, Democratic delegates from Fairfax, both favored giving more responsibility to local governments and school boards to determine contract and evaluation terms.

Gov. Bob McDonnell endorsed Bell’s proposal, but Plum reminded the House that McDonnell also has emphasized the importance of local governments throughout the session.

“We should be supporting local governments, not micro-managing from Richmond with the idea being that we’ve been to school, so we know best,” Plum said.

Kory agreed. She also expressed concern about the future of teachers in the state.

“This is not the way to attract good teachers,” she said. “This is a way to drive them out of Virginia.”

Democrats also questioned whether it is necessary to overhaul the rules governing teacher contracts and evaluations.

Delegate Jeion Ward, D-Hampton, serves as president of the Hampton Federation of Teachers. She said there are processes in place to help and replace poorly performing teachers.

“It is very easy to get rid of a bad teacher,” Ward said.

Boitnott agreed that administrators “already had the tools and resources to remove a teacher, and shame on them if they didn’t do it. That’s a broken administration system. That’s not on the VEA; that’s not on teachers. That’s on a system that hasn’t been properly implemented.”

After the measure passed, McDonnell issued a statement to thank Bell for carrying the bill. The governor said the measure is important for Virginia’s students.
“This legislation will recognize our teachers for their success; provide teachers and administrators with benchmarking and performance measures; and, in the end, yield better results for our students,” McDonnell stated.

“I am pleased that the House of Delegates recognizes the importance of this legislation that will ensure our students have access a world-class education taught by Virginia’s best teachers.”

How they voted
Here is how the House voted Monday on “HB 576 Public schools; teacher contract and evaluation policies.”
Floor: 02/13/12 House: VOTE: PASSAGE (55-Y 43-N)
YEAS – Albo, Bell, Richard P., Bell, Robert B., Byron, Cline, Cole, Comstock, Cosgrove, Cox, J.A., Cox, M.K., Dudenhefer, Fariss, Farrell, Garrett, Gilbert, Greason, Habeeb, Head, Helsel, Hodges, Iaquinto, Ingram, Joannou, Jones, Knight, Landes, LeMunyon, Lingamfelter, Loupassi, Marshall, D.W., Marshall, R.G., Massie, May, Merricks, Minchew, Morris, O’Bannon, Peace, Pogge, Poindexter, Putney, Ramadan, Ransone, Robinson, Scott, E.T., Sherwood, Stolle, Tata, Villanueva, Watson, Webert, Wilt, Wright, Yancey, Mr. Speaker – 55.
NAYS – Alexander, BaCote, Brink, Bulova, Carr, Crockett-Stark, Dance, Edmunds, Englin, Filler-Corn, Herring, Hope, Howell, A.T., Hugo, James, Johnson, Keam, Kilgore, Kory, Lewis, Lopez, McClellan, McQuinn, Miller, Morefield, Morrissey, O’Quinn, Orrock, Plum, Rush, Rust, Scott, J.M., Sickles, Spruill, Surovell, Torian, Toscano, Tyler, Ward, Ware, O., Ware, R.L., Watts, Yost – 43.
NOT VOTING – Anderson, Purkey – 2.
Delegate Helsel was recorded as yea. Intended to vote nay.
Delegate Anderson was recorded as not voting. Intended to vote nay.

Here is how the Senate voted Tuesday on “SB 438 Public schools; teacher contract and evaluation policies.”
Floor: 02/14/12 Senate: Defeated by Senate (18-Y 20-N)
YEAS – Black, Blevins, Carrico, Garrett, Hanger, Martin, McDougle, McWaters, Newman, Obenshain, Reeves, Ruff, Smith, Stanley, Stosch, Stuart, Vogel, Wagner – 18.
NAYS – Barker, Colgan, Deeds, Ebbin, Edwards, Favola, Herring, Howell, Locke, Lucas, Marsden, Marsh, McEachin, Miller, J.C., Miller, Y.B., Northam, Petersen, Puckett, Puller, Saslaw – 20.
NOT VOTING – Norment, Watkins – 2.


Community

Garden tails

The threat of bad weather didn’t keep visitors away from Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden July 10 for the facility’s weekly Flowers After 5 event (which pairs music and food with a chance to stroll the garden) and its monthly Fidos After 5 (which allows dog owners to bring their pets with them to enjoy the evening). > Read more.

Western Henrico Rotary helps fund Midwives For Haiti Jeep


Thanks in part to a $10,000 gift from the Western Henrico Rotary Club, another bright pink Jeep modified to travel extremely rough terrain has been delivered to Midwives For Haiti so that more pregnant women in the quake-ravaged country will have access to prenatal care and a greater chance of surviving childbirth.

The funds were raised at the annual casino night held in February, club president Adam Cherry said. The Rotary Club also helped purchase the Virginia-based charity’s first pink jeep three years ago. > Read more.

Agencies combine on new entry point to Chickahominy


Canoeing and kayaking enthusiasts soon will have a new access point to the Chickahominy River. VDOT, the James River Association and Henrico County Parks and Recreation are teaming up to establish a new site in Eastern Henrico.

The James River Association negotiated the deal with VDOT to procure official access to the area located just east of I-295 on North Airport Road in Sandston. The site includes a park-and-ride commuter lot bordering the Chickahominy River and has been an unofficial launch site used by paddlers for years. > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


An eclectic array of events are taking place this weekend throughout the county. In the West End, we have the Richmond Wedding Expo, the Under the Stars Family Film Series and Henrico Theatre Company’s production of “Pump Boys and Dinettes.” In the eastern part of the county, we have a blood drive at the Eastern Henrico Recreation Center, Gallmeyer Farm’s annual Sweet Corn Festival and an origami workshop at Fairfield Library. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

New Italian restaurant opens in Short Pump

Charlottesville's Bella’s Restaurant recently opened a location in Short Pump Village, at 11408 West Broad Street. The restaurant is owned by Valeria Biesnti, a native of Rome who arrived in the U.S. at age 21 and later became a U.S. citizen. With her restaurants, Bisenti has sought to create an ambiance that welcomes diners in a casual setting, like her favorites from her hometown. > Read more.

Henrico native to appear on Travel Channel show


A Henrico native will appear on the third episode of the Travel Channel's new grilling competition series “American Grilled.”

The episode, filmed in Charlottesville, will premier July 16 at 9 p.m. and feature Glen Allen-native Rex Holmes, a patent lawyer who operates http://SavoryReviews.com a blo,g centered around tasty recipes and BBQ.

The show features hardcore grilling enthusiasts from across the country going head-to-head for a chance to compete for a $10,000 cash prize and bragging rights when they are crowned the ultimate “grill master.” > Read more.

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Lewis Ginter Botanical Garden, 1800 Lakeside Ave., will present Flowers After 5 on Thursday evenings through August. Stroll through the gardens and enjoy wine, music and dining al fresco. There… Full text

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