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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

Author, child abuse survivor to speak at Henrico event

To help celebrate twenty years of service to advocating for abused and neglected children in Henrico County, Henrico Court Appointed Special Advocates, Inc. (CASA) will host an evening with bestselling author K.L. Randis on Tuesday, Aug. 26, from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Belmont Recreation Center in Lakeside.

Randis is best known for her bestselling novel, Spilled Milk, which tells her painful – but ultimately triumphant – personal story of abuse and of child abuse prevention. The book is her first novel.

The event is free to the public, but seating is limited Reservations may be made by e-mailing .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Belmon Recreation Center is located at 1600 Hilliard Road. > Read more.

Philippines ambassador to the US visits Filipino Festival in Henrico


The Ambassador of the Philippines to the United States Jose L. Cuisia, Jr. attended the Ninth Annual Filipino Festival at Our Lady of Lourdes Church earlier this month. Cuisia (pictured above with festival performers) was welcomed by County Manager John Vithoulkas and Brookland District Supervisor Dick Glover (below) at the church, which is located in Lakeside.

While enjoying some of the cultural performances at the festival, the ambassador and his wife had a private lunch with Vithoulkas, Glover, Eldon Burton (an outreach representative from U.S. Senator Mark R. Warner’s Office) and Father James Begley, the pastor of OLL. > Read more.

Dragon boats invade the James

Hundreds of spectators filled the banks of the James River to watch two dozen teams of competitors in the Walgreen’s Richmond International Dragon Boat Festival at Rocketts Landing Aug. 2. The event included a number of races, as well as several cultural performances. The sport is billed as the fastest growing water sport in the world.(Photo by Roger Walk for the Henrico Citizen) > Read more.

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Entertainment

Weekend Top 10


For our Top 10 calendar events this weekend, click here! > Read more.

‘Planes’ sequel crashes

‘Fire and Rescue’ proves too predictable, boring

Planes: Fire and Rescue opens with a dedication to the hero firefighters of the world. It’s an admirable notion, and it makes sense, given that this is a film about planes that fight fires.

But here it might be a little out of place, as Planes: Fire and Rescue has a few things on its mind besides supporting the men and women who routinely throw themselves into burning buildings.

Like money. Lots and lots of money – into the 11-figures-and-counting range. In case you weren’t aware, 2006’s Cars was the biggest moneymaker Disney had in decades – not because of how much green the film printed at the box office, but because a combination of toys, games and snack foods stamped with the Cars seal of approval routinely pulls in tens of billions of dollars per year. > Read more.

Weekend Top 10


This weekend in Henrico, you can learn about fall herbs or mad science. Enjoy some laughs from West End Comedy or Three-Penny Theatre’s production of “The Rivah Home Companion.” For music lovers, Jennifer Nettles is in concert tonight and the fifth annual GWAR-B-Q takes place tomorrow at Hadad’s Lake. For all our top picks this weekend, click here! > Read more.

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