Misconceptions regarding the Virginia School Boards Association

Misconceptions regarding the Virginia School Boards Association

There have been several newspaper articles recently with various comments regarding the Virginia School Boards Association (VSBA). It is apparent that there is some erroneous information that needs to be corrected. I first became involved with VSBA in July, 1993, when I was first appointed to the Franklin City School Board. I feel qualified to assess this situation since I have been served by this organization in numerous ways over more than the last three decades.

The first misconception is that VSBA caters only to the large liberal school boards. My school district is one of the smallest in Virginia with just over 1000 students, yet I get full attention when I ask a question, seek advice writing a needed policy, look for training, or have the need to search for a new superintendent. In my 31 years since first joining VSBA, I have never heard the term liberal, conservative, Democrat, Republican, Libertarian or any other political philosophy mentioned. VSBA has always been first and foremost a “kids first” organization.

The second misconception relates to school policies. VSBA does have staff who, as a portion of their responsibilities, monitor the actions of the Virginia General Assembly and U.S. Congress. Once a bill is signed into law, the VSBA staff will draft a “suggested policy” to offer school boards to make certain boards comply with the new law. School boards may adopt the suggested policy as written, modify it, or ignore the suggested policy. Simply put, school boards have and do have full control of the policies related to their specific school division.

School boards can initiate recommendations for new laws via the VSBA Delegate Assembly held in November each year. In that process, each school board has a representative present to hear the new laws school divisions all over Virginia would like to see considered for the upcoming General Assembly in January. Suggested new policies for passage into law are presented, discussed, and only those that receive a majority vote for approval of the delegates present are moved forward.

Training is an ongoing need for Virginia school board members, and VSBA has outstanding training programs to accommodate the changing needs of today’s students and teachers. The one in particular that I feel most important is the session for “New Member and Superintendent Orientation.” In that session, newly elected or appointed school board members first learn a key fact – only the school board as a whole has the authority to act; an individual school board member alone cannot make decisions that affect educational policies.

Another important training opportunity is the VSBA Annual Conference in November each year. Here approximately 1000 school board members and superintendents hear outstanding speakers with worldwide reputations discuss current topics of concern to Virginia’s K-12 students. There are also breakout sessions where interested groups can share ideas in a small setting. In order to cut costs, most VSBA training can be accomplished virtually.

In summary, the Virginia School Boards Association is not a political organization, it does not cater to large liberal school divisions only, and its training offerings are valuable to all members whether they are new or experienced.

Robert N, Holt, Chair
Franklin City School Board