Thursday, April 2, 2015

VEA Honors Chesterfield Teacher with the 2015 Award for Teaching Excellence



Renee Serrao, a veteran teacher with over 22 years of experience, has been selected to receive the prestigious VEA Award for Teaching Excellence. This annual Award goes to an individual who recognizes, rewards, and promotes excellence in teaching.  Nominees for this award must not only demonstrate instructional expertise and creativity in their schools, but must also exhibit strong evidence of leadership within the Association and the greater community. The motto in Renee Serrao’s Chesterfield County government classroom has become, “Let’s invite everyone—some of them will surely say yes!” And some of them surely have: During the 2008 Presidential campaign, her students held candidate forums, with current Governor Terry McAuliffe speaking as a surrogate for candidate Barack Obama and former Senator George Allen for John McCain.
                A county supervisor who advocated tax cuts came to school to share his thoughts and projections and, according to Serrao, “was a bit taken aback at students’ insistence that he find a better way to balance the budget than by cutting their coaches’ stipends by 15 percent.”
                Instead of writing traditional research papers, Serrao’s Cosby High School students pen persuasive letters to the editor, track bills in the General Assembly, email legislators, create campaign ads, and attend political debates.
 In 2012 she was named the Richmond Times-Dispatch Correspondent of the Year for a letter to the editor she wrote challenging an editorial criticizing local teachers who organized to protest budget cuts.
Her students also research and choose a nonprofit organization each year, and then make a contribution to it based on AP exam scores.
As Christopher Averill, the social studies department chair at James River High School, puts it, “To walk into her government class is to step into an alternate universe where time stops and the Constitution reigns. She is a deeply civic-minded person who inspires students to cherish and participate in their own governance.”

That kind of innovation and hands-on teaching is why Serrao, a member of the Chesterfield Education Association, is the winner of the Virginia Education Association’s 2015 Award for Teaching Excellence. She received the award during a dinner held at the Association’s annual convention as part of VEA’s recognition of individuals and organizations that have done great work in and for public schools. VEA recognizes the recipient of the VEA Award for Teaching Excellence with a plaque and a cash award of $500. Mrs. Serrao will be the VEA nominee for the NEA Foundation Award for Teaching Excellence. Five semi-finalists selected from across the country win $10,000 each, and the finalist receives another $25,000.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

CEA PRESIDENT WILMS'S ADDRESS TO THE SCHOOL BOARD

Mrs. Smith, Members of the School Board, Dr. Newsome:

Two weeks ago I called this year a return to hope and declared it the year of the employee

What do those who work directly with children like the most about their jobs?  Watching children grow.  While new teachers might need helping hands from those around them, and sometimes even experienced teachers need a bit of help to expand their repertoire, most teachers work tirelessly and confidently to provide the best learning environment possible under the circumstances in which we work.

But sometimes administrators get in the way of the progress.  If you want to bog a teacher down and impede her progress toward designing and implementing stellar lessons, you simply have to tell her how to teach, or what to teach, or when to teach it, and how much time to spend on it, and how often to remediate, and don’t forget to teach to—I mean prepare for—that state standardized test.

Standardized tests don’t measure the whole student, nor do they quantify the breadth or depth of a student’s learning.  Each student is different, and doing some things more often doesn’t necessarily make students better at them.  I know: I speak from experience.

If you want writing scores improved, just ask teachers, and they’ll get right on it.  Of course, they’ll need the time to confer in professional learning communities—and time is a costly commodity.  It’s easier to mandate certain actions.  But that way is so much less productive where we want the most progress—in the classroom with the students.

If you want teachers to raise student scores on the new-and-improved, though fewer, elementary standardized tests, provide them the time to do what you ask.  If you want good results, don’t tell them how to do the task you have set before them.  Don’t ask them to make creative lessons by filling out a standardized lesson format.  They can teach to the test if that is what you want, but they can’t be creative in a standardized way.

The best managers hire the best people then get out of their way.  Can CCPS make this claim?  CEA has hope that we can.  But it’s going to take a lot of patience on the part of a lot of employees to get those who impose decisions on them up to snuff.


So let’s return to hope.  Hope that our teachers will be trusted to devise the solutions to the problem of lagging state test scores.  Hope that our community will value our schools the way they used to.  Hope that those who call themselves leaders will come up with the only thing that can provide the time necessary to become better than we are: money.

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CEA STANDS PROUD OF ACTIONS AND ACHIEVEMENTS

A message from president Donald Wilms

     Welcome to a new school year.  If you are new to CCPS, CEA is here to support you in your professional life.  If someone in your building doesn’t contact you, please contact me at 897-1756 or dwilms.cea@gmail.com.  If you are a veteran, please take the time to welcome new teachers and support staff to your school and encourage them to become CEA members.
     CEA has been looking out for your interests all summer.  We’ve been in discussion with CCPS administration about the dress code since mid-June.  CEA building leaders are ready to facilitate open dialogue with principals to ensure that recommended expectations are neither arbitrary nor capricious.  We’re carefully watching PBL trade days, staying on top of this issue as some employees lost their trade days last year to snow.  And we’ve been reaching out to both members and potential members, listening to their stories and their concerns about our profession and how changes are affecting students.  Since every not-yet member expressed vigorous support for CEA, we anticipate that they will become new members this year.
   June and July flew by.  As delegates to the NEA convention, Melodie Henderson and I participated in the delegate actions.  Most inspiring was the vote calling for the resignation of Arne Duncan after his anti-public education and anti-teachers’ union statements.  The NEA Human and Civil Rights Dinner brought into focus our organization’s long history of involvement in social justice issues.
     CEA was well-represented at the VEA Organizing School.  Our team included Tina Bujno, Andy Brown, Meghan Carey, Melodie Henderson, Eric Pioch, Henrietta Russell, Denise Moore, Tina Simmons, Nancy Wood, and Deb Zawadski.  After sharing my success and honing my skills at the local president’s retreat, I expanded my facilitation repertoire to become part of VEA’s Diversity Cadre.  I want to thank those dedicated leaders for giving several days of their precious summer to continue building our CEA.
     Your CEA accomplished much last year and the work continues.  I am proud of every member who spoke up at a public meeting, wore red to work, wrote a letter to a supervisor, reached out to a parent or business leader, and decided that enough was enough and it was time to stand up for themselves and their students.  The struggle continues.
     CEA never sleeps, but I hope you get a chance to before you meet your new students.


CEA provides a warm welcome at the CCPS New Employee Orientation






Monday, April 14, 2014

BOS VOTE ON TAX RATE 

AND BUDGET POSTPONED

CALL TO ACTION

Beginning in January, CEA presented to the Board of Supervisors the need to increase funding to the schools and to consider an increase in the property tax rate.  The rate, at 95 cents per $100, had steadily declined from $1.09 over the past 20 years.  As the rate decreased, the percentage of funding from total revenue the BOS provided to CCPS dropped from 44% to 41%. 

CCPS had already cut over $60 million since 2008: programs were slashed; nearly 500 employees were terminated through reductions in force; and the salary schedules remained stagnant.  While employees moved on the scale, take home pay actually shrank due to increases in health care premiums and contributions to the Virginia Retirement System.

CEA ramped up a campaign of employee and community engagement, generating hundreds of phone calls and e-mails, as well as public presentations and crowd turnout.  Partnerships were formed with the County Council of PTAs, the County Firefighters Association, the Realtors Association, and other members of the business community.

On February 12 the BOS announced an advertised tax rate of 98 cents.  This was the first step to getting additional funding on the table.  Engagement and participation at every subsequent BOS meeting and public discussion seemed to effectively move the agenda.

Then on April 9, the night the BOS was to vote on the tax rate, a motion was approved to postpone the vote until April 23rd.

We know that Americans for Prosperity, a front group for the Koch brothers, will use these days to make calls, send e-mails, and twist every arm to derail the tax increase.
This must be a time when every school employee takes up the challenge to call, e-mail, or contact a member of the BOS. Our message?

To Jaeckle, Holland, and Gecker: Thank you for supporting our schools; stay strong and VOTE YES ON THE PROPOSED RATE OF 98 CENTS.  

To Warren and Elswick: We want our schools fully funded AND our new library, our additional police officers, and our new firehouse; VOTE YES ON THE PROPOSED RATE OF 98 CENTS.

Parents and school employees pack BOS meeting

Bermuda District
Dorothy Jaeckle

Office: (804) 748-1211
Home/Voice Mail: (804) 748-4364
E-Mail: 
jaeckled@chesterfield.gov 
      

Dale District
James M. "Jim" Holland, Chair

Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice: (804) 768-7528

Midlothian District
Daniel A. Gecker
 
Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7397
Email: 
geckerd@chesterfield.gov


Matoaca District
Steve A. Elswick, Vice-Chairman

Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7400
E-Mail: 
elswicks@chesterfield.gov  

Clover Hill District
Arthur S. (Art) Warren 
Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7396
E-Mail: 
warrena@chesterfield.gov


Friday, March 28, 2014

CEA and VEA make a difference

 for nursing moms

Advocacy and organizing does pay off. From new business item to the law of the land...VEA has just made a huge difference in the lives of every teacher. Please share this story with a not yet member at your school and show them the value of membership and collective voice. If you know a soon to be mother,share it with her, as well.
At this morning's session of the VEA convention, Governor Terry McAuliffe signed into law a bill protecting the rights of educators who are nursing mothers. Here, McAuliffe stands with Delegate Jennifer McClellan (left), who sponsored the bill, and Stafford Education Association member Carol Huebner, who put in a New Business Item at last year's convention that led to the bill's introduction.

Thanks to every CEA member, who submitted their personal stories, called a legislator or sent an e-mail during the organizing effort to support this bill.  Want to know more about legislative action?  Sign up to be a cyber lobbyist and stay connected.




Thursday, March 27, 2014


CHESTERFIELD


THE RED ARMY GOES INTO BATTLE

It was a long night on Wednesday when hundreds packed the meeting room to provide testimony to the BOS about the needs of the schools and the county.

Supporters of the tax increase outweighed the anti tax folks by a close margin.  Teachers, parents, students, and business leaders came to the lectern to speak in support of students and funding.  You can read more details and follow all the speeches.

The County Council of PTA's submitted the first list of petitions, over 1000 signatories, and will keep the site open to garner more support.

Passionate stories help to make more concrete the changes we are seeing in the schools.  An example from Jill Burke, a veteran teacher of English, at Manchester High School is a great example.

Thank you for the opportunity to be heard on this issue that is so vitally important to our schools.

I am Jill Burke, and I am a seventeen-year veteran teacher of ninth grade Honors English and Applied Reading at Manchester High School.   I myself am a product of CCPS, as is my husband and my oldest two children.  My youngest child enters kindergarten at Clover Hill Elementary this Fall. In short, I am invested in Chesterfield for many reasons.

I am here tonight because I am urging the Board to approve the tax rate increase for the next fiscal year, and I have two very personal illustrations as how this affects my students and my ability to meet their needs.

First, I’d like to tell you about a ninth grade honors student I teach this year; I’ll refer to her as “Sarah.” Sarah, up until this fall, was an active athlete and a diligent student who was accustomed to making excellent grades until she suffered a traumatic brain injury during the last week of the first marking period.  She was treated at the Chippenham Hospital Traumatic Brain Injury Center; upon release, she was put on three weeks of complete cognitive rest, which meant no reading, writing, TV, phone, computer, etc.--a significant hardship for any teenager.

Already woefully behind in her studies, Sarah was finally able to begin home-bound instruction.  She was in all honors classes, and at Manchester, the workload--in and out of class--is intense. Without home-bound instruction, I am absolutely certain she would have failed my class.  Because of the severity of her brain injury, she ended up missing the entire second nine weeks marking period; and even when she initially returned, it was only on a part time basis as she slowly eased back into the rigor of a full school day.  
She remained on part-time home-bound until February 4th.  She continues to suffer from post-concussion syndrome and debilitating headaches, and her battles are far from over.  

While adjusting to her new limitations, she refused, however, to drop my honors class.  She’s not a quitter.  I admire that in a student.  She isn't the A/B student she once was, but she’s getting there, thanks to the help of the home-bound instruction she received.  If home-bound services are cut or eliminated altogether, what’s to become of students like Sarah?  

At the other end of my teaching spectrum are the Applied Reading classes I've taught for the last three years.  This class is for students who have failed either their Reading or Writing End-of-Course SOLs or have been flagged as likely to fail.  I am charged with remediating them based on their own individual academic weaknesses so that they can pass the state-mandated tests and graduate on-time.  All students in this class have IEPs or 504s--special education students, and many of them present significant classroom management concerns.  There is no curriculum for this class; I come up with materials all on my own.

My first year teaching this class was a fantastic success because I had a special education, collaborative teacher in class with me, Mrs. Tina Simmons. We could divide and conquer and do individualized or small-group instruction.  By the end of that school year, we had almost a 100% success rate!  For the past two years, however, there hasn't been the funding to have a special ed teacher co-teach with me.  

As a result, my pass rate has dropped and kids who are under-served are falling through the cracks.  I had a student last year who didn't pass his SOLs even with the support of my class, so he had to take it again this year.  No one was happy about that situation.  

I can only do the work of one person, and teaching this class definitely requires two.  Again, please don’t cut funding for special education.


To fail to pass the tax rate increase would affect kids like Shannon at the top of the academic pyramid and kids who are subsisting at a much lower level. Both are entitled to more than they are currently getting.  

I’m not asking for you to make my job easier; it’s one of the most difficult jobs there is, and I knew that going in.  I actually rather like the challenge of it.  What I’m asking is that you increase the tax rate so that doing my job as it needs to be done is POSSIBLE.  Don’t clip my wings or those of the students I love.  Thank you.


WE'RE NOT DONE YET


The BOS will vote a finalized budget and tax rate on April 9, 2014.

What can you do to influence the outcome?  Contact members directly.  Host a meeting at your school, church or neighborhood and discuss what you think sustains a community that YOU want to live in.  Invite your district representative to attend. Use your social networks and contacts to bring more signatures to the petition.  

For more information or resources contact the CEA at 804-897-1756 or contact a PTA leader at your neighborhood school.





Monday, March 24, 2014

WHO WILL SPEAK FOR THE STUDENTS?


On Wednesday, March 26th, the members of the Board of Supervisors will hear from county residents about the budget and the proposed tax rate.  We'll hear about proffers, storm-water run off, and the negative impact of an expanding local government. Many speakers will continue to encourage that we all do "more with less".

The schools in Chesterfield County have lost over $60,000 million in funding over the last 5 years.  Class sizes have grown, courses and electives have been cancelled and the workforce has not seen any improvements in take home pay since 2008.

The BOS budget used to invest 44% of its revenue with CCPS. That is now down to 41%.  At the same time the student population is more challenging; more students come from poverty, face English language barriers, and start school unprepared.


YOUR VOICE IS NEEDED TO SUPPORT OUR SCHOOLS!


  • Attend the public hearing on Wednesday, March 26, at 6:30 P.M.
  • E-mail your representative so they know you will support increased funding for CCPS.
  •  Sign the petition and share the link with your friends and neighbors http://bit.ly/bospetition

Bermuda District
Dorothy Jaeckle 
Office: (804) 748-1211
Home/Voice Mail: (804) 748-4364
E-Mail: 
jaeckled@chesterfield.gov 
Dale District
James M. "Jim" Holland, Chair
Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice: (804) 768-7528
E-Mail: 
hollandj@chesterfield.gov 

Clover Hill District
Arthur S. (Art) Warren 
Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7396
E-Mail: 
warrena@chesterfield.gov 
Matoaca District
Steve A. Elswick, Vice-Chairman

Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7400
E-:Mail: 
elswicks@chesterfield.gov 
Midlothian District
Daniel A. Gecker
 
Office: (804) 748-1211
Voice Mail: (804) 768-7397
Email: 
geckerd@chesterfield.gov