An Open Letter to the VEA Board of Directors

An Open Letter to The Board of Directors, Virginia Education Association 

This letter is written with the intention of openly sharing concerns about a number of recent upper-level leadership/management decisions at the VEA. The expectation is that these concerns will be addressed by the VEA leadership. 

While not an exhaustive list, our concerns include the following:

Recent actions surrounding the elimination of the position of Assistant Director in the Office of Teaching and Learning, held by Tami Sober.
    • A specific concern is that Ms. Sober has been terminated rather than being offered one of the positions available within the organization for which she is well-qualified.
    • The explanation that this addresses a budgetary concern seems disingenuous since the OTL continues to have a temporary employee in the Director position and an assistant manager for the Office of Field Support, Staff Development and Minority Engagement is being hired. 
    • Ms. Sober’s skills are well-suited to both of these positions. Her skills are those we should be cultivating and emulating, not discarding. 
The appearance of a “divide and conquer” strategy. 
  •  There is a perception that opposition or merely questioning leadership / management is not being tolerated. 
  •  The change in practice relative to NEA Directors serving on the Executive Committee gives the appearance of removing a dissenting voice. 

  •  Lack of transparency in proceedings. At least one VEA member was not allowed to observe the VEA Board training session. Board meetings involve a high percentage of “executive session” portions which limits the transparency of the Board’s actions. The confidentiality of these meetings inhibits open discussion among Board members and the ability of Board members to share information with members in their Districts. It is rumored that the staff ESP position has been cut, but local leaders have not been made aware if that is the case. As an organization we have always valued and protected the rights of our members. To have our top leadership treating employees and members with disrespect and disdain is unconscionable. Relationships between leadership/management, staff and many members appear strained. Whisper campaigns directed at discrediting individuals have been allowed to flourish. The divisive climate of the recent contract negotiations seems to have contributed to the problem. Decisions are being made with little and no input from VEA members and staff. Higher level leaders and management are dismissive of leaders with different perspectives. Information is too often limited or withheld. USAC was charged with restructuring UniServ programs, but was not provided with membership numbers. Specific priorities have not been communicated to the Board, such as the Sparks weekends being rolled into the summer RSLDA. We believe that: VEA must evolve as an organization. We realize that there are significant challenges to face. We aren’t afraid of that change, but as a membership organization, we value leadership that is inclusive and responsive especially in challenging times. Working together is more than a cliche; it is essential to the future of the VEA. We need to maximize the talents of our skilled professional staff and trained leaders in ways that move our organization forward. Expertise should be valued and a “cuts only” approach is not a plan for recovery. Elected and volunteer leadership should be allowed and expected to participate, not “protected” or ignored. External attacks on public education continue to mount. Our time, energy, and focus should be on organizing to take on these challenges. Only by working together can we prevail in this difficult political climate. The VEA - members, staff, leaders, and management - must be about the work of the organization, together.  

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